I think the most wonderful part of aging is owning the hard won character we build that so clearly defines the lives we have lived. One never knows what might become of young saplings or even full-grown trees. A simple downpour might do them in from the roots up. But old trees? You know where they stand. You can see how many branches they have sent out and how many have remained strong through storm after storm. Once the leaves fall, you can even appreciate the arc their paths have taken and the lengths they have gone to keep their balance.
A few days ago, I turned 63. When my grandmother was this age I asked her, “Gosh, Granny, what does it FEEL like to be SO old?” Her reply was shocking: “Oh, I don’t feel old. I feel just like I did in my 20’s. The difference is that other people treat me differently. That’s the only thing that lets me know I’m not young anymore.”
Well, I am glad to now be, ‘treated differently,’ because frankly, I am. Despite the many hats and faces I’ve worn over the last six decades, one thing remains true: my past choices have defined my character. Once the façade of youth passes, what you’ve been is who you are. Time engraves you choice-by-choice, line-by-line and ring-by-ring. It carries a poignancy that cannot be ignored because now you can almost count the grains of sand left in the top of the hourglass.
Shortly before he died last week at age 69, David Bowie told an interviewer: “Age doesn’t bother me. It’s the lack of years left that weighs far heavier on me than the age that I am.” I feel the same. There are fewer years ahead of me than behind. But it is a great and valuable gift to be reminded that nothing lasts forever. It keeps you reaching skyward.