The fear of getting old is a real thing.
I used to look forward to the idea of aging and couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Roger Daltrey would sing, “…hope I die before I get old”. However, while I’m still not feeling those lyrics, there is an aching discomfort emerging within me that occurs in many middle-aged men. I’m not so sure I want to get old.
An example: I went to see the band Rancid last week. To me, Rancid always conveys a sense of carelessness and youth mixed with a healthy application of community. I’ve always loved their music. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the night, for the first time as I watched them it hit me: these guys are now old, playing to a predominately middle-aged crowd. More specifically, this realization struck while staring at the back of the head of the person right in front of me. I knew him, hadn’t seen him since high school, and for a moment I focused in on his greying hair. He was just a kid last time I saw him. Oh shit! It’s happening to me.
Why this should bother me, I don’t know. The worship of youth in our society is a problem. I do believe this. Yet, I think there’s something more.
The older I get the more self-aware I become, and the more I understand the fragility of life. There’s nothing really profound in that last statement. Nor do I have any profound answers. Mostly because these thoughts are just beginning to surface, but they come in waves and I am often swept under long enough to panic.
Another example: I showed my boys Harry and the Henderson’s for the first time last month. If you’ve seen the movie, you might remember the part where Harry (the sasquatch) is roaming the streets, when he spots George Henderson (played by John Lithgow) on a TV through a storefront window. Harry breaks the glass to reach for the TV only to see George disappear as Harry unknowingly unplugs the set. The moment ends with Harry running off, and in the background you can hear an old Crash Test Dummies commercial. For a moment, I almost cried. I may have actually shed a tear. Now it wasn’t because the scene was that emotionally compelling, but rather my mind took me back to a time when those commercials were current, and for a brief moment nostalgia swept over me. This is happening more often than I’d like to admit.
I don’t think aging is all bad. I’m just beginning to miss my youth. The new experiences that carry emotional weight seem to be happening less and less and moments of nostalgia more and more. While I’m finding it harder to enjoy a moment, I’m finding it easier to reminisce about the past, and I really don’t know why. I am grateful for the life I have now. Yet, as I dive deep into the vault of my emotions (something that also occurs more often the older I get) I’m discovering that part of my angst is from regret. Regret that I didn’t do more. Regret that my high school days were filled with fear and anger. Regret that for most of my life I’ve been plagued with this desire to seek the approval of others.
Currently, when I reemerge to the surface of the present, after another wave of nostalgia, I respond with two considerations. First, I have to live in the present more often, I have to be less fearful and care less about people’s opinions and approval, laugh more, accept what is, change what I can, don’t take myself too seriously, etc. What’s that quote about life is what’s happening when you’re busy making plans? Yeah…that. The second thing I consider is how to foster a sense of…for lack of a better word, carelessness in my children. I know they will make mistakes, and I’m glad for this, because hopefully they’ll learn from them. However, if there’s one of my mistakes I hope they learn from, it’s this one.
Don’t let your lives be driven by other people’s opinions or approval, take in the meat throw away the bones. Live the hell out of your life; strive to be content while you create as many experiences as you can.