This is the second installment of my thoughts and observations about aging. In the first, which I cleverly titled “On Aging: Part One,” I acknowledged that I am 73 years old, have survived all sorts of health problems and, although retired, stay very busy with a variety of activities. I suggested that the best way not be be old is to emulate young people, and noted that young people are not ashamed of their age. Today I want to talk about the youth’s second characteristic, forward focus.
Young people look forward, not backward. If you think about youth they are always anticipating the next milestone, whether it’s going to “real” school, getting into college or that first job. Their focus is forward. I can specifically recall anticipating junior high. “Wow, you get lockers, and you don’t stay with the same teacher all the time, you go from class to class. It’s going to be so cool!”
But at some point, unless we are careful, our focus shifts backward. Memories become as important as anticipation, and finally replace it altogether. Instead of looking forward to the next milestone, we anticpate the next reunion. Our conversations shift from “what we are going to do,” to “remember when we did.” When we do this we have surrenderd to aging.
While this may be typical, it is not necessary. There are lots of things to look forward to. The next trip; the next new activity; the next class; the next volunteer opportunity. Life is much more enjoyable when one has positive things to anticipate.
Satchel Paige, the seemingly ageless baseball player famously said, “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” He also said, “Aging is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
So, be proud of the age you have achieved. Keep your focus forward. You don’t have to be old.
Next: Keep learning.