I recently found this fascinating questionnaire by Oldster Magazine and promptly filled it out. Most people seem to feel about 20% younger than their actual age. Please take some time to complete it and then post it in a comment below. It will take a bit of time, and it is personal, so if no one does it, I will not be disappointed. Here are my answers.
How old are you?
Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?
I’ve long thought of myself as 28 because that was the age I escaped the clutches of the rural South and struck out on my own. It was at that time that my perceptual view opened up, and I began asking questions and seeking freedom from institutional control.
What do you like about being your age?
Freedom. Particularly the freedom to not give a damn about what others think and the freedom from seeking and needing approval.
What is difficult about being your age?
To not feel guilty for taking care of me. For four decades, I selflessly served and ministered to others. Now it is time for me to be a joy to myself first, then my companions, community, and world. This stage of life (age 50-75) is the Enjoyment Stage. The time will come to serve others again in the next phase of life.
What is surprising about being your age or different from what you expected based on what you were told?
Freedom. I could retire relatively early, which gave me time to make the transition (which was very difficult), adjust, and make wise decisions. I did not expect to be free to do as I wished at this early age. Most people I know are still working and immersed in their careers.
What has aging given you? Taken away from you?
Emotionally, I am more equanimous, mentally, I am more curious, and spiritually, I’m more questioning. Although, physically, I’ve lost a good bit of my hearing, and I tire easily.
How has getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?
Indeed, the most significant benefit of aging has been getting to know my self. To understand the aspects of my whole being, expand my essentials and strengths, embrace my authentic rather than my adapted persona, merge my masculine and feminine gender, salvage the shipwrecks and institutional trauma from my unconscious, and bring them to the light of my consciousness, to pay attention to the present moment and refuse to let my ego run the show.
What are some age-related milestones you are looking forward to? Or ones you “missed,” and might try to reach later, off-schedule, according to our culture and its expectations?
Although I am not ready to be there yet, I am looking forward to making my first major transition (from the third to the fourth stage of life at age 75) with my eyes wide open and a universal journey to guide my steps and decisions.
I missed sowing my “wild oats” as a teenager, so in many ways, I’m finally catching up on what I missed during that period of life.
I also anticipate reaching 65, the official retirement age, and not having to explain why I retired so early.
What has been your favorite age so far, and why? Would you go back to this age if you could?
Probably age 48. My descent into darkness, my dark night of the soul, my journey to the innermost cave, whatever one may call it. It was the year I was forced to break from all I had known in my first life. All the symbols shattered, and I experienced all four major life crises simultaneously. It was a terrifying, horrifying, devastating year. Still, those catastrophic events freed me from the institutional chains and brainwashing of my first life. And hell no, I would not want to repeat it, but I would not trade it for anything.
Is there someone who is older than you, who makes growing older inspiring to you? Who is your aging idol and why?
That is a tricky question. I don’t have an older acquaintance who would be a role model. I do have a younger protege that makes growing older worthwhile. We try to get together for a few days every six months or so, and I feel I may have a small nugget of wisdom to offer occasionally. I certainly have a listening ear, an active mind, and knowledge to share, but only when asked. My aging idol would have to be Dr. Roland Griffiths. He is 77 and currently battling a daunting cancer diagnosis. He is a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, of which I am proud to be a legacy member. If I have a hero, it would be him.
What aging-related adjustments have you recently made, style-wise, beauty-wise, health-wise?
Health-wise, I have adjusted my exercise and dietary expectations to be more reasonable yet consistent for someone who has a body my age. I pamper myself with a bi-weekly deep tissue and hot stone massage. Style-wise, I have always been a laid-back, casual sort of guy. I don’t see that changing. Beauty-wise, I’ve indulged in a few tune-ups. A blepharoplasty was a physical necessity, and braces to correct my bite and straighten the effect aging is taking on my lower teeth. Having lived in Florida outdoors most of my life, my annual visit to the dermatologist is non-negotiable.
What’s an aging-related adjustment you refuse to make, and why?
I refuse to blame things for getting old. Yes, I am getting older, but I refuse to be old. I do not want to die young. I want to live until the day I die. And I want to have sex, lots of sex. I love it. I don’t want to slow down because I’m getting older unless circumstances force me to. A couple of years ago, my doctor put me on a blood pressure medicine that gave me severe headaches during sex. I told him that was unacceptable. Together, we executed a successful plan to lower my blood pressure, so I no longer require medication. Yes! So far, gratefully, I do not need erectile medication—probably from my lifelong running regimen; my blood vessels are virtually clog-free. But if it came to either taking it or not having sex, I would take it.
What’s your philosophy on celebrating birthdays as an adult? How do you celebrate yours?
Birthdays have always been a massive deal for me. Rituals and rites of passage help hold a complex artistic soul like mine together. These special days help me take stock of the past, treasure the present, and anticipate and plan for the future. And, now that I’m older, it gives me a good excuse to break out an excellent bottle of wine. I don’t have a set way to celebrate, but most often, it is with my life companion and a special meal, wine, and drinks. This year is a significant milestone (65), so it will be more elaborate.