On Getting Older

Well, it arrived in the mail today. In a very official, important looking brown envelope. Information to be filled out and decided upon and submitted in preparation for Medicare enrollment. Medicare!
Am I really there? I never wanted this year to come. In December I will turn 65 years old, and be eligible for Medicare. It feels too weird.
I’ve had a lot of time to come to grips with the concept of being “old” and I think I have figured out what the problem is. I mean, other than the obvious fact that I’m in the homestretch now. The problem isn’t the number of birthdays I have accumulated. It’s not the number 65. It’s the fear that I won’t be me anymore in the eyes of the world.
From my inner self looking out I am the same person I have always been my entire life. I still feel like myself, but I probably don’t look like myself. One has an identity in life, and part of who you are perceived to be is based on what you look like. We like to say that what a person looks like isn’t important, but it is. It’s a huge part of your identity.
The majority of people I know tend to live their lives in accordance with their image. I see this all the time when I spend time with my age-peers. They have become more conservative. They walk a little slower, and almost never in bare feet.
They no longer sit or lie on the floor to watch TV. They sit in a proper chair or sofa. And they never sleep on the floor or in their car. When they go away overnight they must have a room with an adequate bed. Long gone are those days when they would go to Burger King for lunch and eat it in the car. The same people who used to take off for a weekend at the shore with only the clothes on their back and enough money for beer and pizza now pack enough suitcases for a trip to Europe. That exciting spontaneity isn’t there. That “hey! I have a great idea! Let’s do such and such…” and you jump up and do it. Now we have to carefully plan, days in advance, every little trip to the Mall or whatever.
I find all of this a little depressing.
I’m not saying that I will never change, I really don’t know what is going to happen. My problem is that at this point I still feel like myself and want to be and do what I always have. And I don’t want people to look at me like I must be out of my mind because I want to join the local rock climbing gym or go whitewater rafting. And I guess I would like my old lifelong cronies to do these things with me. I remember when all of us were always up for a new adventure. When I do these things now it’s usually in the company of my kids or other young friends. It’s nice having young friends too, but it’s not the same as doing things with the old gang.
No wonder so many older people in our society are depressed.
I don’t really mind accumulating birthdays. I don’t really even mind some wrinkles. I just don’t want people to look at my face and see a different person than they saw 40 years ago. Because it’s still me in here!


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