As one who was born two score and seven years ago,
I consider myself an expert on getting older, since
I've been doing it for so long (though I don' t go quite
as far back as President Lincoln). As with so many things,
there are good and bad aspects to getting older. The
good includes gaining a sense of perspective in your
life. You finally realize that the clock IS ticking,
and you had better do what you always wanted to do,
and do it NOW, or risk never getting it done. I was
raised to believe that this "live for today" philosophy
and lifestyle was for the irresponsible and frivolous
among us, but now as I'm in " the Autumn of my years,"
I've grown to understand that an opportunity I lose
may be an opportunity that will never come my way again.
As the great Jewish philosopher of the fourteenth century,
Maimonides, said: "If not now....when?"
Another great thing about getting older is having the
memory of living through so many events, both historic
and personal. There is an enormous difference between
living through something, and simply reading about it.
I remember the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
and the tears the tollbooth worker cried as he told
my dad what had happened. It is a memory etched forever
in my mind's eye, and is so much more poignant and meaningful
than mere words on paper. I remember air raid drills,
and having to scrunch under my desk at school until
they ended. I lived through the days of segregation,
sex discrimination and the Vietnam War, all of which
influenced my life.
There are great memories too. The early memories of
the Polo Grounds, hoola hoops, the Beatles. the first
girlfriend, the school days, and the later memories
of meeting my wife, of getting married, of becoming
a father, of growing up -- these things stay with you
for a lifetime. The personal struggles, the triumphs,
the defeats, they never leave you; in fact, they are
a major part of what makes you who you are today. I
am still the little boy who tried to sneak cats into
my house to help them. My mother laughs to this day
when she retells the story of how I put a cat under
my shirt to hide it, only to have a big bushy tail stick
out of the bottom of my shirt. That boy became a vegan,
when all the striving and achieving and ladder climbing
became less important than being who he really was.
Of course, the downside of growing older is painfully
obvious. You have to confront and come to terms with
your mortality, which is nearly impossible without faith,
and believing in something beyond the bonds of this
earth. And of course, let' s not forget the receding
hairline and gums, the expanding waistline and credit
debt and the various aches and pains in places you didn't
even know you had.
But the best thing about growing older is that you've
seen enough and done enough to know exactly who you are.
No more self doubt, no more wondering about what you're
really about. When I became a vegan, it was for such a
totally personal reason that most people would actually
laugh if I told them. And the best part about growing
older is that I can laugh right along with them -- I really
don't care anymore what other people think about my decisions.
As long as I know that what I do is right for me, and
doesn't hurt anybody, the rest of the world will just
have to adjust to me. I've done my adjusting to the world,
and I'm very pleased with the result.
e x t e s s a y -
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