Sarah Sheard's Thoughts and Theories

Monday, April 23, 2012

Age Is Who I Am

When we are young, we learn who we are. We learn we are right-handed, or left-handed. We learn we do, or do not, like Italian food. We learn we are numbers people or letters people. We learn we can or cannot carry a tune.  We learn what makes us distinct from others: I like penguins... I like cooking... Not too many people are black/filipino/Native Americans... We learn who we are: "I am a musician." "I am an athlete." "I am smart." "I am good with children."

We don't change our self-image much after we learn it. Once a dog-person, generally always a dog-person. 

What we also learn, because we are young when we learn who we are, is that we are young

This continues despite the fact that we eventually become not the young one but the old one.  First our parents' generation dies off around's a shock when we become the oldest in our genetic line. Even sixty-year-olds have referred to themselves as "orphans"...because they feel like young people.  My father confessed in his eighties that he saw himself as being 18.  He didn't want a girlfriend, because "I don't want to be dating a grandmother, and who else would have me?"

Our friends get arthritis, or heart problems, or cancer. We attend a funeral of a sibling or neighbor or coworker. We notice our college roommate's obituary in the alumni newsmagazine. Logically speaking, we are becoming the old ones, but we don't see ourselves that way because in our list of what we are, that we learned as children and therefore quite thoroughly, we are young.


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