Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Rock of Ages

Chronologically I am 41 years old, but in my mind's eye I'm still 21…and this highly scientific blog quiz confirms it:

You Are 21 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

I've never been one to be obsessed with my age. 16, 21, 30, 40…all milestone birthdays that for me were just sequential numbers and nothing more. I've never had one of those "Oh my God I'm (blank) years-old my life is over!" moments.

I started thinking about this because I realized that delaying seminary for another year will mean I will be starting my first year at the ripe old age of 42. It was a comment that my mother made that actually brought me to this realization. When I told her how disappointed I was that I may need to wait another year to start school, mainly because I feel ready to go now, she said, "Oh I know, and you're not getting any younger either."
Thanks Mom.
To think I was focusing all my concern on money, balancing school/work/family, and getting my M.Div started as soon as possible so I can go out and "be all that I can be," and what I SHOULD have been thinking about was my impending death.
We can always count on our mothers to put things in perspective.
In reality, despite the fact that I may need to change the name of my blog to the "40-something Seminarian", I really don't see my age as being an influencing factor on any choices that I make.
Why would I? In my head I'm still 21.

I can still go out and run 3 miles, ride my bike for hours, and I've spent the last 2 weeks cleaning my house from top to bottom, contorting my body in all sorts of unnatural positions to do so and I've felt none the worse for wear. I feel tired at the end of the day, but after 6 hours of sleep I'm up and rarin' to go the next morning.

One of my biggest pet peeves is 40-somethings who blame their aches and pains on "getting old" rather than on the fact that they parked their butts on a couch at the age of 25 and haven't moved since. I watched a triathlon a few years ago where the oldest finisher was 97 years old. He finished in front of his 79 year-old son, who also competed, AND his 60 year-old grandson. Now there's a family who's genes I'd like to have.

My body thinks I'm still 21 but there are parts of my psyche that haven't progressed beyond the age of 11.
I still eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch (with chocolate milk of course), I collect Matchbox cars and Star Trek action figures, and at this very moment I'm blogging while wearing Sponge-Bob Square Pants pajamas.

It's for this reason that my brain looks at the number "41" and spits out a punch card that says "Does Not Compute" (….ok…punch card?...that alone should tell me how ancient I really am).

When I was kid, women in their 40's were married with 3 kids, wore polyester pants suits and sensible shoes, had a hair salon perm, went to PTA meetings, and generally complained about their bad backs, crows feet, and sagging bodies while having a stiff drink at the end of the day.
When I was a kid, 40 was old.
At 40 you were a mature adult and you were expected to look and act the part.

Me, I subscribe to the Ellen Degeneres philosophy of aging: You're only as old as you think you are. You can be 49 and wear jeans and Converse sneakers and dance over coffee tables and lo and behold, the balance of the universe is not upset.

When I was 32 I crashed my bike during a race and fractured my pelvis. My father's response was "that's what you get for riding around on that bike at your age."
That was the first time I had ever been told that I shouldn't be doing something because I was too old.
Old? How did I get to be old? Did I pass a mile-marker somewhere that said "you have to be below (blank) age to ride beyond this point"?
Paul's words from 1 Corinthians 13 come echoing down through the ages:
There comes a time when we have to 'put aside our childish ways' and start acting like grown-ups.

My response to that is the same response I have to Paul's teachings regarding women and sex:


Because we all know that blowing a raspberry is the only response that a mature adult can give when one encounters that which is ludicrously silly.

Yes, I will be 42-years-old when I start seminary, and I'll be 45 when I graduate and put myself out on the ministry market. But I will not be alone. While some may look askance at a 40-something entering medical or law school, the average age of those entering seminaries these days is 40-years-old. We're the tail end of the baby boomers and the leading edge of the Gen-Xers who decided that our parent's idea of what we can and can not do at our age no longer applies.
We don't have to stay in the same job for 40 years. We hit middle age and wake up to the fact that we don't have to continue doing what has become meaningless and/or unfulfilling; we can listen to the voice that is pulling us somewhere else; we can stop mid-stride and change course; we can throw caution to the wind, climb out on a limb, jump without a parachute, and enact every other cliché that describes what it means to buck the expectations ascribed to being a "grown-up" in this world.

My mother is right.
I'm not getting any younger.
But then again, no one is. I was "not getting any younger" when I was 5.
That doesn't mean I should hit middle age, calculate how many years I think I have left, throw up my hands and shout "ballgame over."
Uh uh. I plan on living to 100 so I have at least 59 years left in me.
I can do a lot in 59 years.
And if my time is up a lot sooner than that, I will go knowing that as long as I was able to I continued to pedal forward; and I did not give up because I thought I was too old to try.

And on that note,
Let's give it up to 95-year-old Ola Nochs, who graduates this Sunday, May 12th from Fort Hays University in Kansas and enters the record book as the oldest person ever to be awarded a college degree; proving that you're never too old to move forward.

Congratulations Ola!


Eileen said...

Hmph! I'm 32.

Must be motherhood that's done it to me.

Ages you!

SassyFemme said...

36 for me. Ugh, I need to let my inner child out to play more. I'm that 40 year old bitching about her aches and pains. This is not good.

SassyFemme said...

36 for me. Ugh, I need to let my inner child out to play more. I'm that 40 year old bitching about her aches and pains. This is not good.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

You can be 49 and wear jeans and Converse sneakers and dance over coffee tables and lo and behold, the balance of the universe is not upset.

Oh, God---I hope so!! I complain about the ache in my knee (comes from my daily 4-mile walk), but I'll be damned if I let ANYTHING stop me from enjoying my life.

(And I was 28 in that test--instead of my actual 43.)

MoCat--most of the women I know who are entering the ministry are your age or older. I wouldn't worry about it--your life experiences will give you the skills you need to run a church. If I walked in and saw a 20-something rector, I'd probably run the other way, because I'd be afraid s/he wouldn't have the life skills to be an effective leader. (And if that makes me prejudiced...well, sue me.)

Some things just take time and seasoning. So tell your mother, "I'm not getting older...I'm getting seasoned." ;-)

Anonymous said...

My mom had a different take on age and starting over. When I was 30 and considering grad school, I kept bemoaning that I'd be over 35 when I finished....Mom's response was, in five years you are going to be 35 regardless...might as well be doing what you want.

I'm well beyond 35, but I still remember that advice and hold it dear.
Murphy's Mom