In 1964, Mick Jagger wailed, “Yes time, time, time is on my side, yes it is!” in a song The Rolling Stones covered called, “Time Is On My Side”. And at 14 years-old; that’s how I felt.
Today, as I turn the Big Six-Five; I have different feelings.
Back in college, I wrote a paper called “Adolescence: A Social Construct”. As I was thinking about adulthood and more specifically, “senior adulthood”, that paper came to mind. It dawned on me: don’t despair old man, you’re not being put out to pasture, this is nothing but a social construct (“a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice." —The Dictionary)
There are some points of time in our lives that seem more significant or notable than others: milestones, rites of passage, coming-of-age moments that we really look forward to and celebrate. For new little humans, we mark as important all their “Firsts”: first words, first steps, first tooth, first birthday. From there we sort of jump to things like the first day of school, then kindergarten graduation, complete with a ceremony, “diploma”, and a minature cap and gown.
Before long we’re finishing grade school and life throws us a mean curve ball: puberty and Junior High, and more firsts—first shave, first zit, first kiss, first dance, humiliation, awkwardness and all. Soon though, we get a handle on all of that and get on to the work of establishing our freedom and independence (sort of like when we were two).
From here we can see the adolescent holy grail: the driver’s license. Is it the license that makes Sixteen so “sweet”, or is it another social construct. I think if I could roll back the clock and do it again, I would go back to Sixteen, in the 60s, not now! I would not want to be a 16 year-old in 2016. I wish teens today could know the joy of being a kid without a mobile phone. But I digress, that’s what 65 year-olds do.
Soon we reach the “age of majority” where we are no longer minors. My age group was one of the first to be able to register to vote at 18 as opposed to 21. The main argument was that if we were old enough to be drafted and go to Vietnam, we were old enough to vote. In Oklahoma, in my day, only girls could buy beer at 18. Guys had to be 21.
High School graduation! This is a big one. In a recent article I read in The Atlantic Magazine, called “When Are You Really An Adult”, the author likened the ceremonial “moving of the tassel” to flipping a switch assuming people move instantly into some form of adulthood.
“In fact, if you think of the transition to “adulthood” as a collection of markers—getting a job, moving away from your parents, getting married, and having kids—for most of history, with the exception of the 1950s and 60s, people did not become adults any kind of predictable way.
And yet these are still the venerated markers of adulthood today, and when people take too long to acquire them, or eschew them all together, it becomes a reason to lament that no one is a grown-up. While bemoaning the habits and values of the youths is the eternal right of the olds, many young adults do still feel like kids trying on their parents’ shoes.”
Some of us feel like adults who would love to try on our kids’ shoes. Not that I’m having regrets or have resigned, retired and given up. Not at all.
But, sometimes I feel like I’ve checked the boxes, like I need another passage to look forward to, other than the big one that is. You know, the one that goes through the valley.
This year I resolved to not make new year’s resolutions, but I did make a list of things I plan to do everyday this year. Maybe if I reach my goal, I’ll have a graduation event of some sort. If I do, I’ll invite you to the after-party. We’ll party like it’s 1969!
Oh, here’s my list if you care to join me:
- Eat properly
- Laugh hard
- Do something good
- Do something well
- Hug & kiss
- Turn off the TV sometimes
- Be amazed
While time may not be on my side, I wouldn’t trade the journey I’ve been on for all the joy and angst and hormones of youth again. Social construct or not, I’m embracing my senior-adultness (sort of).
And now a quote from one of my favorite fellow travelers, a senior herself:
“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith