An aging nightlife colleague posted this online recently:
Really need to work on the whole “being fun” thing a little more. It’s too easy to just sit around being comfortable and old.
I saw these kinds of things a LOT from my peer group of aging freaks, especially right around age 30. It seems like all of a sudden it’s staring you right there in the face: the stuff that we spent our 20s doing (in my specific case, dancing all night while intoxicated) suddenly doesn’t have quite the same pull, and there’s part of you that screams NOOOOOOO! I’m getting OOOOOOLD! And then there’s this reflex of MUST FIGHT IT MUST FIGHT IT.
(I don’t mean to pick on this particular friend, but this is one of a bazillion examples of aging offbeat types getting down on themselves for being “old” and not doing the things they used to.)
What’s interesting to me is that rather than find new ways of expressing that creative energy, there’s a reflex to keep expressing it the same way. “If I don’t keep doing the exact same things in the exact same ways, then it must mean something positively awful is happening. MUST KEEP GOING OUT. MUST CONTINUE NIGHTLIFE. MUST PROVE SOMETHING.”
It’s just not working for me any more. I’m not saying I want to move to the ‘burbs, curl up with my Reader’s Digest, and give up on all that crazy kids’ stuff. Dance and music and the arts are crucially important to my life, and have been a part of my life since childhood (art classes), through my teen years (theater), through college (raving), post college (more raving/clubbing/Burning Man/etc.).
But as I’ve gotten into my 30s, I realized that more of the same wasn’t going to cut it. I still like dancing … just during the day. I still like music … just not at ear-damaging levels. For me, it’s been about discovering the roots of my interests and finding ways that feel like they fit into my life NOW that feel good. Like dance class (in the morning) and going to festivals (taking a vacation to get freaky, instead of getting freaky and then hauling your cracked-out carcass to work 12 hours later).
It’s been really gratifying to find new ways to express my creative energy, rather than forcing myself to continue the old ways I’m not drawn to any more. Stagnation isn’t youth. You can’t stay 21 (or 25, or 30, etc.) forever. Personal evolution is awesome!
Or, as I said to my friend in response:
Totally agree, but at the same time I feel like there’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to do something you’re not drawn to just because you don’t want to feel the age that you actually are. (i.e., oh I better go out, because I wouldn’t want to feel like I’m not in my early 20s any more. Oh wait….)
I need to talk to more aging weirdos, because it’s not like this same cycle hasn’t been happening for generations…
As you get older, how do you find ways to continue the passions and subcultures of your youth, while respecting and celebrating where you’re at in your life now?