“No, I’m too old for that.”
That phrase is just plain wrong.
I invited a friend to do something fun, and she cut herself out of the experience by using age as a barrier.
Well, age IS a barrier — at the other end of the spectrum. We start out too young to do certain things. We have to be 5 to start school. We have to be 12 to get a hunter’s permit. We can’t get a driver’s license until we’re 16, join the army until we’re 17, nor vote until we’re 18. We can’t legally drink until we’re 21.
When we are young, life is divided into age group compartments. We grow this many years and we can do that many things. It’s tidy, convenient, and progressive.
Then we hit 18, and voila, we are adults. At that point, age limitations go away. Or at least they are supposed to. The idea is that we trade the structure of growing up for the liberty of becoming our own decision-making adult self.
And yet over time, we tend to start imposing age-related restrictions on ourselves.
Like kite-flying. “Well, no, I can’t fly a kite now. That’s what kids do, and I’m no longer a kid. Never mind that I could have that thing up in the sky in 30 seconds flat and keep it up there for three hours. I’m just too old to do that now. That’s for kids.”
“No, I’m too old to ride the rides at the amusement park. I can go there and stroll around, watching other people have fun. I can even feel an empathetic rush when I hear them screaming on that insane roller coaster. But me go up in that thing? Nah, that’s for kids.”
“No, I don’t feel like taking an all-day hike. Yes, I know we’d just be walking, which is what I do all day anyway. But, well, there are hills and valleys, and bugs, and dirt. And I haven’t hiked in years. I just think I really can’t do that. That’s for younger people, and I’m not a younger person anymore.”
So we waste our time mentally separating ourselves from a growing list of things we consider too young for us. Over time, age creeps in and a sad and strange thing happens. We learn — most often too late — that saying we are too old to do something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We eventually do become too old to do certain things because we stopped doing them.
We’re growing older. Every day. In his second day of life, a baby is twice as old as he was the day before. That’s how strange the passage of time can be. Which is why we should keep our eye on it. Yes, we should track notable milestones — like birthdays and anniversaries. But only to celebrate them, not hold them up as evidence of a growing list of things we’re too old to do.
I don’t want to be the one to decide I’m too old to do something. And I don’t want my kids to make those decisions either. I want to hear that from my doctor or the police.
I finally convinced that friend of mine that she wasn’t too old to go horseback riding with me. She was terrified. I had to listen to her lecture on how our bones are more brittle today than they were a decade ago. (There’s a new flash). But once she was up and riding, I couldn’t keep up with her. And her smile didn’t fade for days.
She’s learning that although there’s a time in our lives when we are too young to do certain things, there should never be a time in our lives when we’re too old to do certain things.
Oh, did I mention that if you tie your kite string to your fishing pole line, you can reel it in faster than you ever imagined possible?
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.