As We Move Forward: Your Age is a Two-Edged Sword

InfantOur age defines much of who we are during nearly all of our lives. As infants, we may be described as an ideal age because everyone around us does pretty much whatever we want when we want it. People smile when  they are around us and tell our parents how adorable we are. We are virtually free from expectations, and we receive praise and attention for everything we do.

This state of being the perfect age gives way to the period as young children when we are too young for everything. Who of has not told a young child,”When you’re older….” regarding something they had either expressed a desire to do or witnessed someone else do and tried to imitate the action. Play has been described as the way children imitate adult behavior. Sometimes the instructions to wait until a child is older are the loving words of an adult trying to keep the young child from trying something too difficult and possibly dangerous for the attempt. The desired result involves a desire to keep the child safe or to safeguard young feelings from frustration and disappointment.

Sometimes the warning comes from an older child, such as a sibling, who simply does not want the young child tagging along and getting in the way. Sometimes the message of being too young is conveyed through age restrictions on an activity such as a ride at an amusement park.

How many times has a child been told that they are too young to use the “big” slide or swings or merry-go-round. We even had “little kids” restrooms in school. So many events in the lives of young children seem to focus on “when you are older,” “when you are big enough,” or when you grow up. Young children are frequently asked, ”What do you want to be when you grow up?”

TeenagerA strange thing happens during that transition from being a child to an adult–the teenage years. With the approach of adulthood, the things the child has always been too young for gradually become closer. Hopefully  education and the choice of a career come together in the exciting beginning of a life lived doing, ”what the child wanted to be as a grown-up.” Adult relationships and responsibilities develop during this period. For a period–a short period–there is the possibility of being admired for accomplishing things “at such a young age.” This can be an amazing period, but even at this time there are moments of nostalgia.

Suddenly the memories of what we did as children that now we are too old for may creep into our thoughts. There comes a point when the things people, younger than you, find interesting are strange to you. One day you make a reference to something out of your childhood–a song, a movie, a TV show or a celebrity. All of a sudden, young people around you have no idea what you are talking about. This begins without your even noticing. People who are graduating, getting married or going through some other rite of passage seem to be younger all the time. Suddenly you are not the youngest person at work–soon, not even one of the younger ones.

PersonThe person you see in the mirror seems to have aged while you are still young and vibrant. The idea of aging is constantly shifting, too. What you once considered old no longer seems to be. What does all of this mean to us as we travel this exciting journey of life?

As we move forward, it is helpful to remember that where we are on the continuum of age changes each day of our lives. Whether we are too young or too old for anything is not nearly as important as being exactly the right age for who we are today. If we can learn to be content with exactly we are in life today, we can learn to balance our excitement, knowledge and experience to have the most positive impact on the people and situations that are part of our lives today.

SunriseIt can be challenging to embrace all things that have become a part of the life we have today. This is especially if things have happened either through choices we have made or circumstances that have come into our life that are out of our control. I sometimes use the phrase, ”Age is just a number.” I believe that is true in terms of our age being a reference point. Join me in being grateful for all the experiences that have brought us to today. While we have arrived at today through a progression of being too young for some things at some times and too old for other things at different times, let  us resolve to be precisely the right age for today. Let us bring the best of everything that has made our life what it is today as we live the future to the very best of our ability.

David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.

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