All the Beautiful People Are There, 2009
You reach a certain age and begin to realize that while life may have given you a pretty good ride so far, there are some things you’re probably not ever going to be. Like an astronaut, deep sea explorer, a tycoon or movie star.
It’s not that you can’t be these things, or that your life’s experience doesn’t in fact make you more capable of doing some things much better than you could have when you were younger. Rather, it’s the realization that if you haven’t done those things by now you’re probably not going to.
If I didn’t think there were still many interesting and engaging things in front of me I’d not bother getting out of bed. Still, I’ll bet astronauts have to get up much earlier in the morning that I like. My friend Wayne and I had a good laugh at the realization that we’ve been self-employed so long that we’re probably not domesticated enough any more for corporate leadership. So the tycoon thing is probably out. And since I blew that chance to sing “Some Enchanted Evening” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville some years back the chances that I’ll be invited up to do it now seem slim since my voice no longer supports some of those higher notes.
When you’re young and starting a career, it’s easy to get the impression that you need to look a little older if you want to be taken seriously. You hear stories of young doctors and lawyers who add gray to his hair to look more mature.
I’m at the age now that I occasionally hear about friends who are taking steps to remove the gray from their hair. (My friend Gail calls this stage “too young for Social Security and too old for pole dancing.”) Some can pull off the look, others not. As for me, until they perfect a method of dying that involves whole body dunking it’s just not going to be believable.
If you talk to people in their 80s and 90s they’ll tell you how they don’t like being segregated in communities populated only by old people. My mother resisted moving to assisted living long after she was no longer safe in her old place because she didn’t want to give up being a part of a community that included young adults, couples and children.
Some of my peers are trying to fool age by embarking on wild adventure travels and extreme sports. This is a natural thing for some of them. They were always active people. But it’s off-putting and disingenuous for the ones who weren’t athletes before. And although exercise is an important activity for people of all ages, the benefits are mostly internal. A ninety year-old in a sporty tracksuit isn’t fooling anyone. What does it really matter if you “don’t look a day over seventy-five”?
My fountain of youth, such as it is, is the company I keep. I have friends of all ages. But I’ve made a special effort to reach out to young people who are doing interesting things. Some of what they’re doing I understand. Some flies right over me. No matter what they’re doing, though, their energy feeds my energy, and while I may not have their blush of youth, there’s blood stirring just the same.