Age: It's a Relative Thing

I was having lunch with a group recently and the topic of conversation came around to my pending retirement. One of the women was surprised to learn that I'm so close to reaching that milestone.

"You look so good!" she said referring, I think, to the fact that I look younger than the traditional sixty-five year plus retiree age. (Good thing since I'm only fifty-four!)

When I was in primary school I was put into an accelerated program and, as a result, for the remainder of my school years I was younger than most of my classmates. As a teenager I wanted to be older: I wanted to get my driver's license, I wanted to be able to go to the bar (legally), I wanted to vote, I wanted to get married and have a family. I despaired of my youth.

When I was in my mid-twenties I went back to school and found myself one of the "mature" students--a "Golden Girl"--at age twenty-six. Yet, despite that detour into maturity, when I look back over my life I realize I've often been most comfortable with people who are a few years older than me. The woman's observation of my relative youth in terms of her perception of what a retiree should look like sat well with me. I liked it; it fit.

Later the conversation shifted to child-rearing. I sat quietly listening to the women talk about the cost of babysitters (Crikey! And to think I used to get paid fifty cents an hour as a babysitter in the 1970's.), teenagers getting their driver's licenses, and "meddling" mothers checking on their children's plans ("No one else's mom does that!" Yeah. Right.), and curfews.

I felt somewhat removed from the conversation--it's been a good many years since I've been concerned with getting a babysitter or missed curfews --and it then it hit me: I've got children about the same age as some of these women!

I was old enough to be the MOTHER of some of these women! 

Whoa! What happened to that good feeling of being younger than many retirees? In an instant I felt like an old woman, a matriarch, a fossil. I almost had to check to see if I was wearing a heavy wool coat, support hose, and sensible shoes. (Okay, I was wearing sensible shoes, but not those kind of sensible shoes.)

I couldn't help smile at the conversation, and I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude that I was past the days these women were living and talking, about but as I listened and smiled at their stories my mind was racing and I felt older with each passing minute.

It's interesting, isn't it, how the way we feel can change in relation to the people and circumstances around us. In the course of one lunch I went from feeling young-and-bouncy to old-and-feeble all due to conversation of women at the table and my own thoughts about age in relationship to the women I was with.

I like to think I've embraced my age; most of the time I believe I have. I appreciate the wisdom, sense of self, and perspective that I've gained as I've matured. I'm less fond of the changes in my metabolism, stamina, and memory that have occurred in recent years. I'm convinced though, that the positive far outweighs any negative aspects of growing older. I feel more "me". I'm more comfortable with asking for, and taking steps to get, things I want and need for my own well-being.

I was going to end this post with a tongue-in-cheek comment about needing to spend more time with senior citizens so I can continue to be the youngster in the crowd, but I changed my mind. No matter what demographic I find myself around I'm choosing to embrace being fifty-four. I wouldn't want to turn back the clock for anything--these are truly the best years of my life and I'm blessed to be living them.

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