Monday, May 02, 2005

How Old Is Old?

I received a forwarded article this morning from one of my friends, Chong Beng. The article is about the feeling of getting old. While the article certainly reflects the freedom and well-preserved memory that is the culmination of age and experience, I certainly think that it is a food for thought for adolescents too.

How old is old?
THE other day, a young person asked me how I felt about being old.

I was taken aback, for I did not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder over it and let her know.

Old age, I have decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body!

I sometimes despair over my body's the wrinkles, baggy eyes, skin spots and bumps, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives
in my mirror, but I don't agonise over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, or my loving family for less grey hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I have become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself.

I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement fountain I didn't need but which looks so avant garde on my patio.

I am entitled to over eat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read until 4am, and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s. And if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

I will walk the beach in swimming trunks stretched over a bulging body, and dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set. They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some parts of life are just as well forgotten and I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car?

But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn grey or even be lost forever, and to have laugh lines etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

I can say "No" and mean it. I can say "Yes" and mean it. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't
question myself any more. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.

And I shall eat dessert every single day.

Hope we all learn something from it.