The Intrinsic Worth of Growing Older Our society worships youth. Advertisements convince us to buy Grecian formula and Oil of Olay so we can hide the gray in our hair, and smooth the lines on our face. Television shows feature attractive young stars with firm bodies, perfect complexions, and thick manes of hair. Middle-aged people work out in gyms and jog down the street, trying to delay the effects of aging.
Would any person over the age of forty sign with the devil just to be young again? Is aging an experience to be dreaded? Maybe it is un-American to say so, but I believe the answer is "No". Being young is often pleasant and exciting, but being older has very distinct advantages. The advantages of being older are, no longer being obsessed with appearance, having most difficult decisions in the past, and having a better sense of who you are. When young, people are apt to be obsessed with their appearance.
As a teenager I took mega doses of vitamins and worked feverishly to perfect the body I had. I was involved in every sport possible, such as track, basketball, cheerleading, and gymnastics. Pouring all of my time and energy into these sports was an attempt at turning my wiry adolescent frame into some muscular ideal. When I was young I begged and pleaded for the "right" clothes. If my parents did not get them for me, I felt my world would fall apart. How could I go to school wearing some bulky, loose-fitting coat, while everyone else would be wearing tailored leather jackets?
I often wonder how my parents tolerated me. However, I now spend all of my energy on my education. I have learned to love my tall wiry frame, and playing sports has become an enjoyable hobby. I enjoy wearing fashionable clothing, but I am no longer a slave to fashion. Now my clothes are attractive, yet easy to wear. Dressing up to go out is no longer for the approval of others, but to make myself happy.
Being able to wear clothes that I feel good in regardless to a certain style is a shopping relief. Being older is preferable to being younger in another way. With many of life's choices still to be made, the critical decisions that confront just starting out are well in the past. When we are young, major decisions await us at every turn.
"What college should I attend? What career should I pursue? Should I get married? Should I have children?" These questions are only a few of the issues facing young people.
It is no wonder that despite our carefree facade, young people are often confused, uncertain, and troubled by the unknowns of the future. It is ironic to me that with so little wisdom, and so much immaturity adolescents are expected to make life-altering decisions. Maybe this has something to do with all of the turmoil going on with America's youth today. Life-altering decisions are being processed in a youthful mind; however, all she really wants to do is have fun and enjoy being young.
Youth is a constant, and at times overwhelming struggle of the mind. While there are several decisions still looming over an adults mind, there is a certain peace in knowing what hard work throughout life has gotten a person. Decisions like, what age to retire at, to invest in stocks for retirement, moving somewhere sunny like Florida, or not ending up in a nursing home, are easier to reach than decisions like, this the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Being able to look back at the memories you have of life's experiences are warm and pleasant thoughts to have. Being young, and having to wonder what the future will hold is sometimes terrifying. The greatest benefit of being older is, knowing who you are.
The most unsettling aspect of youth is the uncertainty that young people feel about their values, goals, and dreams. Being young means wondering if working so hard in school, and in life is going to pay off in the end. Being young means feeling happy with yourself one day, and wishing you were never born the next. I t means trying on new selves by taking up with new crowds. It means resenting your parents and their way of life, and then feeling you will never be as good or as accomplished as they are. Therefore, being older is sanity.
I have developed a surer self-concept, and that concept gets stronger as time moves forward. I no longer laugh at jokes when I do not think they are funny. I am able to make a speech in front of a crowd or complain in a store, because I am no longer terrified that people will laugh at me; I am no longer anxious that everyone must like me. I no longer blame my parents for my every personality flaw or keep a running score of everything they did wrong raising me. Life is constantly teaching me things like, I, not they, am responsible for what and who I become.
Most Americans accept the idea that newer is better. After all, can you really blame them since they have been constantly programmed by gimmick after gimmick? Every time someone invents a product, some else or the same person comes up with ways to improve the old, even when it is not necessary. The media puts out this message sent by entrepreneurs. Neither cares what effect this kind of propaganda has on people, as long as the people are spending their money on the products, consequently making millionaires out of inventive individuals. Human life contradicts this premise, because happiness comes with wisdom, and wisdom comes with age.
In all other cultures the elderly people are considered sacred because they have so much more to offer the world. Although my parents both say they would love to be youthful again, neither yearns to relive the struggles it accompanies. Their contentment with being older and wiser instills great hope for me as I move into the next, perhaps even better, phase of my life.