You know what you must do before committing to a guy, right?
Look at his father.
That is the best information you’re going to get about what kind of man you’ll be with in twenty years.
And before he commits to you, there’s something he should do.
Look at your mother.
That’s the best information he’s got about what you’ll be like in a few decades, too.
As we get older, we become our parents. We can’t help it.
We don’t just start looking like our parents. We start acting like them. We start talking like them. Even worse, we understand them. We can see the world as they did.
(If you’re scoffing, parenthood might just change your mind. Those old scripts are hardwired into your brain. They’re activated by childbirth. You’ll hear your mother’s words come out of your mouth, and you’ll clap your hand over your lips in horror.)
There’s a very clear line dividing young people from old people.
When you’re cozily embalmed in the preserving fluid of youth, you look at old fogeys and laugh. They’re so over the hill. They’re so irrelevant. You’re the future.
Then you cross that line yourself.
You get a mortgage. Start paying into a 401K. Shop around for life insurance. Pop a handful of supplements every morning. Feel your joints ache.
Being old is what makes us like our parents.
To a child’s eyes, all old people are the same. Adults talk about boring things and never do anything fun. They don’t scream or run around chasing one another.
Kids are right. Only adults understand the real pleasure of sitting. It’s so darn nice to plop your butt in a chair. Who needs a holiday when you’ve got a La-Z-Boy?
Who wants to become old like their parents?
Was that really the future you intended when you were 16 and figuring out how to make your way in the world?
If you don’t want to turn into your parents, you’ve got to turn around.
You can’t keep heading into adulthood with wrinkles on fast-forward.
You’ve got to become cool again. Someone worthy of looking up to. Someone who can run around and scream even if it takes a Justin Bieber concert to do it.
Here’s how to do it.
Don’t act your age.
When I was a kid, my mother would deliver the cutting remark, “Act your age, not your shoe size.”
It starts from childhood and never stops. Act your age! What is this cultural obsession with altering our behavior based on some arbitrary number?
Can’t we just do what we want instead?
The coolest old people do what they want. They don’t care if anyone else considers it appropriate behavior for a person their age. They do what makes their heart sing.
Avoid all contact with teenagers.
Teenagers will just make you feel old. They have advanced degrees in scorn. They will cut you down, spit you out, and leave tread marks on your best shirt. Avoid any and all debates with teenagers. Do not try to prove anything to them.
Don’t get stuck.
My parents had this idea that you were supposed to “find yourself” in that nebulous period around college. Once you “found yourself,” you were supposed to settle down. That was who you would be for the rest of your life.
Finding yourself is the last thing you should do. Nothing could be worse than deciding you know who you are—and that’s the end of the story.
If Madonna can reinvent herself, you can, too. You don’t have to be the person you are right now forever. That’s the glory of the midlife crisis. Who haven’t you allowed yourself to be?
You’re never stuck in your life, even if it feels that way. Can anyone honestly say they’ve explored everything there is to explore? What if there is something out there so delightful and magical that it could change your life … but you never find it because you’ve stopped searching?
As Emerson so memorably warned us, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Extricate yourself from the sticky web of stuck thinking. Don’t get stuck in anything: habits, personality, beliefs, or routines. Stay flexible. Try new thoughts on for size. Try to be open. Do things you’ve never done before. Tolerate a little discomfort. Cultivate a beginner’s mind.
And you might just find that you’re nothing like your parents were at this age.
Whew…. Had me worried there for a moment. 😉