Woody Allen once noted that after age 50, “certain propositions in life aren’t going to happen.” I don’t know what Woody thought when he passed 60, but I can tell you that even at 62, none of the propositions in my life have budged. Sixty has proven to be not just the new 40, but maybe even the new 30.
The key to ageless aging, as I see it, is not to choose propositions in life that require the kind of effort that saps youthful vigor, like athletics. Think of yourself as a 38-year-old and you’re likely to think of yourself as either approaching or in your prime. Now think of a 38-year-old catcher or running back and you’re looking at a creaking, aging has-been.
I also benefited from an early realization that I had little capacity for anything to do with the kind of physical labor or skilled trade that wears out, or removes parts of, the human body over time, such as coal mining or being a wholesale butcher. I truly admire the people who choose these paths, but once having constructed a skate scooter that imploded in a scattering of 2-by-4s, pieces of roller skate, 10-penny nails and me, was enough to convince me that a library bench—rather than a work bench—was more in tune with my abilities.
But it may be the secret of my continued and stubborn youthfulness lies in the fact that from an early age, I seemed destined never to commit to do anything in particular with my life. I’m not suggesting my life has been that of a simple wastrel (I have a debt load and an impeccable credit rating to prove otherwise). I simply mean that had I stood before Frost’s “two roads [that] diverged in a snowy wood,” I would have gone looking for a third. My career path has turned out to be one for which the phrase “casual anarchy” might apply, but what most people would call “impulsive.”
It’s true that my working life at this juncture is an inverted pyramid. What I’m doing now for a living would be more age appropriate for someone coming into their prime in life (hence my contention that 60 can be the new 30). The fact that some of my colleagues are also snow-domed boomers indicates that this “new economy” is turning back the clock for many of us, as far as career path is concerned.
A word that I’ve come to embrace as a guiding principle is “next.” I tell my kids that what I’m doing now is what was “next,” and that as long as there is life, there will always be “next.” If I’ve learned anything about life and the universe, it’s that the one unchanging constant is change itself.
The lesson is, if you’ve got everything you want in life, don’t embrace it too tightly. Likewise, if you haven’t achieved your goals, don’t despair or give up. There is always a “next.”
While it’s true that “you can’t go home again,” it’s also true that you can take some of it with you, like your youth. I have what my son refers to as “old people” friends, but I count among my solid friendships several of my son’s and daughter’s own friends. I like spending time with them discussing what we’d like to be when we grow up, just as much as I enjoy commiserating with my “old people” friends about 401(k)s, 55-and-over communities and joint replacements.
And every year I still continue to look forward to AMC’s “Three Stooges Marathon” and TBS’ showing of “The Wizard of Oz.”