Aging bolsters determination to enjoy youth


POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009

F. Scott Fitzgerald and I have a lot in common, aside from the fact that I am by no means cool enough to have a single initial for my first name. I think he was onto something when he wrote his short story about a man who ages in reverse, the story that went on to inspire the movie, “;The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”;

I can completely relate to good old Benny. I, too, feel like I have lived my life backward in some respects.

I often joke that I am the oldest 26-year-old I know. I've been a responsible, working adult since I was 15, making the car payment, balancing my checkbook, saving. I started my “;midlife crisis”; at the ripe old age of 16, driving a flashy car. Now, I am the proud owner of a Chrysler minivan. No kids in sight, just a minivan.

I have been seriously planning my retirement for the last four years. While all my friends were out having fun and living it up, I was buying my first house, setting up companies for future investments, reading up on asset management, investment strategies and retirement plans, and saving for the future.

The last four months have made me feel older than ever. Right before Christmas, my best friend, who has a family history of cancer, was told that she likely has breast cancer. Two months later, my brother, who is two years older than me, suffered a stroke that left him temporarily paralyzed on his right side. That's when it struck me—what kind of backward world are we living in when two healthy people in their twenties are dealing with conditions that most attribute to aging?

I GUESS I'm not the only one who seems to be living backward. Maybe it's all of us.

So maybe it's not such a bad thing, this aging in reverse, because I realized that none of that stuff previously important to me matters at all. Too much emphasis is placed on success and money. As humans, we get so wrapped up in that idea that we forget we have the autonomy to choose.

While it is sad to me that a lot of good years were more or less wasted doing things that I wasn't madly passionate about, I don't regret any of it. Because with age comes experience. Maybe now, I'll really get to enjoy my “;youth.”; I am so ready to be spontaneous, and spend my time with my loved ones, and, really, for the first time in my life, be completely carefree.

In the scheme of things, it doesn't matter how prepared you are for the future. Just look at the current situation. You can spend your whole life planning for something that might never happen anyway, or you can just make the decision to live. Why wait until the end of your life to realize what is, and isn't, important? No IRA can substitute for a true friendship. No 401(k) will replace a lived experience. No recession will ever erase a lifetime of love and enjoyment.

So for now, I will be perfectly content chasing my friends around the playground and pestering my bigger brother, because in the end, he's just a child, too.