Recently, while on a dishes and laundry shift, two teenage volunteers were talking about something far beyond me: a group of pop culture icons and something the icons collectively didn’t do, then one of them did or didn’t do something else.
The important thing is the group experienced some change over time, and my fellow toilers witnessed that change, and that made one of them announce that she was feeling old.
Being about thrice her age, I did what any excessively cheerful, easily humored human would do.
I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Mind you, I did not laugh at her. I laughed at her current perspective from the joyous place of my current perspective, which I tried to share and, so, was not left to laugh alone. I’m not sure, though, if my young cohort heard me also say, “You feel what you feel.” It’s a simple truth.
Feelings just are, and aging is going to happen. While aging is mostly gradual, sometimes it sneaks up as if out of nowhere. Thus, our teenage friend’s perspective of feeling old is hardly surprising, albeit still delightful from 5+ decades of experience and MANY more to come.
Perhaps you also have traveled 50+ courses around the sun on spaceship Earth, or perhaps only 20 or 30. Either way, you may have noticed that, every 10 years or so, things seem different. It doesn’t happen all at once on one of those birthdays that end in zero. Rather, the changes reveal themselves on a sliding scale, as we experience emotional and physical growth in all the predictable and not-so-very predictable directions.
At 10 years old, our awareness of things outside ourselves, our homes, our families, our neighborhoods seems to explode out of nowhere. Suddenly, there is news that we become aware of, and our eyes and ears begin to open in different ways than in our single digits. We take steps, at slightly different timing from each other, into tweendom, then teendom.
A 15-year-old may bear little resemblance to a 10 year old, but will definitely be more like a 10-year-old than a 17-year-old would be. At each decade of our lives, the same is true – the farther along the 10 year sliding scale, the less we resemble who we were in the beginning of that time period and the more we evolve into the person we will be by the beginning of the next 10 year period.
As we drift along our timeline, we see events slip into the past while our expectations and hopes for the future expand. We realize dreams, and we envision new ones that our younger selves could never have imagined. It is in moments of looking backward that we are most likely to sense the passage of time.
Taken in that way, it is only logical that looking backward can make even the youngest among us feel old. What’s really happening is that we are noticing our movement forward, away from where we were and closer to where we’re going.
None of this applies to cats whatsoever.
If Indiana were looking backward, he would, very likely, be literally looking at a cat bed behind him. He’d probably be deciding if it would be worth the effort to leave one snuggly bed for another. He would not be remembering yesterday’s fish mush or wondering if his favorite treats that were discontinued 2 years ago will ever be brought back. Time does not apply.
Want to know if Fiesta is sporting any wrinkles? She neither knows nor cares, and wouldn’t tell anyway. Fiesta’s interests are always in the present tense and concern availability of a lap for a nap and dinner time.
Do you think Indiana and Fiesta ever feel old? Not likely. Cats might feel annoyed when another cat gets in their face. They might feel tired after they walk 3 steps to change sleeping spots. Cats feel hungry pretty much all the time, or at least that’s their claim. But, old?
Even my 80-year-old mother doesn’t usually feel old. Maybe she’s part cat, but maybe — and I’m guessing this is highly likely — she spends too much time focused on the present and looking forward to the future to feel old.
Marcus spends too much time flipping upside down to get attention to feel old.
So, whether you’re Marcus (you’re not, because only Marcus could possibly pull off being Marcus), or you’re a teenager, a middle-ager, or a golden-ager, you will always be only as old as you feel.
My recommendation is to keep your head in the present, look toward the future, and learn from the past. Sometimes you will feel old, but mostly you’ll feel your actual age, and sometimes you might feel quite young. No matter how you feel about your relative position on your personal timeline, if you’re true to yourself and do the best you can, you will always have something to feel good about.
Speaking of Marcus: