Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks recently wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times about his upcoming 80th birthday, The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.) I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.
His closing resonated with me in particular, and I just have to share it with you in its entirety:
My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
I am looking forward to being 80.
This is what it means to be ageless. It doesn’t mean denying age or pretending to be something we’re not. It doesn’t mean being this perfectly confident person who is doing and being everything she wants to do and be. Earlier in the article, for example, Oliver comments on feeling as though he should be completing his life.
But this feeling doesn’t stop him from feeling complete in his life.
Being ageless means, in part, developing this ability to step outside our lives, to step outside time, and see the world and life as it really is. To go beyond simple knowledge and take that step into knowing. To feel in our bones what time really is and to appreciate both the transience and the beauty.
It also means stepping inside ourselves, to curate our lived experiences, thoughts, feelings, and wisdom, to learn and constantly refine what really matters most to us so that what we add to this collection from here on out can be nothing short of masterpieces, even in the simplest of acts and quietest of moments.
Time is just a page number. It’s not the story itself.
Featured image by Sumayah.