The best time of age.

27 Oct

I was raised to nibble on the old chestnut that youth was the most perfect, achingly lovely thing around. When I was a kid, it was perfectly normal to hear some Rothman’s chain smoking old man mutter about the best years of my life as he slowly leaned back in his old recliner, hands rustling the paper while the cigarette dangled like a dare from his mouth. From a kitchen a woman always seemed to agree he’s right you know. Enjoy it while you got it. It’s all down hill from there! and she’d continue on frying pork chops in lard or taking all the nutritional value out of carrots and peas, her own cigarette bouncing on her lips.

We’ve all been to that house, watched TV there. Hell, for some of us, it might have been home.

As a small child we were dazzled with the idea of “growing up“-growing up was magic. When you grew up, you could stay up all night if you wanted, watching the scrambed channels, or maybe Bleu Nuit. Grown up, you could spend your money on anything, run through the streets, wear “those” jeans, a pair of which each of us had. Our older siblings were gods, blessed it seemed with power and knowledge and a casual will they rarely hesitated to use.

We crept towards puberty, then like a Mac truck we hit it, full stop, and in an instance, in a howling second of hormones, felt the innocence leak out from us. How did we not see? Our brothers weren’t smarter! Our mother’s couldn’t MAKE us not go to Joan’s house. We had power, even if we rarely weilded it in the interests of seeing tomorrow. We were growing up, and getting that adult look. A few years in, looking back at 5 or 6 was full of nostalgia, of that damn it, I wish I knew then feeling, and a soft longing for the sandbox.

But wait!, they’d yell, this is THE best time of your life, high school. Treasure it-life will never be this good again.

A teacher told me this once, and I stared at him, puzzled, and asking how anything at 17 could be the best of an entire life. He smiled a wry grin and told me I’d see, someday.

(I’m still waiting. Mr. McNeil, I’d really like that answer now if you don’t mind.)

You crawl, gasping from high school, into the maw of university, college, work, and suddenly, you aren’t a kid. You aren’t young. You’re just another adult clinging vaguely to a dream they made you write down at 15, and wondering how exactly you could get out of this mess.

Adulthood. Past the best time of your life, and now in possession of a recliner suspiciously like the one your best friend’s dad had once.

*********************

I don’t buy it. I never have.

Think about it. Most of us are living in North America, or some other fairly developed country. For the most part, we’re lower-middle class-we eat well, roof over our heads. We’ll live to be 78 or some random age. We’ll have full lives.

So why should it only be good until 18 or 19? Why the shelf life on joy? Why delude generations into thinking that old age, aging itself, is something worth fearing, and actively loathing?

Wasn’t the moment you laid your eyes on your children one of the best things? Building your own house? Writing that novel?

Planting the ultimate garden? Dreaming the perfect dream, spun on air at 48 or 66?

Our dreams don’t end when we haul up the big girl panties and get our own apartments. Our lust for life and newness doesn’t just drain out with lochia or muscle tone.

Our vibrancy does not have a shelf life. It does not become irrelevant with age.

I’d argue, instead, that it matters so much more as we grow older, as we absorb the world around us in so many new ways, as we make connections between how our mother held our hands at 6 and how she cradles our children now.

There are moments in life that are incredible, and some of those, for me, happened at 17 or 19, I can’t lie. But some happened later on as well, at 25, or at 31. The best time in a life is now, the present-the constant wave that makes youth, the time behind us that creates the very ground we walk on, somewhat useless and weakened. We use our past to feed the future, it’s thought and knowledge molding who we become.

We are so very much more than the very hormone drenched years we’d mostly like to forget.

******************

I find myself, these past weeks, finding a new comfort level with age, a respect, a guarded honor. It is necessary and good. I do not have to change who I am to age-I can still listen to black metal and cyndi lauper in one day. I can still have tattoos-I can age as I wish, instead of according to a created timeline that was pulled from air one day in about 1967. My aging is what’s relevant-not the aging of others, be it slow, or quick.

My relevancy is only for me, and my road to the best life ever.

I just wish it hadn’t taken me this long to see it.

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15 Responses to “The best time of age.”

  1. ifbyyes October 27, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    When someone told ME that my high school years were the best of my life, I responded, “I hope not.”

    To their look of shock, I remember saying, “I’m not enjoying it much, and I don’t think it can possibly be only downhill from here.” I went on to postulate to my friends in private later that probably the only people for whom these were the best years were the popular kids. Those sparkling, grinning, shiny people who were famous and lauded everywhere they went. I pitied them. Poor people. They were happy, and good looking, and popular, and their life would be all downhill from here.

    …Suckers.

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:55 am #

      I figure if things are that fab early on, it’s had to match. Like winning a gold medal at 19-what the hell do you do after to match that?

  2. Jen October 27, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    I was lucky–my mother told me early on that she despised high school and her early twenties and didn’t feel like she was really taken seriously until she turned thirty. As I shuffled miserably through high school, she told me that in five years I would no longer give a shit about the people flying past me, and she was right.
    For the most part I agree that the thirties are the best, although I am suddenly and uncomfortably confronted with 36 and a truly horrifying feeling that I should have enjoyed my twenties more than I did, that I lost so much to blinding depression, that maybe I lost my chance to do something remarkable. I don’t exactly know why, or if I should even blame age.
    That and I wish my ass was magically lifted to its pre-30 position a full six inches higher than it sits now.

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:54 am #

      my ass dropped at like 18, so I gave up on that LOOONNNGGG ago. 😀

  3. bromac October 27, 2009 at 9:12 am #

    I never did understand the adage that the high school years are the best. Definitely not for myself. I shudder just contemplating the idea.

    I watch my daughter, in the innocence and ignorance of youth, and yearn for that age, at times. But then I come back to reality and realize that now, being able to watch her in all her ignorance and bliss, and with another in my belly, is the best time of my life to date.

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:54 am #

      BELLY BALL! WOO!

      Some high school was great, most, horrid. Would NEVER go back.

  4. Cheeky Monkey October 27, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    I feel sorry for people who hit their peak in high school because, well, ….. we all went to high school.

    Someone told me recently that the years between 40 and 60 are the best time of your life, so I’m like whee! Bring it on! I’ve got 20 fabulous years to look forward to.

    This was lovely as usual, T.

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:53 am #

      Curtsy.

      Yeah, you gotta wonder about those people…

      I’m beginning to think each age has it’s own wonders-but we spend too much time looking back to realize it. I don’t want to do that anymore.

      So, I don’t think I will.

  5. Laura October 27, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. I even had a great time in high school, for the most part – I was quite happy and had a lot of fun and very little drama or difficulty. But still, being a grown-up is SO. MUCH. BETTER. It’s more fun, it’s more satisfying, it’s more free and grounded and aware. I’m so much happier now!!

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:52 am #

      You always seemed like you had a ball, but you do seem so much more settled now, it’s true. Like a Rubiks which had one square out, and is now all correct and proper. 🙂

  6. magpie October 27, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    I think I just get better and better.

    • thordora October 27, 2009 at 11:51 am #

      I’m like cheese or brandy. 🙂

      And writing posts at 2am-not good. Just edited out most errors, I hope.

  7. Jurgen Nation October 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    Sigh. This is gorgeous. “We use our past to feed the future, it’s thought and knowledge molding who we become.” This is so spot-on for me. I made horrible, shitty mistakes and was a complete fuckup of a friend, but I learned. I learned with jobs and money and friends and relationships both intimate and platonic. And I don’t think I’ve ever been a better person, happier or more settled. Beautifully written. (And, IndieInk?)

  8. slouchy October 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    This is important perspective for me. Thank you.

  9. Vicki October 29, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    I soooo needed this today. Thank you for the reminder that I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I was trying to think of a time I would like to go back to the other day and I really couldn’t come up with one. Now I know it was just because the time I need to be in is the present.

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