Embracing Aging

In our society, there’s an obsession with youth. It’s reinforced in advertisements, movies, and magazines. In The Who’s hit song, My Generation, Pete Townsend sings, I hope I die before I get old.” There’s the Forbes 30 under 30 or the news headlines of the newest twenty-something tech billionaire. Sometimes on Twitter, I’ll find people putting their age in their bio. Their age being a source of pride because of all the things they had done so young. It’s hard not to lament getting older in our society.

In the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, an old Professor, Morrie Schwartz, diagnosed with ALS has only months left to live. A former student, Mitch Albom, visits him every Tuesday, asking his Professor life’s big questions like regrets, death, and finding meaning.

On one Tuesday, Mitch asked Morrie on his thoughts on aging. Here’s what he had to say:

All this emphasis on youth—I don’t buy it. . . . Listen, I know what a misery being young can be, so don’t tell me it’s so great. All these kids who came to me with their struggles. . . . And, in addition to all the miseries, the young are not wise. They have very little understanding about life. Who wants to live every day when you don’t know what’s going on? When people are manipulating you, telling you to buy this perfume and you’ll be beautiful, or this pair of jeans and you’ll be sexy—and you believe them! It’s such nonsense.

Mitch then asked, Weren’t you ever afraid to grow old?”

Morrie responds:

It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.

Mitch follows up with a question I had, If aging were so valuable, why do people always say they wish they were young again. I never hear people say, I wish I were sixty-five.’”

Morrie replies:

You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back.”

What a great take on aging. The fact is, we’re all getting older. We are all going to die eventually, it doesn’t matter what we tell ourselves. And that instead of lamenting that we’re getting older, embracing it instead.

July 24, 2022

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