Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who is Counting Anyway: How Age and Birthdays are Nothing but Numbers in our Lives

Mostly eaten birthday cake
On the cusp of yet another birthday on the rising (or declining) slope of life, I cannot help but ponder upon my new accumulated age. But I do not feel any older really. In fact, I have stopped feeling older for the past ten plus years.

It is strange how we are keeping count. In addition, we have more or less clearly defined areas such as the unpredictable and rambunctious teenage years, the realm of young adulthood, the wild, decadent and engulfing middle age and the supposedly subsiding re- and declining phase of old age. Most of these phases have been categorized and classified eloquently by the psychologist Erik Erikson. Yet in reality, closing in on the middle part myself, I do not feel much different about entering this most recent stage.

That said, I must admit that circumstances have actually changed. I may not feel older, but I feel different. What interested or fascinated me in the past has been adjusted to my current situation. Having my own family affects my outlook on life. But that has not so much to do with age but rather with circumstances.

What I do not appreciate, however, is being told how I am supposed to feel or act at a certain age. It reminds one of childhood where parents would always claim that one is immature or childish for one's age! We often do likewise by complaining how so-and-so does not act (or sometimes even look) their age.

There are no real guidelines for how one ought to behave. Of course, living in society one must adhere to certain rules. A lot of it is organic though. I do not enjoy what I had enjoyed in my bachelorhood. I do fantasize about it occasionally, yet I would prefer a dinner with my wife and son to a wild drunken romp in the night / strip club (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that). We just adapt to the circumstances of the current flow of life.

The problem becomes more pronounced when one feels that one is lagging, when society expects you to do or have done something at a certain age, such as having a well-defined career, getting married and starting a family, buying a house and keeping a dog as a pet. One of my personal goals was to have published my first (of course best-selling) novel by the age of 27 (It never happened).

Anyhow, those rules of thumb or guidelines for “exemplary” life are always merely suggestions and you should follow them if and when you feel comfortable with them. In the meantime, you may get older physically but you still remain the same “young” person within, regardless of what bizarre and random number may show up on your driver's license.


Francis Hunt said...

I like th point you make about the expectations others have from us because of our age; I have come to believe that th only important thing is the picture one has of oneself. Of course, this may be a piece of wisdom which has come through (middle) age! :-)

JMyste said...

I agree with everything you said. It's just, I have my birthday today, and it turns out that this is just a number. Unfortunately, the number is larger than the last just number and that really sucks.


Arash Farzaneh said...

Happy Birthday, J! Best wishes!

Yes, the number keeps growing, but anytime you feel like it, you can just count backwards. Or simply stop counting for a while...

William K Wallace said...

Someone asked me my age the other day and I honestly had almost forgotten how old I was. As soon as I hit 39 which was a few years back I refused to grow any older and it works great for me!

Arash Farzaneh said...

Yes, William, I often lose count as well. It`s strange but most of the time I am not aware of my age unless I need to fill out forms or somebody asks me. And then it comes as a surprise, sometimes shock, about how fast and imperceptible time sneaks by.

It is somewhat like one`s own phone number. It`s difficult to remember sometimes because we don`t usually call ourselves!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps ironically, the more active you are in this life, the younger and "less mature" you become, relative to others. Quantum physics has a satiric sense of purpose.