Tag Archives: age

Getting old and staying young

This week, I flipped over big tractor tires. I don’t mean I flipped over them (’cause that’s just crazy). I mean, I flipped them over. By myself. Twenty times. I was so excited about my feat that I had to tweet about it. And put it on facebook. And tell everyone at work. And it got me thinking about another little thing that makes a big difference.

There’s a saying that “you’re only as old as you feel.” But I disagree. I believe we’re only as old as we act. And when we act like we’re old, well, we’ll get old and atrophied and tired, until, eventually, we just stop. But if we act like we’ve still got the body or brainpower or stamina (or whatever we valued most) of our 20-something self (or whatever decade we valued most), we’ll keep getting better, defy the laws of diminishing DNA, and generally enjoy the whole of our lives, rather than just the one we had until we started getting old.

I’ve been dancing since I was three. And since it’s pretty tough to find adult dance classes that aren’t for beginners, this means that from my mid-20s on I’m often in classes with girls half my age. Usually, they’re better than me. An “old” person might be embarrassed, take the attitude that dancing is a young girl’s game, that it’s time to put away the ballet slippers and do whatever it is old people do. But I choose to think I’m setting a great example for those cute young thangs that we are never to too old to keep working hard at what we do, getting better at what we do, or even just to do what we love to do.

My mom started dancing four years ago. At age 65. She’s taking tap, ballet, jazz, and Irish. And she’s really, really good! It turns out, she’s where I get the perfectionism, frustration when I can’t do something, and high expectations of others. She practices at home every night. She asks questions and makes the teachers go over the steps until she gets the footwork. And this woman, who I’d only known to do her very best raising me and my brother and to shun any even remote chance occurrence that she’d have to speak or appear in front of even a single person, is doing dance recitals. On a stage. In costumes. She inspires me. She started something completely new in her 60s – something neither she, nor I, ever dreamed she was capable of. I’m so proud of her. And the way I see her now, she’s enjoying her life in a way she never did before.

In a way, (and believe me, I know just how wrong this sounds) my mom is the reason I started taking pole fitness classes a year ago. Not because I want to be a stripper (I don’t, and believe me, no one else wants me to be either), but because, at 43, I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something I never imagined possible. As a kid, when all the little girls were just congenitally able to pull themselves under, around, and up over a bar like a gymnast, I couldn’t. In gym class, when we had to hold hang from the bar at chin level, I dropped like a boulder the minute Mr. Dudley let go of me. When we had to climb the dumb rope with the knots in it, I pretended to be sick. Now, I can invert on a pole and hang upside down with no hands. And what’s equally awesome, is that I’m also not the oldest person in some of the classes. There are other 40-somethings like me who choose to continue to challenge themselves, to learn new things, to not get comfortable in an old life.

When I lived in Guam, I got certified to teach swim lessons. That by itself was something. But I had a couple of adult men students who, at 30-something, had decided it was time to learn to swim. It was my honor to teach them, and they inspired me. I became a scuba diver. And I started a dance program with 64 students. Last year, I learned to identify and hunt for wild, edible mushrooms, and to cook with them. Did I ever imagine these things were possible? Heck no. And yesterday, I flipped tires. I finished our four sets of 400m run, 5 toes-to-bar (while hanging from a bar), and tire flips dead last. But I finished. And I flipped tires.

So, whether it’s those horseback riding lessons you never took, or learning to swim, or sew, or do brainteasers, or going back to school, or whatever you think is impossible… do it. It’ll make you younger. Or at least, it’ll make you feel younger. And as they say “you’re only as old as you feel.”