In my twenties, I thought I was going to live forever. Of course, I knew that was an impossibility but my actions and lifestyle just never factored in the inevitable and unstoppable onset of age. I still feel young and live young, but now in the last year of my thirties, I hope I am also a little wiser. I am sure all of you “young uns” are starting to shake your head and are moving your mouse to the close icon, but stick with me and I promise not to give the “I wish I were your age” lecture you have heard a thousand times before.
What is Old Age?
Scientifically aging is the result of the cells in your body not regenerating fast enough. It is a little more complicated than that but essentially your cells are no longer healthy. After about the age of 30 your body will start to deteriorate no matter what you do. Everyone will lose hair, lose muscle mass and gain fat. Your skin will get softer and sag, with spots appearing all over your body. Your teeth will become more yellow and crooked. You will get a little shorter, your posture will bend forward and you will become weaker. To top it off, you can look forward to diminishing mental acumen. Basically we all become weaker, uglier and more stupid as we age. (No offense to any of you old farts that may be reading this. 🙂 )
It is Not All Bad!
Eating healthily and exercising can do amazing things to your longevity, so it is not all biology. Indeed there are many 60 year-olds that can put today’s teenagers to shame in the physical fitness department. My uncle Dave is in his seventies and spends half the year hiking around South East Asia. I also run with someone in his late fifties who has just completed his third 100km race. However, old age and death are inevitable. Or are they? There is an interesting video on TED talks about new cell research that may greatly extend our lives. Certainly with all the advances in genetics and medicine it is no longer ridiculous to imagine that people will be living to 150 years old or more. It is unlikely to happen to anyone living now, but maybe your grandchildren will benefit from that research.
Aging is all Physical!
Even though I am approaching the big four zero, I am still the same person inside. I have more knowledge of the world and I may or may not have become wiser, but my personality hasn’t changed much in the last 30 odd years. Life experiences alter who you are and hopefully we all grow as human beings but our personalities are likely formed as young children and do not change much. Consider that idea when you see and meet people around you. That seventy-year-old woman you see walking slowly with an arch in her back, years of wrinkles and a frail body was not always that age. She was once young, energetic and attractive. Picture granny doing the wild thing with grandpa and you will get an idea of what I am talking about.
Inside the mind of that elderly woman, if their mind is still healthy that is, are the same thoughts that person formed many decades earlier. Her ideas have been forced to adjust to the structural constraints of her body, society and relationships, but…. she is the same little girl running around with her friends in the playground six decades ago.
Consider that as you age. Who you are will never fundamentally change. You will always be you. However, age will bring increasingly constrictive barriers and obstacles to the freedom and ideas you had when you were younger. A twenty year old has every option in the world. An eighty year old does not. Those obstacles to your dreams and goals are not only your physical body. You, your circumstances and society will also place more and more restrictions on what you can do or can’t do with your life.
Purchasing a new home will require you to pay a mortgage, taxes and bills. Getting married will restrict your freedom in that you will have to jointly determine and choose your future with another person. Having children will mean that you will have to consider what is in the best interests of your family, before your own desires. Consuming expensive durable items will mean that a large portion of your income will go towards things rather than the experiences you would like to have. As you can see, not all restrictions are negative. Many of the choices in your life can bring you great happiness and enjoyment, but they remain constraints nonetheless.
People keep putting off all of their dreams until all circumstances are perfect. I’ll do it when:
- I get enough money,
- I get enough experience,
- I get back into shape,
- I finish school,
- I lose some weight,
- I have more time,
- I sell my house,
- etc. etc. etc.
The Worst Case Scenario
Delaying anything poses serious risks that people never factor into their life choices. What happens if you get cancer in six months? What happens if you get into a car accident? What happens if you die? How would you feel, if something terrible were to happen in the future and you spent all the previous years of your life waiting for the perfect moment? Certainly your priorities would change with the onset of a life catastrophe.
Risk Free Goals
Doing something exciting and challenging is NOT a risk. The future is never a better time. As you age, you will only find more reasons not to do the things you really want to in life. The greatest risk in life is not pursuing your dreams now because your days will most certainly run out. There is no tomorrow, only today. Make sure you do the things you want to do most in life while you still have options.