Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lesson #27: Getting "Older" Means Using The Past As A Measurement Against The Present

What exactly is "getting older"? Chronology and physical changes, of course, are objective markers.  Yet I have noticed the biggest mental distinction between someone who is "old" or "young" has to do with how they measure the present against the past.  They start their sentences with, "It used to be like..." or "In my day..."  More often than not, the present can't hold a candle to a romanticized illusion of the past, and the statement takes on a woeful frustrated tone.  People of any numerical age can do this, and any one can choose not to.

Why are young people romanticized so often in arts and literature?  Because "youth" essentially means you have no past with which to judge the present.  "Youth" are totally in the here-and-now moment, unfettered by fantasies of the past, unburdened by worries of the future.  The good news is that any of us at any age can embrace these qualities, it simply takes practice.

By this definition I am a lot "younger" now than I was in my childhood, teens, and twenties.  I wasted so much time worrying about the future, from larger issues of nuclear war, to my grades in school, to whether someone liked me or not.  I frequently fought change and harshly scrutinized new teachers, new students, new television shows, new music, new books, for not being how they "used to be."  I was stubborn, stodgy, and shut down by age twenty.

I have since learned the freedom of embracing change and focusing on the now.  I am very aware of the past, of people I have known, choices I have made, and how decisions and experiences have led me to where I am today.  But I don't use those events as a rulers against the nowThe past is helpful to me only if it offers perspective and insight of how I can enjoy life in the present.  By fully comprehending that there is no one moment better than another, I am free to live my forty-year-old life with novelty, interest, and investigative curiosity.  How about you?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

1 comment:

Maria said...

Absolutely true. Your astute comments assure us that there is always room for change, we just have to get in there and do it. Thank you for your very informative lessons of life.