The wisdom of age


I celebrate my birthday in a few weeks. (Important note: Large, expensive presents are encouraged and accepted.) I’m not one to get caught up or agitated by the number on my birth certificate, but it has been a strange experience to see the number of years start to add up. I question how that’s even possible. I’m still 21, right?

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Madison Avenue and our intense cultural focus on youth makes us think the world belongs to the young. It treats age as something to be avoided, like we could somehow put it off,  and, quite frankly, as a bad thing. I’m not buying it. On a whim, I googled the ages of some great accomplishments. I take solace in seeing what others have accomplished well past their so-called prime:

–Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

–Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat” and J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when the Lord of the Ring series was first published.

–Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for campaigning against apartheid before he was released in 1990. Four years later, shortly before his 76th birthday, he was elected president of South Africa.

–Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton, who turned 68 this year, became the first female to earn a major political party nomination for president. Others had tried, but Clinton became the first to clinch the nomination of either major U.S. political party.

–At 55, Pablo Picasso completed his masterpiece, “Guernica.”

–Peter Roget began compiling organized lists of synonyms and antonyms as a young man, but didn’t publish the thesaurus until he was 73.

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–Army veteran and failed businessman Bill Wilson, at the age 40, with another alcoholic, a surgeon named Robert Smith, created Alcoholics Anonymous. The organization today has more than 2 million members.

–Diana Nyad, aged 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage.

I have no plans to take-up long distance swimming or running for office or painting a powerful, world renown, antiwar mural, but I’m comforted knowing that the best, whatever form it might take, is yet to come.

Bring it on.

(And oh yea, don’t forget there’s still time to get me a birthday present. If you struggle with ideas, I can be sure to give you a few!)

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