When the man that I was teaching Yoga to told me his age, he was disappointed to see me unaffected by it. He is a triathlete and after attending a group class with me, had asked for a private lesson to work on his headstand. He’s 62, and normally when he reveals his age he is met with gasps of “no, that can’t really be true!”, “But, you’re so fit!” and the like.
When he jokingly pointed out my lack of fanfare after the big reveal, I felt guilty for not giving him the reaction that I’m sure normally brings him a lot of joy and serves as a wonderful validation of his healthy and active lifestyle. After all, he IS in great shape and I AM impressed by all he does! The thing is, the thought “Oh but how can he do all that AND be 62?” didn’t run through my head. Frankly, I don’t think 62 is old. He could have been 32 or 82 and to me, he would still be a person, in great shape, looking to work on his headstand. I’ve met people much older than that, accomplishing even greater physical achievements. And I’ve also met people that are much younger than him who are stiff and crippled, or simply lazy, in their ‘young’ bodies. To me your age is not a marker of how ‘old’ you are.
There is no book of rules that says once you are such-and-such age you are no longer allowed to run, to jump out of airplanes, to go on new adventures, or to stand on your head. There is no rule book that says at a certain age you are supposed to have wrinkles or bad knees, or that wrinkles and bad knees mean that you are supposed to stop having fun. The fact is, you could be 12 and have bad knees or 90 with great knees. I’m 30 and I smile so damn much, my eyes are surrounded in wrinkles. And, thanks to genetics perhaps, I am already discovering grey hairs. I intend, however, to keep considering myself to be young for many, many more years.
If you are afraid of something that is a real danger, that’s fine and perfectly reasonable. Maybe it’s something you should be afraid of, like a rabid tiger on your tail! But perhaps there are some things you are afraid of that you don’t need to be. My concern is with people who let their age play into their fears, determining what they should be capable, or incapable, of. We have got to stop approaching ourselves and our fellow humans through the age lens! We miss out on way too much when we are blinded by these numbers. If you want to do something, do it. (just be smart about it, ok?) If you want to be something, be it. There can be a tremendous and deep wisdom in a child, as well as an infectious uplifting and playful joy in a 90 year-old. We can be all of these things and more, at any age.
What I realized as I pondered why I hadn’t reacted more to this 62 year-old yogi and athlete, is that I am very lucky to have not been conditioned much about age. From my earliest years I was encouraged and empowered by family, teachers and community members to be independent and to think for myself. I took on projects that many kids my age did not and no one ever told me I was too young for them. At the same time, I have had the influence of countless incredible adults in my life who do not let their age deter them from their passions. As a kid growing up spending weekends on the ski hill, there were often 70 and 80-year old grandparents riding the chair lifts with us. When I lived and studied Yoga in Thailand I had classmates in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. In my travels around the globe I have met grey and wrinkly people in the most unlikely places who have shown me that how you live your life is really up to you and nobody else. I am so grateful to each person who has challenged me to consider any limitation I might have put on myself or any other person when it comes to age.
All of this is to say, please don’t let your age limit you. Whether it’s you thinking that you are too young or too old, please reconsider. Please don’t let your age censor your ambitions and your life. You are you, which is so perfect. And the very best thing you can do is shine that light that is so uniquely you, every day of your beautiful life.
Love from your wrinkly-eyed and smiling friend,