The Currency of Age

I’m turning 30 this year.

That sounds like it’s a big deal, and it is, but I’m not scared of it. I’ve always told people that I think age is what you make it. If you’ve turned 30 and you’ve done nothing with yourself, then you have good reason to feel a sense of panic. Not necessarily because you’re getting old, but because you don’t have anything to feel proud of yet, and you’re running out of time to get to a place where you can take pride in your life or yourself.

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who are considered old, but who are so cool I might die if I ever met them. There are the obvious ones like Michael Jordan and Stevie Wonder. There are the less obvious ones like Jeremy Wade (bad-a$$ freshwater angler from River Monsters), Jeremy Clarkson (journalist and host of Top Gear) and Carter Beauford (drummer extraordinaire for the Dave Matthews Band). And then there are the really obscure ones; the ones we don’t even know; the ones who walk among us on a day to day basis.

Exhibit A: a neighbor I used to live across the street from in Vancouver. He’s probably in his 50’s. He’s got silver-white hair and drives a lime green Volkswagen Beetle. He turned the house across the street from mine from a veritable shanty to a character home. He converted his shed to a studio, he gardens almost throughout the whole year. He’s fit as a fiddle, and I hear he’s friends with Robin Williams.

Exhibit B: a co-worker of mine who is in her 70’s. She directs all our faith formation programs, works six days a week, and talks to about 100 people a day. She remembers everyone’s names. She used to be a 6th grade teacher, until she suddenly decided she needed a change. She quit her job, went back to college to master in theology, lived in Nicaragua and became fluent in Spanish, and now runs a charity that helps orphans in South America. She sits in a board of directors at one of the prominent universities in Seattle, and gets people scholarships (she’s constantly threatening to get me one). I have never seen her with a chipped manicure, a mismatched outfit, or in flat shoes. She also rocks a pixie cut, except her hair is auburn red with blond streaks. I can’t even pull that off.

Exhibit C: a priest I used to work for in small town BC. He’s probably in his 60’s now. Born and raised in Manhattan, he had done everything from serving at a 5-star golf resort in New York, to being a lumberjack (the kind that actually climbed up trees in these old-school harnesses), a bus driver, a soup kitchen volunteer, and then finally a priest. He bikes to work, runs, grows his own vegetables, and plays golf with the bishop in Juneau (yes, Alaska). He also wields a wooden slingshot gun and has been known to bust out magic tricks in public transit buses while on mission trips in Tijuana.

Exhibit D: a man in his 70’s who finished the Seattle Marathon in November 2011. He wore shorts and no shirt, in the rain, whipping winds and 40 degree temperature (before windchill). He ran all 26.2 miles with no shoes. And he finished a good hour before some other younger men, who are less than half his age.

What am I getting at? Age is what you make of it. Age is not a liability; it’s a currency, and only you can determine its value. If you’ve lived 30 years, but you’ve lived for something, then that’s 30 meaningful years of existence. 30 years of sacrifice, blood, sweat, tears, failure, victory, and glory. Make something of today, so that by the time it turns into yesterday, it becomes your treasure. And the more you accumulate of it, the more you have to show for yourself. The more you have to share with others.

I’ve been lucky to have so many people in my life to look up to. Everyday, I see proof that age is neither “just a number” nor is it some kind of death sentence. It’s what you make of it. And that’s great news, because that means that I can be as underachieving, mediocre, or awesome as I want as I get older. And you know me. Obviously I’ll choose awesome. Wouldn’t you?

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