The Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, once commented “Youth is wasted on the young.” That’s not far from the truth. Even though wisdom gained in later life could have been put to good use when young, age is not the limiting factor it used to be, provided we take care of the hardware along with the software.
It’s a cruel irony spun by some higher power that we often cannot do things of youthful exurberance at a time in life when we are more mentally attuned to enjoy them. I became a father later in life than most folks (33) and I thought at the time, with a wry grin, that you either have children early in life when you have the energy but not the wisdom to deal with them, or later when you’re mentally better equipped but lack the energy to keep up with the physical demands of Mom- and Dad-hood.
And it seems the same irony exists in our later years, a time when we tend towards more intellectual pursuits yet still feel the tug of unfinished youthful business. I’m feeling the pull of wanderlust to hit the road and travel, perhaps even (albeit only daring to mention in a quiet whisper) vagabonding for a time. I can’t tell yet if these are true interests or merely distracting yearnings of unfulfilled youthful adventures. Whatever the reason, I’m finding that I need to pay greater attention to those fascinating hobbies of nutrition and physical conditioning, even Yoga for returning flexibility to these older legs (who of us in their youth ever considered Yoga a prerequisite to adventure?). It’s frustrating for my ready-to-go mind to wait on my body, a condition I never had to deal with before. But it is what is, and the path to nomadic adventure is clearly through this temporary obstacle.
“You’re as young as you feel” is one of those expressions I thought pretty lame in my youth. It made absolutely no sense to my logical mind. Either your young or your not. You enjoy your youth, spend your moment in the sun, then be content to sit in a rocking chair out of harm’s way, letting the next wave of youth spend their time. Order, not chaos in the grand scheme of things. As we all learn the hard way of course, life doesn’t exactly follow that path. With modern health advances and better (smarter) living we can extend our youth and the abilities to match that exurberance, provided we remain proactive and pay attention to the ever-increasing maintenance our bodies crave as we age. While I’m not going to go out and climb mountains as I did in my youth (okay, in Texas what we call them mountains most folks call foothills, but…), my activities are only limited by my willingness to prepare. In my youth I may have perceived a walk along the cliffs of Ireland as a journey with goal of completion, but now I see the same walk as a chance to go to a desolate place, ponder the beauty, and enjoy the journey more than the accomplishment.
Each spring when a young man’s fancy turns to girls, an older man’s eyes still notice these same girls, but every year it seems they keep getting younger looking (it can’t possibly be *me* getting older, therefore it must be reverse evolution). I see their youthful expressions and carefree attitudes and silently pray that they will understand life’s great secret in time to avoid middle-aged mud. If only they could realize now that with effort this happy and carefree state can continue, providing they make the right decisions along the way. But like most of us, their destiny is to spend time and effort later trying to find their lost youth. Unfortunately, as with most things involving young people, that’s something you can’t tell them (or rather they simply won’t listen). Their other destiny is to learn experientially on their own terms. My generation was no exception, and we dutifully ignored our parents and elders thinking we had all the answers and these old fogies were, well, just old coots. I’m going through the same process with my teenagers when we butt heads, and with a twinkle in my eye I tell them, “I can’t wait until you have kids.” It’s a Dad’s best and truest revenge.