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'I'm too old for this'

I read an article in The New York Times headlined “I’m Too Old for This” earlier this month, and it’s been on my mind ever since. (The link is at the end of this post.)

The writer, Dominique Browning, begins by discussing the annoyances of aging, but these are being offset by the knowledge that “there is also something profoundly liberating about aging: an attitude, one that comes hard won. Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb: ‘I’m too old for this.’” Browning says how the phrase “is about to become my personal mantra.”

It’s already tattooed on my cerebrum.

Browning hooked me in the first paragraph, saying one of aging’s annoyances is “the reprising of personal history ad nauseam, with only yourself to listen.” It’s as if she were psychoanalyzing me. I spend way too much time thinking about things I shouldn’t have done or said. I think about what I should have done or said. And if I think about things I’ve done well, I beat myself up anyway for not doing better.

Yesterday, for example, I was berating myself for stealing $10 in 1969. Then I thought, “I’m Too Old for This.” I decided I had worn that particular hair shirt long enough. I’ll soon shed other shirts.

Stepping outside the brain and into the world of dealing with others, Browning says, “I am too old to try to change people. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get forevermore.” I’m not sure if “at the beginning” and “forever more” are true—we often misread people at first, don’t we? And people change, don’t they?—but trying to change people is futile and frustrating.

As for “toxic people? Sour, spoiled people?” Browning asks. “I’m simply walking away; I have little fight left in me.”

One fight I need to walk away from is how I react to people for what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say. As I ponder those instances, I’m always having confrontational conversations in my head with those people. I get angry or, on the flip side, I think the other person doesn’t value me as much as I value him or her. Neither of those points of view is healthy—but the new mantra defuses them both.

I also need to step away from constantly seeking approval and affirmation from others. I don’t know what’s behind this drive. After all, who among us truly knows ourselves? When approval doesn’t come, though it leads to bitterness, disappointment, and an eroding of self-esteem. Again, not healthy.

Browning condenses all of her observations into one paragraph near the close of her essay:

“Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves that could be spent on Sudoku, or at least a jigsaw puzzle, if not that Beethoven sonata you loved so well in college.”

I wish I hadn’t learned this so late in life, but Browning is onto something when she says this realization comes only with age. It will be good to keep her mantra in mind when the fall semester begins in two weeks. Working with students almost always is a pleasure, but the university workplace outside the classroom can be annoying.

And at this time next year, I’ll be retired, with my mind freed from thoughts and activities about how to teach better. I’ll have time to think about other things. But I’m not going to spend that time, in Browning’s words, “reprising personal history ad nauseam.”

I’ll listen to Beethoven instead.

(Maybe you're too old, too)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2015 11:33 pm (UTC)
We're all too old for this.

This topic is quite complicated and I can't do it justice right now. Let me just mention the link doesn't open the article because there's a slash at the end. Remove the / and it's good to go.
Aug. 18th, 2015 12:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for the catch on the link. I almost always check them. Not this time. Duh!

It's a complicated topic, but I'm avoiding a lot of angst just by remembering that sentence.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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