Aging as a Superpower

(Friday Filosophy 6/02/23)

Happy Freakin’ Friday!

Welcome to another issue of Friday Filosophy, my weekly postcard to you with a question, topic, or challenge to contemplate.  This week let’s talk about one of your favorite topics (not).  Growing old.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

I was a young man, longing to live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse like so many heroes I admired. Bruce Lee, Hendrix, Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jim Morrison all seemed to get a great bite out of the apple and check out before the bill was due. (Or at least that was my admittedly foolish and superficial perception.)

I was born about the same time as Prince and Michael Jackson.  Now I’m at the age that strangers address me as “excuse me sir," instead of “hey bro,” and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the slightest tinge of jealousy of the way MJ and the purple one checked out at the very peak of their creative prime – never having to worry about infirmity, aging, or outliving the people they love the most. (If you're wondering, I used generative AI to create the image of elderly Michael featured above.) But all things considered, I’m extremely grateful to still be here, able to bitch and moan about the inconveniences of growing old.

The early deaths of all these people, as well as others like Chadwick Boseman, Princess Di, Kobi Bryant, and more recently my brother, served as a wakeup call for me.  I feel guilty for wasting even a minute on such egotistical thoughts in my youth, and inspired to do more with the gift of life I’ve been given while I still have a chance.  Hopefully you do as well.  In that spirit, here are a few suggestions for aging well, no matter your age…

Lesson One: Don’t cling to youth.

Guys, if you’re wearing sunglasses, Supreme kicks, and a backwards baseball cap in the gym at 45, you’re trying too hard.  Gals, a 45-year-old woman should have some lines in her face. There is a natural and indisputable beauty to aging. Wanting to rock ‘n roll all night, and party every day is cool if you’re Gene Simmons or 17.  But as the horizon in front of you gets closer than the one behind you, there are probably better ways to spend your days.

Lesson Two: Making easy choices gives you a hard life.  Making hard choices creates an easy life.

Most of the time, the best decisions you make have no quick payoff. When you make prudent decisions based on the long-term, they compound, making your life more prosperous every year.  Be patient when you’re young and you’ll receive bigger payoffs in the future.

Lesson Three: Resist the urge to create your identity early.  Or ever.

Every time you apply a label to yourself, you incrementally lower your IQ.  Because once you brand yourself with a label – you have created an identity for yourself.  And once you create an identity for yourself – it’s human nature to instinctively, impulsively, and unconsciously defend that identity.  Ferociously. When this happens, you will likely avoid anything that threatens that identity, even things that will make you healthier, happier, and wealthier.  (When you create an identity for yourself, you’re in danger of volunteering for a lobotomy.)  There are better things to strive for than becoming a bitter Twitter troll.  If you have to create an identity, choose to become an explorer, discovering the possibilities of life.

Lesson Four: Don’t live in the past.

The past wasn’t really as ideal as you remember it.  And looking at everything through the rearview mirror isn’t a recipe for happiness.

Lesson Five: Don’t live in the future.

Set goals, envision possibilities, and give yourself dreams to do, have, and become. But never give away the present, because your happiness comes from appreciating those moments as they occur.

Lesson Seven: Don’t try to live through your kids.

You had your chance, now give them theirs.  Your desire to be a ballerina, tennis champion, or brain surgeon was just that, your desire.  Share your passions with your kids and nurture their creativity and critical thinking skills.  Then celebrate with joy whatever path they choose.

Lesson Eight: Spice it up for God's sake!

It’s okay to have meatloaf for lunch at Jimmy’s Eastside Diner every Wednesday if it makes you happy. But only if you try a new place or dish every now and then. Don’t allow your news, politics and entertainment to always come from the same ecosystem.  Most people spent decades using the same laundry soap, voting for the same political party, and cheering the same sports team. They develop an intractable, finished view of the world and spend the rest of their days collecting data to reinforce that worldview. Shake up your routines, explore new things, and change your input sources now and then. (If you fail to do this, you’re in danger of developing concrete brain.)

Lesson Nine: There is a statute of limitations on crimes committed by your parents.

Whether your mommy tried to bronze your baby boots while you were still in them, or your dad taught you to swim by throwing you out of a boat (and was gone by the time you cut your way out of the burlap sack) – that shit is over.  You’re a grownup in the big world now.  It’s time to move on and take responsibility for your own life.

Peace,

- RG

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P.S. We’re posting the new podcast each week in the Monday Mojo instead of Fridays, because there are more readers for that.  But if you paid attention to lesson nine above, then you’ve already realized it’s time to take responsibility for your own life and subscribe to the podcast FFS! (As the kids say, don’t @ me.)