As fresh beads of sweat rolled down my face during my workout, I took a moment to appreciate what a luxury it is to be youthful. My heart beats without a trace of fatigue, my skin radiates a glow of young age, and my quadriceps bulge through my athletic tights. I take full advantage of my freedom to work out whenever I want, but I struggle to understand what a blessing this is. There are thousands of children nationwide who live with fatal illnesses, individuals who unfortunately don’t enjoy the level of health that youth typically guarantees. I make a conscious effort to keep these children in my thoughts, as well as other individuals whose health or safety is threatened by other inevitable factors. Although Western culture associates young age with liveliness and overall wellbeing, I would like to experience the benefits of youth even after I have grown “old.”
What inspired this idea? For one, my yoga instructor who is in her late-50s, a tall, energetic woman whose muscles are far more defined than I could ever imagine mine to be. Wanda passionately informs her students about the importance of staying active throughout a lifetime. She is simply an embodiment of how physical activity can help us feel youthful even as we continue to age. On the flip-side, Americans in their 20s and 30s sometimes let the word “old” define them. But the fear of lacking the qualities that young people enjoy—social activity and high energy—is what causes us to buy into the illusive “‘O’ word.” Simply put, I don’t get it. To every individual who wishes they were younger: wake up! You have so much youth left. The problem isn’t that you got “old.” The problem is that you stopped doing all the things that once made you feel young. So go out with your friends. Get active. Enjoy the weather. Stop sulking and wishing you looked like what you did when you were 21. Sure, it might take a little more work than it did before, but hey! If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Alright. I’m glad I could get that off my chest. I’m going to give you a moment to laugh. Laugh at me. I am 17-years-old, and I’m giving you a huge lesson on why you should stop throwing around the word “old.” But think about this. If our culture glorifies youth, then there have to be some benefits of growing older. A 60-year-old American experiences life differently than someone my age. They get to see, experience, and learn things that I still have yet to come across. It’s a different stage of life that guarantees its own perks that we tend to overlook. Sure, I might not know exactly what’s so great about being 50- or 60-years-old, but I know there has to be something more to life than to wish we could return to the past. Return to days that were in some way more “exciting” than the ones we live now.
Here’s what I want to do as I reach more advanced stages of my life. I’m going to turn 40-years-old into “40-years-young.” Today, as I dove my arms into a forward-fold bend in yoga class, I thought, I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. I want to be active for decades to come. I want to laugh, and spend time with my friends and family, get outside and enjoy the weather. Take pictures of things that are simply beautiful. Be independent, yet stay in close touch with my loved-ones. So before you start throwing around the word “old,” ask yourself, Have I made a conscious effort to feel young? If not, then today could be your day. Like my yoga instructor, you, too, can enjoy the youth of old age.