by David Leonhardt
Happy Birthday! How old are you anyway?"
"Oh, I'm just 29 ... again."
It's a harmless game, denying
our age, right? We play sensitive about our age as we get older, as we get further away from birth and closer to death. It's
just a way to share our unease of growing older with people around us. Ah ... aging gracefully.
Try as we might, time marches
on and we get older just the same. I was reminded about this when I recently read that we are now seven million years old.
That's at least a million years older than we were just one year ago.
Of course, that does not mean
you or I personally aged a million years in the past 365 days. That would be taking the term "personal growth" or "aging", gracefully or otherwise, too far. It would be either a b-rated horror movie or the phenomenal work
of a genius. In fact, an early human skull found in the Sahara Desert is 7 million years old, pushing "the start of human evolution back at least another
For you and me, age is important.
Denying one's age, or even being sensitive about it, can be disabling to many of us. Our years, our lines, our scars are part
of who we are. They should be a matter of comfort and pride and even our joy. Happiness eludes us when we feel embarrassed,
guilty, or even shy about any part of who we are.
is a matter of self-esteem
What's at stake here? Our happiness.
Our self-esteem. Our zest and sense of daily joy. Our life satisfaction.
It's time for each of us to take
pride again in everything we are. Try saying something like this: "I am pushing 40 (or whatever age applies to you). I have
lived 40 years of happiness. I have survived 40 years of challenges. I have experienced 40 years of personal growth. I have
learned so many life lessons from 40 trips around the sun. (I have much more to learn, so God, please let me live another
40!) I am aging gracefully. I have thrived, mostly, during 40 years. And I am proud of every one of those years."
Once upon a time, the elders
of the village were revered. They bore both knowledge and wisdom. Now we settle for just knowledge. The elders carried traditions
down from generations. Now we just create brand new "traditions". The elders were our leaders. Now we downsize them.
Youth has its own beauty, its
own advantages, its own joy, its own reasons to be admired. So, too, does middle age. In fact, every age is important and
every age is beautiful. How old are you right now? (Really, I don't mean "29 again".) Whatever age you are, right now that
is the perfect age for you -- and the perfect age to be proud of.
Oh sure, it is sort of harmless
to kid about one's age. And many people joke about it harmlessly. But many of us also have a deep unease about our age and
our aging -- an unease that can hold back our self-esteem and our happiness.
is another type of personal growth?
sitting in my pew when it suddenly dawned on me why one member of the all-female choir looked so different. Every lady was
at least 40 years old. Most were over 50. But the other heads were jet black or honey brown or sandy blonde or some other
artificial tint. White Top Lady stood out from the crowd. She packed a loaded bundle of white hair.
It is no sin to dye one's hair,
as long as we don't do it during the service. It is just one of many ways we adorn ourselves. But the sight of a dozen elderly ladies with hair colors impossible for their age (and perhaps even impossible for any age!) made me want
to laugh out loud right there in church. (I resisted.) All the heads would probably have looked normal if White Top Lady's
hair had not been screaming out, "I'm proud of my color. I'm proud of my age. I'm not going to hide. I'm
It's time to be proud of everything
about ourselves, including our age. So to everybody aging gracefully out there, "Happy Seven Millionth!"