A month from today, I will reach 60 years of age.
I can’t believe it, honestly. I still feel 35. Where has all that time gone?
Now, I’m aware that I can’t look at this dispassionately. A combination of the American cult of youth and the very real fact of impending mortality makes this a milestone I can’t ignore.
And it is true: my body does not have the capacities it once did. I am no longer the man who scampered into the Sierra Nevada high country for solo backpacking trips every summer in his late 20s. Or even the one who paddled the Grand Canyon in his 30s. Aging is real.
But there are tradeoffs. As we gain experience, we gain skills and knowledge. And for those of us who are paying attention, these distill into something precious: wisdom.
Wisdom isn’t illusory. Experience teaches us lessons, and we learn to apply them. We learn not to respond to our initial impulses when confronted with adversity or conflict. We learn about ourselves, and about humans generally. We heal from our wounds, and learn compassion as a result.
And given years, we grow more, especially if we embrace growth as a value and are trying to become a wiser and better person over time. This is much of what the Atheopagan path is about to me.
So though this number–and it is just a number, after all–is a bit of a shock to me, I have to say that I don’t regret any of the now six decades I have passed. I have things I wish I had done differently (don’t we all?), like having refused to consider depression medications for so long, but I am not sorry about the overall arc of my life thus far. It has been dotted with many beautiful adventures and lifelong learning, and continues to offer creativity, community and joy.
It’s not quite time to declare myself an “elder” yet. I’m thinking that will be at 65. I’ll do a formal rite of passage with my friends at that time. Presuming I am given that much time.
For now, though, it’s just something to notice.