The Theory of Permanent Age
by Geoff Cottrill
What is it about getting older that makes you want to be younger?
No, I am not having a mid-life crisis. I am not even sure what that means. I’ve seen friends go through it. I’ve seen them come out the other side of it happy with a new sports car. I’ve seen some come out of it miserable and without their family. I am not interested in that……although the car does sound kind of cool.
One day many, many years ago a woman said something to me that I will never forget. We woke up one Saturday morning and were chatting in bed. She said, “I have a theory. I think that all people are a certain age. And, I think that they are that age forever”.
I laid there and thought about what she had just said. I was 30 years old at the time. I had things figured out. I knew it all. Or, at least I thought I did. I wasn’t married and was enjoying my days of being single. At this moment I didn’t want to buy into what this girl was telling me. I told her that I thought she was crazy. That was the end of the conversation.
Two years later I was laying in bed with that same woman. She was now my wife. In the past two years we had gotten engaged, moved to a new city in the midwest, gotten married, changed jobs, moved back to the city in the south where we met, and had our oldest daughter, and we had our second on the way. We also got a dog in the midst of these crazy two years. I must admit it. I was feeling pretty old. I was feeling the responsibilities of life bearing down on me. I was happy. And, I was sad. And, I wasn’t ready for what I was facing. I guess maybe I had not yet grown up. I wasn’t acting my age. I was running away from it.
So, back to the real story at hand. After thinking about this “theory of permanent age” for two years I decided it was time to finally tell this girl about the conclusion I had come to. So, I woke her up. She rubbed her eyes and looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and that little smile I fell in love with. I looked at her and said, “I’ve been thinking. I think you’re right. Your “theory of permanent age” is right, I think”. My wife looked at me as if I was a bit strange (which I am). She said, “have you been thinking about this for a long time?”. I said something to the effect that yes, I am sometimes slow to come to the right conclusions ( I went to Florida State for crying out loud – we’re not known for our thesis statements and theories on life…we’re not even known for a good football team anymore!) and in this case it had only taken me 2 years and a lot of craziness in my life to realize she was right.
So, think about it for a minute. How old are you? Are you as old as your true age? Are you younger? Are you an old person or a young kid? Close your eyes for a minute and think about it.
Me, I am a kid at heart, maybe 13 years old. My body and the lines on my face remind me every day that I am 46 years old. I can’t run as fast or jump as high. I have long ago given up one of my life’s passions – soccer. But in my mind and in my heart I am young. I am still the kid that stood there on my 13th birthday and watched the fireworks on the day of America’s bicentennial (1976). I became a teen on one our country’s biggest days and it’s a day when everyone around me – friend and foe – was happy, smiling, and seemingly united around the ideas our country was founded on. It was one of the four greatest days on my life. So, maybe that’s why, in my head, I am still a kid. Life was less complicated. There were fewer meetings. There were fewer business trips. There were more friends to hang out with. There was a lot to do after school and before dinner. Bikes to ride, soccer games to play, friends to hang out with. But, as much as I remember that day as near perfect I wouldn’t go back there even if I could. I like where I am now….46 in years, 13 in my mind.
If I apply this theory to people I know I see them in a new light. I have friends that I have known along the way that were 65 when they were actually 21 and in college. I have friends who were 35 when they were 14. I have 40 year old friends who are still 11, or at least they still act 11. I have a friend who is 45 and will forever be single and 25. I have another friend who is 43 and acts 17. His behavior cost him his marriage. I have seen the grandparents of my friends who are still 30 years old in their hearts – as happy as they have ever been.
You see, to me there is a difference between “acting” a certain age and actually “being” an age in your heart and your soul. Those who go through the dreaded mid-life crisis are merely acting a certain age. They are reaching back for something that can’t be regained. Those who are 70 and feel 30 are the ones that fit with this theory. These are the people who have embraced who they are inside. They aren’t trying to run back to a time in their lives when they were younger and free from the things that bring them down today.
So, this is the “theory of permanent age” that my beautiful wife taught me all those years ago. It took me a long time to come to terms with it, to understand it and to embrace it. But, after all these years I know that it’s true. I guess I didn’t have it all figured out all those years ago. Thank God for that.
Now, close your eyes once again. How old are you acting and how old are you truly feeling? Stay young at heart but stop acting like a kid…..because the kids you have are counting on you to show them the way through this world we live in. Skip the mid life crisis for their sake, if not for yours.
Thanks for listening.