One of the downsides of having septuagenarian friends is that you get little sympathy when you complain about getting older. It’s very difficult to tell someone a few decades older than you, "Man, this getting old business is rough," and expect anything aside from laughter.
But this getting old business is rough.
I say that knowing that I’m getting no sympathy from anyone. Little kids all can’t wait to be older. Actual old folks (defined as anyone decades older than me -- a moving target) can’t believe such a young kid is saying this. And even I have to admit, getting older isn’t all bad; it certainly beats the readily available alternative.
Nonetheless, there are some definite downsides of getting older, and I don’t just mean the obvious fact that your body can no longer do the things it used to do without pain. Although admittedly I am nostalgic for my youth when any injury was a mark of pride, a scar that came with a story about a carefree cliff jump or daredevil sledding adventure. These days if I suffer an injury like throwing my back out, the associated story usually involves nothing more than bending over to pick up a dropped nacho without leaving my chair.
Still, the main reason I dislike getting old is because I’ve gone from someone who has a lot of potential, to someone who has insufficient kinetic. And it’s not my fault! I’m doing even better than I was when I was younger.
When I was in high school, I submitted an op-ed to the local newspaper, and it got printed. And getting printed in a real newspaper (not just my school newspaper) was an amazing thing that everyone I knew was excited about. My friends were all impressed, "Wow, you’re in the newspaper!" My parents were really proud, "That’s quite an accomplishment!" Even my teachers congratulated me. There was basically a parade in my honor. Because getting an article in the newspaper is really exciting.
When you’re in high school.
Now that I’m pushing 40, writing for the newspaper impresses precisely nobody. If I’m at a reunion and friends ask what I’m up to, and I say, "I have a column in the newspaper," they say, "Oh. Do you do anything interesting?" My parents ask when I’m going to get a real job. You are one of three people who will read this column. A couple decades ago, a single article in the newspaper merited a celebration. Now I have a regular column, and it gets me less social cred than buying a new pair of sandals.
Still, I’m grateful to have accomplished a newspaper column. When I was younger, I’d see a 30-something do something really impressive, and tell myself, "When I get older, I’m going to do that!" It was completely within the realm of possibility that by the time I turned 30, I was also going to have a career as a famous and well-paid rapper. Now when I see a 30-year-old performer do something impressive, I have to acknowledge that I have lived more years and done less. To quote Tom Lehrer, "It is a sobering thought to realize, by the time Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years."
And I guess this is probably why I stopped celebrating my birthday.
Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and has less potential than last year, but a newer pair of sandals. His website is RisingPun.com.