It’s the age-old question—pun intended. Is age really just a number? If we’re going with the literal interpretation of said question…then yes.
If we’re going with the “it’s just a state of mind,” then let me be the first or perhaps one millionth person to offer this humble piece of advice: I call bull hockey.
In one sense, yes…I’m totally with all you lovebirds who want to validate the age difference between you and your soul mate by shouting this from the rooftops or better yet, your Romeo and Juliet balconies. I’m also very much in favor of those who say it as a way of looking beyond your abilities or disabilities. You are choosing to not be defined by what that number says you can or cannot do. Bravo.
Lately, however, I’ve been confronted with the very physical reality that my newly minted 45-year-old body doesn’t always agree with my 25-year-old state of mind. Things don’t quite move with the same fluidity that they used to. Some extra TLC and Ibuprofen are now a necessary part of my post-workout regimen—or more often than not, my “congrats, you made it to the end of the day” regimen. Shedding a few extra pounds requires more effort than just skipping a meal. And as much as I have always proclaimed to be a “night owl,” staying up late now demands multiple days of recovery, coffee on tap, and concealer for the dark-circled eyes that glare back at me in the mirror.
I remember my mom telling me how embarrassed she would get when walking up a flight of stairs because of her knees creaking and cracking. So she did what any sane person would do—she amped up the volume and conversed as loudly as she could with others, hoping to drown out the sound of her two bony offenders. Friends, I’m all but shouting now as I summit the top of any staircase.
I share all of this because I’ve just completed another circle around the sun—and state of the knees and all—I’ve come to the conclusion that notwithstanding the physical realities that come with aging…age is not just a number. Age is more than a number.
In many ways our age can feel like a standardized test (aka the dreaded SAT)…the universal guide by which we’re to assess someone’s general intelligence and aptitude for success. There are definitive age mile markers along the way at 18, 21, 45, and 62—ranging from the right to vote to the right to collect social security. And then there are the unspoken ones. Those more “loosely defined” ages in life that society and culture says are most appropriate for getting married, starting a family, or hitting your stride in your career.
But what if you’re like me and you don’t “just” fit into the mold? Truth is, I excelled in the classroom…but sit me down to a 3-hour standardized test and I turned out sub-par results at best. That test, however, did not define my abilities or aptitude for success in the least.
Age has never been “just” a number for me. And for as much as I love to play by the rules, I seem to have lived a lot of my life outside of them. I didn’t find my soul mate until my late 30s. I started my family at an “advanced maternal age” (doctor’s words, not mine). And now in my mid 40s, I’m just beginning to hit my stride in terms of truly walking out my purpose and passions in life.
We are more than our age, friend.
I think of Sarah, wife of Abraham in the Old Testament, who more truly defined advanced maternal age by having her first child at age 90.
Or Grandma Moses, who began painting at age 77, achieving incredible success as an American folk artist.
Or Amanda Gorman, who at age 22, became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.
In all of these instances and more, age was not the defining or limiting factor in their success or fulfillment of their dreams. These individuals were so much more than their age. And you are too.
Let’s not just be 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 years old. Let’s be more than what others or our age deem us “capable” of. Let’s do the unexpected. Let’s step out in faith. Let’s chase after our dreams no matter how “advanced” they may be. And let’s make every birthday candle we blow out a beautiful reminder that we’re not done yet.
Because there’s still more.