By: Garrick Hoffman, Media Studies Major
“As soon as I was in my 40s, I’d look in the mirror and say, ‘Well I guess I’m getting…OLDER!’ ‘Older’ sounds a little better than ‘old,’ doesn’t it? Sounds like it might even last a little longer! Bull****, I’m getting old.”
So go the words of the late George Carlin on euphemisms in his 1990 stand up special Parental Advisory.
I still have a ways to go until my 40s hit, but I’m older than a lot – maybe even most – of my peers at USM. While I’m not sure being 30 qualifies me as being a “non-traditional student.” I felt like another one of those euphemisms, like “Damn, you’re a bit old to be in college.”
On November 9, the world celebrated 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. The next day, a miniscule fraction of the world celebrated 30 years of yours truly.
This – quite naturally- has caused me to reflect on my 20s and look toward my future. It seems to be quite common to glorify our 20s – those years when we’re young, experimenting, enjoying our freedom, exploring the world, and starting our careers.
I’ve personally been able to delight in all those experiences. I also think the glory days of our 20s are overrated.
I am actually looking forward to my 30s.
While I’ve enjoyed all those aforementioned privileges and pleasures in this last decade, my 20s were rife with insecurity about the future, immaturity, countless mistakes, financial woes and stress, and the seemingly immutable sensation of feeling lost.
Not only are all of those stressors intrinsic to our 20s for many or even most of us, the 20s years almost comprise of a decade with very little wisdom, naiveté, mistakes, and sometimes an inflated ego. During the particularly youthful years, we can easily (and erroneously) convince ourselves that we’re more enlightened or knowledgeable or awake (or today, “woke”) than our elders.
I think my 30s will be a huge improvement from those. I’ve already begun to feel it.
Besides our glorification of our 20s, we have another societal issue: our fear of aging. Carlin was on to something when he mentioned, I refuse to subscribe to it.
Gerascophobia: an abnormal and persistent fear of growing old. That might be a bit of hyperbole for this widespread phenomenon, but it’s close enough.
While there’s a myriad of reasons to fear aging – our bodies are on the path of entropy and atrophy, after all – there also seems to be a stigma of shame. A lot of self-deprecating remarks on aging are reduced to a joke; however, many come from a place of sincerity.
That is why Carlin himself admitted in that same bit to trying to “bull****” himself about getting old. It’s not like finding a unicorn on the moon to meet someone in their 30s, 40s or older to effuse a sense of embarrassment about how old they are, but this need not be the case.
I’m fond of embracing age because of the seemingly inexorable change that comes with it – as the old adage goes, “The only constant is change.” To me, change is exciting.
I’ve watched how my life and the world around me has changed so dramatically. I think, “Well if this much change has occurred over X-amount of years, what other kind of change is to come?”
Change is something that excites us from the banal, and subsequently arouses our curiosity. It disrupts our expectations and the predictability of our lives, especially when it’s unforeseen.
Change is even better when it improves our lives, which it often does by the forces of our own agency.
I’m also embracing age because, for me at least, it seems to be carrying with it a greater sense of self-certainty, self-understanding, and confidence in my skill sets and interests. I know my orientation in the world a bit better than I did in my 20s.
Socrates implored each of us to “know thyself,” but while we may have the ability to be self- aware, it doesn’t mean we totally comprehend who exactly we are, or what our long-term desires are, or what our goals are, what we’re good at or enjoy – especially in our early years.
This brings me back to the feelings of being bereft. While I was able to enjoy much of my 20s and reflected upon them so fondly with its myriad freedoms and pleasures, I’m thankful I can look forward to other freedoms and pleasures in my 30s.
I recall feeling so perpetually tortured with uncertainty about what I was doing in life, or what direction I ought to go. It played a huge role in my depression in my early 20s, and while my path still remains uncertain, I enjoy at least
a bit more solace with a feeling like I’m actually getting somewhere.
Those directionless feelings in my 20s lasted all 10 of those years. I’m glad I can largely leave those behind me. I embrace age in other ways, too.
When I see those silver streaks in my hair, I’m like, “Word.” I’m thankful I even have hair. And I guess salt and pepper – mostly salt sooner than later – will be the look I’m involuntarily going for in my years to come.
When I’m joked about being an old man, I laugh and say, “Yeah, you wanna fight about it?”
Then the person calls my bluff and I lose the fight because I’m old now.
One thing I implore my younger cohorts: as you age, don’t lose your youthful spirit. I personally like to think I’m an old soul with a spirit just like that. Like my late Uncle Kurt, I don’t think I’ll ever lose the kid in me, and I don’t intend to. I’ll still be goofy as hell and climb trees like a monkey and go longboarding with my friends.
But I’ll also take life seriously when I need to – because life is serious – and occasionally stay in on Fridays and work my way through my list of Stephen King books (that’s the “old soul” part).
As I’m fond of saying, “Give f*cks where f*cks must be given.”
Fear of aging doesn’t fall in line with that; nor does obsessively rhapsodizing about “the good ol’ days” of your 20s to the point where you wish today was like then.
Aging is inevitable; let’s all embrace it.