Rule for Intrepid Living #71: Aging Is Mandatory, Getting Old Is Optional

It’s a funny thing that I’m sure you’ll recognize. As a teenager, and even in my twenties, I viewed thirty as old. This is, of course, ridiculous. Thirty isn’t old at all! Not even close, In fact, now that I’m 34, I still identify myself as “kid.” In the grand scheme of things I’m a baby.

When we’re younger we don’t have the context of several years to understand just how long and full life can be. We think, “I have to make these years count, because once I’m old I won’t be able to do this kind of stuff.” Typically we’re thinking of adventures or athletics that we, for some reason, believe that old people simply can’t do. The truth is more nuanced, however, because while we have no choice but to age, getting old is a matter of choice.

In early 2016 I flew to LA to run a Spartan Race with my friend Tim. While I huffed and puffed my way up a seemingly never-ending incline, I slowly gained on a white haired couple loping along at a steady pace. Since I wasn’t moving a whole lot faster than them, I had a few moments to size them up. Likely in their sixties, they kept moving steadily onward as they offered words of support.

As I trotted past them, I realized that they weren’t nearly as out of breath as I was. Considering the way we view aging in our culture, these two set a stellar example. At that moment, I realized that what we think of as getting old isn’t the same thing as aging. I have lots of years of action and adventure still in store for me. So do you.

We can’t stop ourselves from aging, but we can still improve our health and fitness. Exercising both our minds and bodies enables us to continue being badasses into our golden years. And it’s ever too late to start making those improvements. Just look at Robert Marchand! But our physiology does change as we age, as do our brains. Time marches on.

We may not be able to arrest the aging process, but we also don’t have to accept the notion of getting old. We don’t have to do early bird specials, watch Matlock reruns, and become sedentary. If and when we retire, we don’t have to just sit on the porch all day if we don’t want to. We can continue to do any damn thing we please. Want to run a marathon? In January, 2016 Fauja Singh completed one at age 104.

I’m not suggesting that you must run a marathon at that age, but you should consider what you want to do at age 104? What sort of lifestyle you hope to have then. I want to still be out having adventures, exploring new places and ideas, and meeting interesting people. Maybe I won’t make it to 104, or maybe I will. Either way, I’m going to get older, but I have no intentions of getting old.

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