411. “Still a Kid at Heart”

I’ve often heard adults say that they’re still kids at heart. They say and do things to prove that they really haven’t grown up. And there’s an old song about the importance of being “young at heart.” I, personally, do not like to think of myself as a “kid at heart,” and don’t think I’m “young at heart.” I spent a lot of time and energy trying to grow, and I’m still trying. If, after all that work, I’m still a kid, it means the work was all in vain.
I’d prefer to think that I’m middle-aged at heart, and that in a few more decades, I’ll begin to be old at heart. As much as I love spending time with children, and enjoy listening to them and hearing their thoughts, I don’t think it “keeps me young.” It keeps me optimistic and generally positive, but not young. Time keeps right on marching, and I’ll get a year older each year. So will everyone else.
I think I understand why people who are not children work so hard to believe they are. Part of the reason is that we live in a culture that doesn’t value age the way some cultures do. Too bad. Life teaches us a lot, and the older we are, the more chances life has had to do that teaching. And another part of the reason is that the last thing we do is die, and with each passing year, we’re closer to that. People don’t want to die, and they don’t want their appearance and/or behavior to remind them and others of the inevitability of that event. And so people have face-lifts, wear make-up that covers wrinkles, lie about their age, color their hair, and so on. And they tell themselves, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, that they’re still children.
I’m going to die. If I’m lucky and skillful, that won’t happen for a long time. I eat well, and try to get exercise. But I do it to stay healthy, not to stay young. I admit that I miss parts of my youth; I’m not above that. And I’ve even had moments when I’ve wanted to color my graying hair blond. But the impulse hasn’t lasted long enough for me to actually do it. I have shaved off my beard a few times, and it has made me look younger, but as soon as I got tired of hearing that I looked younger (which didn’t take long), I stopped shaving. So far, I’ve been fairly consistently able to remind myself of my conviction that aging is real and good.
I’m not saying all aspects of the aging process are positive. We lose some skills. We forget things. We’re constantly reminded that we ain’t what we used to be, and it depresses and scares many people. I’ve had my moments of being depressed and/or scared. Those moments tend not to occur when there are children around. And not just because children are so positive. Often, when children get annoyed by things, I’m reminded of a reason I’m glad I’m not a child. I’m free from a lot of the annoying stuff they have to deal with.
So let’s grow old. Let’s not try to believe that we’re “kids at heart.” Let’s reintroduce the idea that wisdom comes with age. We “Aged of Aquarius” have plenty of time left; let’s not waste it pretending we have even more than we do.

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