Age Only Matters If You Are a Cheese

A hiker overlooks the sunset. Text "Not all classrooms have four walls" appears on the graphic.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest

you’ll ever be again.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I broke my personal record for most consecutive days lived. I always knew I’d get older, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a record setter.

Actor George Burns once wrote, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”

A gentleman being interviewed on his 105th birthday was asked his secret to longevity. His response: “I expected longevity. I lived my life in such a way that I knew I would live beyond 100,” he explains. Being an avid walker has always been part of my life. I walk four or five miles a day.”

“What do you do if it rains?” asked the interviewer.

“I put on a raincoat,” the old man replied.

Consider the difference between the following two statements:

I want to go for a walk but it’s raining (easy to opt out).

It’s raining but I want to go for a walk (dedication and perseverance).

Country singer Roger Miller summed this up so nicely, “Some people enjoy walking in the rain, others just get wet.” It’s all about attitude.

To deny your age is to deny you survived. Nothing is more beautiful than a smile that has struggled though years and tears. Mae Laborde, who recently celebrated her 102nd birthday shared, “I keep thinking of the nice things that are still to happen.”

Is aging or getting older really a bad thing?

Ellen DeGeneres asks, “Why do they say we’re over the hill? I don’t even know what that means and why it is a bad thing. When I go hiking and I get ‘over the hill,’ that means I’m past the hard part and there’s a snack in my future.”

I recently read on a coffee cup, “At my age, ‘getting lucky’ means walking into a room and remembering why I’m there.” Isn’t it interesting for some of us who are aging gracefully, that our childhood punishments of going to bed early, not leaving the house and not going to a party have become our adult goals?

“What is your age?” asked the barrister in court. “And remember, you are under oath.”

“I am twenty-one and some months,” the woman answered.

“How many months?” the barrister continued.

“One hundred and eight.”

Why are we so hung up on age and chronological numbers? Baseball legend Satchel Paige asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I think we should start referring to ‘age’ as ‘levels.’ I’m presently at level 71. It sounds so much more exciting than just being ‘chronologically gifted.’ Suzy Rosenstein adds, “Imagine what you might be motivated to do if you thought your 50’s were the beginning rather than half way to the end.”

Richard Gere chips in, “I am old but I am forever young at heart. We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many.”

What is age?

Age is a quality of mind.

If you have left your dreams behind,

If hope is cold,

If you no longer look ahead,

If your innermost fires are dead-

Then you are old.

But if from life you take the best,

And in your life, you keep the jest,

If love you hold,

No matter how the years go by,

No matter how birthdays fly-

You are not old.

Age is simply the number of years the world has been enjoying you. It’s all about perspective.

Do you like growing older? Do you find it exciting? George Carlin wrote on aging, “Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we are kids? If you’re less than ten years old, you’re so excited about aging that you’re thinking in fractions.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m four and a half!”

“You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half going on five.”

An older woman was asked by a child if she were young or old. “My dear.” She replied “I have been young a very long time.” Attitude is the true measurement of age.

I read an interesting article the other day. The writer referred to “the gentleness of age.” The trials and tribulations of life bring each of us our share of bitter disappointments. Sometimes life is just messy. Jimmy Buffet describes it beautifully in his song, ‘It’s Simply Complicated.’ Yet these trials also leave behind a greater sense of understanding, tolerance and sympathy for others, something we never felt to the same extent when we were younger. That’s the “gentleness of age.” As mentioned in an earlier lesson, it is essential for your well-being that you develop a ‘reasonable tolerance’ for yourself, for others and the world in general.

How do you know if you are getting older? Age is not a time of life - it is a state of mind. On her eightieth birthday, Helen Keller declared, “One should never count the years - one should instead count one’s interests. I have kept young trying never to lose my childhood, that sense of wonderment. I am glad I still have a vivid curiosity about the world I live in.”

Actress Glenn Close adds, “All your life, you think 60 is ancient, and all of a sudden, you find you’re 60 and you don’t really feel that different. I feel stronger and more engaged. This is the best time of my life.” Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. As a young child once commented, “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this age before.”

Several years ago, a retrospective showing of Pablo Picasso’s works was held at The Museum of Modern Arts in New Your City. One art critic who saw the show recalled that once, when Picasso was eighty-five, he was asked the reason why his earlier works were so solemn and his later works so ecstatic and exciting. “How do you explain it?” asked the interviewer. “Easily,” Picasso responded, his eyes sparkling. “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Age is simply the number of years the world has been enjoying you.

Helen Hayes beautifully described aging, “I wouldn’t swap one wrinkle off my face for all the elixirs of youth. All of these wrinkles represent a smile, a grimace of pain and disappointment…some part of being fully alive.” Wrinkles mean you laughed, grey hair means you cared and scars mean you lived! Why do so many people try to turn back their odometers? One man commented, “I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” You don’t have grey hair, you have wisdom highlights. Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.

Do you want to be beautiful the way worn out things are: touched by time and proud to be rough around the edges with a story or two to tell? Margery Williams tells us the wonderful story of the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit. On Christmas morning, a young boy discovers a beautiful Velveteen Rabbit in his stocking. He plays with the new toy for a while, but in all the excitement of opening presents, he forgets all about it. Cast aside, the velveteen rabbit lives in the nursery closet, snubbed by the more expensive mechanical toys around him. His only friend is the wise old Skin Horse, a very special toy who knows all about nursery magic.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” the Rabbit asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once, “said the skin horse, “You become. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” I really hope that your eyes have not dropped off, or you are looser in your joints, but I do hope for you that you have had the opportunity to experience being ‘Real.’

There was a study done in which fifty people over the age of ninety-five were asked one question, “If you could live your life over again what would you do differently?”

Nadine Stair answered this question with, “I would start earlier in the Spring, and stay that way later in the Fall; I would go to more dances; I would ride more merry-go-rounds; I would pick more daisies.” She added, “I’d dare to make more mistakes next time; I would be sillier than I have been this trip; and I would take more chances.”

Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite writers, in answering the same question added: “I would have talked less and listened more; I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth; I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. Given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it; Live it and never give it back.”

Consistent in the responses were comments such as:

  • Everything is temporary.

  • A lifetime isn’t as long as you think.

  • My biggest risk was not taking any risks.

  • I played it too safe.

How would you answer that question?

When someone told 89-year-old poet Dorothy Duncan that she had lived a full life, she responded tartly, “Don’t you past tense me!” Mathew Kelly writes, “Are you fully alive? Are you living life to the fullest? What obstacles are preventing you from being fully alive and living life to the fullest? Do you believe these obstacles can be overcome? What would you need to change for you to be fully alive? What are some of your unfulfilled dreams in your bucket list?

Attitude is the true measurement of age.

Robin Williams was a wonderful comedian and actor. I’m a fan at so many levels, but most of all, I have loved his critical roles as an actor in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet’s Society, where he introduced to the world, the ‘Carpe Diem’ theme. “Seize the day boys!” It seems some people are not so much invested in seizing any day; they may occasionally just kind of poke at it with a stick.

Is aging a guarantee of maturity and wisdom? Abigail Van Buren writes, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with old age. Nothing does - except wrinkles. It’s true some wines improve with age, but only if the grapes were good in the first place.”

Hal Urban adds “Most of us have been told our entire lives that wisdom comes with age. It doesn’t. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of young people who are wise, and there are a lot of elderly people who are not. Wisdom comes to people who seek it, and it doesn’t make any difference how old they are.”

A mother went shopping with her small son. The grocer invited the boy to help himself to a handful of cherries, but the boy seemed shy.

“Don’t you like cherries?” the grocer asked.

“Yes,” replied the boy.

The grocer put his hand in and dumped a very generous portion of cherries into the little fellow’s pocket, which he promptly held out. Afterward, his mother asked him why he had not taken the cherries when first invited.

“Because his hand was bigger than mine,” was his answer.

There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. A smart person knows what to say; a wise person knows whether or not to say it. Perhaps this is best summed up by Tobias Smollett who reflects, “Some people are wise; Some are otherwise.” A wise person knows there is something to be learned from everyone. And remember, if you could erase all the mistakes of your past, you would also erase all the wisdom of your present.

Oprah Winfrey writes, “The best way to look at aging is to see it as an opportunity to leave what didn’t work behind and step boldly into a brand-new future.” You should always know when you’re changing gears in life. You should leave your era; it should never leave you. Sophia Nelson adds, “There comes a day when you realize that turning the page in the book of your life is the best feeling in the world. Because you realize that there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.”

Henry Ford wrote, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing is to keep your mind going.” There’s a moving story of an older woman’s service to others. As a bus driver, she showed great care toward the children she drove to school each day, quizzing them on homework and celebrating their successes. She says of her motivation, “I want to see these kids make it in life.” The next time you need a reason to try something new, take a chance, put yourself out there. As long as you are having fun, that is the only thing that matters.

Betty White chips in, “Open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them. You know people who are already saying, “I’m going to be 30 - oh, what am I going to do? Well, use that decade! Use them all.”

Peter Wallace writes, “I often find myself wishing I could tell my younger self some things about how life works, about what’s real and true, and thereby dissolve some of the harmful preconceptions and assumptions I had way back then. That is a frustrating impossibility, but it is worth thinking about.” If you could write a letter to your 20-year-old self, what wisdom would you share with them to help make their life journey a little easier?

Always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that takes our breath away.

Food for Thought

What’s your favorite age?

How old do you have to be before you know what’s going on?

How is your life different than you thought it would be at your present age?

Why do we sometimes see beauty in an old tree but see nothing in an old person?

Choose one quote every day or perhaps one or two every week if you like. How do these quotes speak to you? What applications do you see in your life? Share your chosen quotes with a family member, a friend, a business colleague. Create a ‘quote of the day’ club at work.

It’s not how old you are. It’s how you are old.

- Jules Renard

Most people go so far in life, and then they park.

- Maya Angelou

Youth has no age.

- Pablo Picasso

There is a fountain of youth: it is in your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love.

- Sophia Loren

You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious. And when you’ve lost a lot of people, you realize that each day is a gift.

- Meryl Streep

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

- Henry David Thoreau

Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.

- Albert Einstein

My favorite age is now.

- Kirsten Dunst

My ankles crunch, my knees crunch, my stomach gurgles constantly. I’m not getting older, I’m getting noisier.

- Bob Hope

Stop whining about getting old. It’s a privilege.

- Amy Poehler

I refuse to admit I’m more than 52 even if it does mean my sons are illegitimate.

- Lady Astor

Age is only a number we count until we’re old enough to know it doesn’t count.

- Katrina Meyer

Old people who shine from inside look 10 to 20 years younger.

- Dolly Parton

I’m sixty five, but if there were fifteen months in every year, I’d only be forty-eight.

- James Thurber

Life is a matter of choice. You can choose to be thirty years old or seventy years young.

- Barbara Johnson

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

- Mark Twain

The older you get, the more important it is not to act your age.

- Ashleigh Brilliant

I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.

- Lauren Bacall

I’m not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You’re as old as you feel.

- Elizabeth Arden

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.

- Albus Dumbledore

I don’t want to be an ageless beauty. I want to be a woman who is the best I can be at my age.

- Sharon Stone

Life is a long passage. You have to learn to be young, then grow to learn to be mature and grow to learn to be old.

- Leslie Caron

There’s always a learning process and the older I get, I always want to think of myself as in the potential, always getting better.

- Robert Duvall

Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives.

- Billy Graham

It’s ridiculous to pretend we can stay young forever.

- Helen Mirren

Next Lesson: Taking Everything Life Has to Offer

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