Last week’s solo road trip through the Oklahoma panhandle, northern New Mexico and up through Colorado to Ft. Collins was for a friend’s birthday celebration. She turns 50 this fall and while not exactly jubilant about it, she’s one of those people whose looks, disposition, and mindset belie their age. But in a very grown up way. By that I mean she’s not fighting it tooth and nail. There’s no bitterness about the fact her youth is behind her. Her joy to be alive is still very intact.
The line between my friend’s lack of jubilation and another’s bitterness and discomfort with where they’ve landed on the other side of “youthdom”, is a fine one; I’ll give you that. It’s not just how you dress or what you drive or whether you’ve sought help in the form of botox or a facelift. Taking advantage of what’s available to make you feel and look good is not the line unless you widen that line with a marker of desperation.
You can’t finger a man as going through a mid-life crisis simply because he can finally afford the hot car he’s had his eye on since turning 16. In other words, it’s difficult to define other than you simply know it when you see it. Most of us know someone hanging on a little too enthusiastically, with a little too much “this was not supposed to happen to me” attitude that gives the arrogance of youthful ways a nasty twist, now with wrinkles. I want to walk up to them and say, “give it up Bub, grow up, you’re not anymore special than the rest of us”. In their mind it’s more painful for them to have to age than for anyone else. It’s more difficult for them to give up all those youthful benefits. What a crock.
Similar to many things, we Americans have a sense of entitlement towards the right to be young and if not that, then youthful. Many become angry as our youth slips away, reacting to it like a younger sibling managing for the first time to swipe our favorite toy from our clutches. There’s no anger like it. And for the most part, it’s downright unbecoming if not ugly. It’s as though we own youth as a hard won possession and by gosh no one should be able to take it from us. It’s ours and ours alone and we spent years of our lives paying for it when in fact we did nothing but breathe. And we would have screwed that up too but we somehow managed to stay alive. The fact that everyone lucky enough to live long enough loses their youth too, is of no comfort. The loss of youth is a personal affront on their humanity. Get over it.
The fact is like everyone else, those too desperately hanging on, had their chance. Now it’s someone else’s turn. The problem is in the middle of it we abuse it, take it for granted, screw it up, and then feel it was stolen from us. The puzzling correlation here is the one between how badly someone screwed up during their youth to how badly they react when it’s over. Weird. The people I know who screwed it up the worst are the ones that want another go at it. You screwed it up the first time, now you feel you need another pass? What kind of reward system would that be?
Funny thing is, this phenomenon occurs generation after generation. The generation behind me? I’m watching them closely. Trust me, they’re screwing it up too. They don’t listen either. To get the generation currently in their youth to realize what they’ve got is like the dead talking to us and telling us what lies ahead. It ain’t happening.
So there’s a lot to take comfort in. First, there is justice in this world. Secondly, we have more of everything as we move past our youth – more money, more wisdom, more smarts, more experience, more things, and actually more fun. It’s the more wrinkles part that appears to negate all the above in one flabby arm’s fell swoop for many. I say wear long sleeves and get to swoopin’.
Road Trip Photos