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Youth Is Wasted on 35-Year-Olds
August 28th, 2012

I was carrying two balls of dough and a salad out of our neighborhood pizza joint.  The boys and I were planning to have a Friday night pizza party at home so that IEP could sprinkle his own cheese, which is a favorite culinary activity of his.  As I walked out an older couple walked in.  He had grey hair and sunken eyes and walked with a cane.  Her whole body drooped to one side, giving the distinct impression of a mild stroke.  She wore the kind of sunglasses that are highly protective and not at all fashionable.  They walked slowly, but with slight smiles on their faces.  It’s hard to walk into our pizza place and not smile – it is filled with happy people and delicious food.  Nevertheless, they made me worry.

I walked to my car at a brisk pace, wanting to get home to the boys.  As I did I thought about that old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.”  I’ve thought about it often since I had kids.  Children, of course, don’t realize how easy they have it.  They don’t understand how nice it is not to have to pay bills, or get cars serviced, or remember to give the dogs their flea medications each month.  They go through each day blissfully unaware of how unburdened they are.  I wondered if – even amongst the bridling responsibilities of adulthood – the same weren’t still true of me.

When you get right down to it, I too am blissfully unaware of how unburdened I am.  I can drive in heavy traffic without worrying about the acuity of my reflexes.  I can carry groceries in from the car.  I can open pickle jars with my non-arthritic hands.  I don’t have to worry about keeping medications straight or remembering to take them.  And I have the energy to work a full-time job and keep up with my two young sons. 

And I almost never stop to appreciate those facts.

“Youth is wasted on the young” is a relative statement.  To me kids, teenagers, and college students have no idea how easy they have it.  To someone whose knees are giving out or who can’t type anymore, I have no idea how good I have it.  The only difference between me and my kids is that I’ve lived long enough to have some perspective.  I know that wide, grassy path of the college years narrows and steepens with adulthood.  And I know that this path will continue to climb as I age. 

I suppose it could be depressing to think that life only gets harder, but I know that isn’t entirely true.  Perhaps I’ll never be as young and energetic as I am today.  But nor will I have to cut food into tiny pieces or travel with two car seats and a Pack N Play.  Some things will get harder, but others will get easier.  In the meantime, though, I want to do a better job of appreciating where I am today. 

My 35th birthday is on the horizon and I’m not especially excited about it.  It sounds old to me.  It sounds so “mom jeans and sensible shoes.”  And that’s not at all how I see myself.  I see myself as young, and while I may not be compared to a college sophomore, in the grand scheme of things I still am.  I should enjoy it.  I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to have the strength and energy of a 35-year-old.  I don’t want my own youth to be wasted on me.

6 Responses to “Youth Is Wasted on 35-Year-Olds”

  1. Karin Says:

    In my 50s in the midst of helping my in-their-80s parents & aunt transition to their new reality of retirement community living. Thanks for your post that prompts me to remind myself of the joys of my comparative youth. Don’t let this gift be wasted on me.

  2. Cathy Says:

    Oh there is so much I want to say about this post. I think you are headed into some pretty golden years. By the time you hit 40, your youngest will be old enough to pour his own bowl of cereal and let you sleep a few more minutes (hours if you let yourself). Your kids will start spreading their own social wings and you will likely find yourself with a few hours while they’re off at play dates. Their growing independence will allow you your own as well. I remember a good friend of mine slightly ahead of me on the child-rearing path and she said to me one day when I was completely overwhelmed, “Cathy, don’t you realize it gets easier?” But I didn’t – couldn’t see it at the time. And I don’t think that life will necessarily get harder – at least not for quite a few more years. And I think – look at that couple – failing physically but they still have each other.

    35 is not old. I’m 42 and I still feel young. Getting old sometimes crosses my mind but it seems so far away. I see some friends less frequently and when the post a new photo on Facebook, I see their age and wonder if I’m doing the same. I think you can’t see it in yourself because it happens so gradually.

    I don’t know why but I really liked this post. Probably because you spoke of perspective which is one of my favorite topics to write about.

  3. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Trust me on this one – 35 is not old. But the awareness that our bodies will change – and that it’s normal and natural that they will – can you help you appreciate where you are.

    And those changes of various sorts do not preclude good health or fitness, but we are more vulnerable to a great deal, and I don’t buy into pretending otherwise. If anything I think it makes sense to be conscious of that fact, and whenever possible – both appreciate what we have and where we are (age-wise / health-wise), and equally, be more empathetic to those who are not in the same position.

    By the way – in my experience – kids wear us out, but they also keep us young!

  4. anne Says:

    You are definitely still young! At my previous job there were two women a similar age. One looked 10 years younger than her age, and the other looked 10 years older. And they both acted the way they LOOKED. And I don’t mean the one that seemed younger dyed her hair or whatever…it wasn’t a physical thing so much as a state of mind. anyway, I would say you are a vibrant gal with lots of curiosity. And THAT, to me, signals youth.

  5. Gale Says:

    Cathy – Thanks for this. I think at some level I realize that much about parenting will get easier as my kids get older. But part of me is reluctant to think about too much for fear of two things. 1) Jinxing it! And 2) Getting into the “I’ll be happy when …” mindset. Yes, babies and toddlers are demanding in some very exhausting ways. But I have to be sure that I don’t miss the wonderful aspects of these ages whilst imagining a day when putting on shoes is no longer a battle. :)

    I know 35 is not old. I really do. But when you’ve spent your entire life thinking that 35 was light years away, seeing it stare you in the face is still a bit disorienting!

    Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

  6. Cathy Says:

    Okay – to be perfectly fair – they get easier in some ways and much more difficult in others….. But I guarantee you’ll find yourself with more time.