Last night, a good friend suddenly and without warning offered a pre-emptive toast to my turning 49 next week. I call him a “good” friend because, until as recently as last night, I considered him a “great” friend. But I honestly can’t remember his name now.
Haha! Just kidding!
We were actually never very close.
Ok, in all seriousness, until his good-natured ribbing about turning 49 (I still can’t stop laughing!), I hadn’t given it much thought. That’s because I don’t really think about myself relative to age.
Relative to the nearest strip of bacon, coffee shop and my wife, sure.
I mean, just look at my coffee mug!
Do I look like a man concerned with being age-appropriate?
I still wear band shirts from Hot Topic.
I have eight pairs of Marvel superhero Vans shoes.
Sometimes when I’m at a drive-thru, I’ll order my food while talking like Elmer Fudd.
“I’d wike your deee-wishess ba-weeto su-pweem, pweez…”
I still get excited when, like at dinner last night, I found a Star Wars poster in my box of Reese’s peanut butter cereal! And yes, I had peanut butter cereal for dinner.
On the rare occasion I’m asked for my age, like when
it’s Senior Tuesday at Fred Meyer I order a glass of wine, I have to think about it and then count forward from 1977. I was 11 years old then. I remember that because Star Wars came out that year.
I realize a person could suggest the inability to remember my age is, in itself, a sign of my aging. However, as I’ve mentioned, that person’s name escapes me.
It’s no small irony that over the years some people have remarked, “You don’t look your age!” while others have suggested “You need to start ACTING your age!” I don’t think this is a coincidence. In fact, I’d say one is the direct result of the other. Keeping a lighthearted perspective on the world and maintaining a sense of wonderment about its possibilities — whether plausible or fanciful — helps avoid that downward spiral into living life in an uninspired rut. Kids instinctively avoid this rut because they know their mission is to explore, push the boundaries and question the rules — of the house, the laws of physics, human anatomy, the proper use of utensils — in order to define themselves.
They approach life with their eyes wide open because they haven’t started second-guessing the world yet.
Then somewhere along the way we’re told being an adult means having all the answers. So we stop questioning. Stop wondering. Stop trying to move objects with our mind while sitting in traffic. Stop believing in the possibility — however remote — we might be the vessel of an undiscovered super power.
I’ve worked hard to keep my youthful perspective.
Does that mean I spend every moment being a goofball trying to shoot lasers out of my eyes or throw a stapler at my editor using my mind?
Ok, fine. But how about when I’m not at work?
No. I recognize when it’s time take things seriously and the responsibilities I have as a father, husband and human being. I’m reminded of this whenever my fire department pager goes off — and how knowing when to embrace rational understanding over youthful wonderment can mean the difference between life and death.
Yet the same can be said about everyday life: knowing when to embrace wonderment over rationality can also mean the difference between life and death, albeit a slow from the inside.
So as I approach 49, I plan on keeping a balance between the two. For example, when I responded to this morning’s tap-out for a car accident I put youthful wonderment aside and dialed-in my serious mode.
But I was still wearing these babies under my turnouts…
Because constantly living your life “age-appropriately” can be like Kryptonite.
(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Disclaimer: Even if you choose Ned’s book for summer reading, you should still use sunscreen.)