when are we old?

cute dog, beagle mix, black dog with tan markings, cute dog, dog outside in grass
Ruby is almost five. She’s a little chubby, but I think she’s aging quite gracefully!


Jean jackets are all over this summer. I recently dug through my closet and unearthed a light, cropped Levi’s jacket I had in high school. Praise the Lord, it still fit. I was feeling pretty awesome about myself when it dawned on me that I am now old enough for a trend to happen and come back ten years later. This wasn’t a pleasant realization.

That same day, I was getting ready when I noticed the vanity light illuminating some lighter pieces of hair. Oh, I didn’t realize I was out in the sun that much already for my hair to be so highlighted, I thought. Sun-kissed locks for the win! However, upon further examination, I realized these hairs were not bright and beautiful. They were gray. Gray! I yanked each of the three from my head and proceeded to have an existential meltdown.

Okay, a little over dramatic, maybe. I’m 26, but I feel like I’m only now realizing that I’m not the youngest anymore. I’m used to being the youngest graduate, youngest wife, youngest mom, youngest staff writer, youngest church leader, etc. etc. etc. But I guess I can’t hold that title forever.

I know I deserve a few eyerolls for this melodramatic meltdown, but it’s a weird thing to realize you’re not as young as you used to be. It’s life and it’s good, even, but it’s still a little…weird. It’s weird that it has been five years since I graduated college. I feel like I’m still planning my high school graduation party in my parents’ garage. It’s weird that students ask to list me as references. It’s weird!

But as long as door-to-door salesmen still ask me if my parents are home, I guess I’m doing just fine.

I stumbled across this writing from 1924 about aging + joyful living, and I think you’ll appreciate it. (Good writing never goes out of style, amIright?!)

When are we old?

I know two women — one whose birthdays number seventy, the other, thirty-three. The seventy-year-old one reads, studies, enjoys, goes when she can, delights in a new dress, has a host of friends, and is genuinely happy. And folks just makes excuses to visit her because of her keen interest, her joy in good news, her mental alertness, and her whole-hearted friendship. The little school girl, the grandmother of eighty, the boy home from college, the new daddy, all go to see her for contact with that current of friendship that helps them to believe in themselves and stimulates within them a new interest that is joy in itself.

The woman of thirty-three is married, and has “enough to do without that.” “No, I didn’t read about it; books don’t interest me much.” “No, I don’t read the papers, you never can tell whether they’re telling the truth.” “Oh, that’s all right for those girls that aren’t married, but I”m too old to be interested.” “Yes, I like music, but I’m too old to take lessons now.” Imagine! And only thirty-three!

When do we stop? When does the etiquette of age bid us stop learning, stop being interested, stop growing in mental attainments? Surely, not until we shut our own minds and hearts against the ideas.

What can we give our friends when we have shut all doors and put in storage all desire for progress? Nothing. Just nothing. And friends are entitled to more than that. Friendships, to remain permanent, must grow and thrive on interest in the new conversation, on growth in ideas, achievements, and mental alertness. No matter how many birthdays we have, we can be made young again by a new realization that mind development, intelligence, and the ability to make progress are matters of interest, not age; of incentive, not years, and that we must build our own generating plant and work to achieve, to grow, to learn, to find good everywhere, to find delight in the every day.

Some people treasure life so much that they are afraid to use it but with life, as with happiness, the more we use the most we have, for where is there a calendar or a clock big enough to mark for any individual the length of his day?

So let’s forget the years and realize for our very own selves that our fountain of youth, our joy-well of living, our power to do things, lies deep in our own hearts, where neither years nor handicaps can interfere. We — you and I — are the only ones who can dip deep enough to get the full value of every day. So why cheat ourselves?

by Mary Brooks Picken, from Thimblefuls of Friendliness, 1924

One thought on “when are we old?

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