"I love me some old people." One of my defining characteristics, is my enchantment with the elderly. I find them as such an eclectic and diverse group of people who all have a story to tell. Perhaps that is why we get along so well, I delight in a great story. Nothing but experience and prudence can come from age, and time has allowed my aging friends to collect a comprehensive collection of strories and aphorisms to live by. I admire evertything from their newly found inhibitions on life, to their new soft food cuisine. In a country where age is nothing short of an infectious disease as people run, hide, and try escape the inevitable, I find that aging with eloquence and grace is one of the most beautiful displays of true beauty one can see with the naked eye. Thus, my hope today is to reveal to you the depth and wisdom found in a life truly lived.
As a medical student you are required to take patient histories, and to my delight most of our patients are of the aging community. While the entire purpose of this process, is to acquire the reason for their visit I cannot help but let my mind wander. The first thing I think about is what was this person was like 40 yrs ago? What did he look like? What has he accomplished? Inevitably I must shift my wandering mind back to the matter at hand, but I continue to yearn for his stories, good or bad. After each patient history I walk away with a new concept of disease and a new snippet of someone's life, which I store away in a safe place only to revisit later as a reminder of what a life truly lived would resemble. One of my greatest goals in life is to experience, embrace, and be engulfed by the world around me. I see the elderly as ambassadors to my soul guiding me and directing me to hot spots or to places I must go, see, or feel.
People often describe the elderly to one of my other loves of life.. wine. I find this a perfect analogy because I believe, like that goblet of goodness, everyone gets better with age. Just like my favorite Cabernet, the elderly have become full-bodied, bold, with hints of spice or oak, and leave flavors of rich tannins on your tongue that remain for hours. While the scrutiny of growing old can cause some to break a sweat, I find progression in life alluring. The aging population has no more time to sugar coat the world, they tell you how it is. They spend their days as mall walkers, dining at every restaurant in town, playing bingo, and enjoying the simplicity of life. The worries of their youth have past. They know first hand that the physical beauty of their youth is nothing but a fleeting memory, and that calorie counting was only a sorry excuse for keeping their math skills up to par. Yet, I still can't seem to wonder what they see when they look in the mirror. Do they see themselves as 25? Or do they recognized the withering face from their youth that reverberates back from the mirror?
I feel that in this society we have a propensity to glorify youth. Even though we have barely gotten our training wheels, we (those 20 somethings) have been trained to believe that youth is the ride of your life. However in all honesty, I tend to believe that I am no more than a wandering nomad most of the time searching aimlessly for guidance in every area of my life from profession, love, and purpose. Will I regret the choices I have made and the path that I have chosen to follow? All questions that those oh so wise aging friends of mine, would scoff and laugh at now. They realize that the questions and unknowns of life have left the sweetest memories and stories to tell.
Thus this week tap into your elderly outlet and create and live your own stories. Wear crazy hats and ridiculous outfits. Perhaps enjoy a lap around the mall or a great game of bingo. Or just cozy up in your comfy chair with a glass of cab, allow the flavor to seep into your tongue and imagine what kind of spice you will have to bring in your old age.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain