On the Lighter Side

5 Reasons Why Your Age Doesn’t Matter

I’m celebrating a milestone birthday this year. I won’t tell you which one, but it rhymes with “nerdy”, if you’d like to take a guess.

A friend of mine is also celebrating a milestone birthday around the same time I am. I won’t tell you what hers rhymes with. She’d kill me. She is convinced that this magic number means she is now “old”, a thought that puts her in an absolutely panicked state of mind. Whether her age makes her old or not I can’t say. I can think of a few reasons why the situation isn’t as dire as it seems, so I’ve made this post in her honor.

1. You’re not alone. Unless you’re over a hundred, chances are good that everyone you meet either has been your age at some point in the past, or will be your age someday.

Furthermore, every single person on earth is getting older at the rate of 365 days a year, every day, from the moment they’re born. No exceptions. In our youth-oriented culture, we tend to forget this. We see a child getting taller and we think, “Oh, they’re growing! How wonderful!” And then we see an adult — perhaps ourselves — getting gray hairs or wrinkles and we think, “Ick! They’re getting so old! How awful!” But it’s the same aging process at work in both of them, just at different stages.

2. Perception is everything. In Western countries, people regard arbitrary future age numbers as mysterious horrors waiting to grab them, the way small children fear monsters under their beds. In many non-Western countries, however, advanced age is a privilege, an occasion for honor and deference. People ask for your advice and trust your opinion for no reason other than that you’ve lived longer than they have. (This is a golden opportunity to “get away with murder”, if you’re the scheming type.)

3. There’s nothing magical or evil about particular numbers. The big fuss surrounding “milestone” birthdays such as 18, 21, 40, 65, etc. is, by and large, a social construct. While it’s true that turning eighteen is an automatic free pass to certain civil and social privileges, the fact is that most people aren’t likely to be much different at age eighteen than they were at seventeen and a half. There really is no qualitative difference between ages 29 and 30, or 39 and 40, either. You don’t become a different person overnight, either for better or for worse.

4. In fact, your numerical age is nothing but the number of times you’ve traveled around the sun. A 40-year-old on planet Earth is 65 on Venus, which completes almost two rotations around the sun for every one of Earth’s. The same person would be 166 on Mercury, and only 21 on Mars, but wouldn’t celebrate their first birthday on Saturn for almost another two decades.

5. At least you’re not dead. This may be a hollow comfort, but it is worth mentioning. At the very least, the fact that you’re having another birthday means you’re still living above the ground and not six feet under it. There’s something to be said for that.

[Originally published August 2017]

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