DEAR CHARLOTTE: I am in mid mid-thirties, and nearing my mid-thirties, proper. I have always considered myself as “young” and had relished in all the advantages that youth brings… namely the luxury of being silly. I constantly have crushes. I get shy around cute boys and giggle often. It’s not an act; this is how I am! (Hehehehe…)
But now, I am starting to realize that I am not as young as I think… How do I properly transition into adulthood? Does “being an adult” mean I have to stop being me, and be serious all the time? I want to be happy as I get older, not more depressed! — TOYS-R-US KID
DEAR TOYS-R-US KID: Being grown-up does not mean being serious all the time… Rather, I would argue that being an adult means needing a greater capacity for not taking things too seriously. Otherwise, all of the responsibilities associated with “being an adult,” become overwhelming and frankly, leave little to look forward to in life.
When I look to examples of graceful aging, I see my mother. She is beautiful and full of life and continues to want to learn and expand her knowledge. But more than that, she has been able to retain her sense of humor and individuality, bucking any conventional norms of what it means to be 70+…
I recently went on a hike with her, and the following are just a few of the lessons I learned along the way:
1. Do as you enjoy. My mother has been very involved in learning about DNA and health. In order to maximize her time, she thought of bringing her headphones and CD player so that she can listen to lectures while on our trek. Of course, we were amused that she chose to listen to her lectures rather than join in any conversation with her children. We were even more amused when she would join in, speaking much louder than necessary, and only one-way. Any follow-up questions and she continues to walk ahead, oblivious to everything but what she hears on her headphones…
2. Act as you feel. We all have impulses. As long as no harm comes to others, every once in a while it is good to indulge in these impulses. If you feel like picking up a rock on the trail (i.e. tidying up the trail), and chucking it off to the side, do it. If you feel a particular calling to a random stick, and later grow tired of it and want to chuck it, have at it.
3. Engage others. Silliness can be infectious and it is good to share your silliness with others. If you want to play by holding a foot over a weed, asking, “Killll it?…,” your companions are sure to laugh along. If you talk to nearby horses, telling them, “You’re cute but smelly,” or asking them, “Are they feeding you okay?,” you will not only win your companions’ affection, but most likely the horses’ as well. The horses would be especially thrilled that you called the horse trailer their “private car.”
4. Make the best of the situation. Life sometimes unexpectedly throws things your way. But it is how you adapt to these situations, and your attitude, that is most telling. If the hike unexpectedly turns steep, particularly after soothing words that the day’s hike would be easier than yesterday’s, it is acceptable to say, “It’s not better than yesterday… Dang!” And continue the hike in high spirits.
Laughter has been linked to resiliency. And being silly means being able to not only laugh at the world around you, but to laugh at yourself. It is acceptable to be silly and giggle when you are young. I believe it is a sign of maturity when you continue to be silly and giggle at life as it comes… It is sometimes the best way to make sure you reach old age, happily.
Dear Charlotte is written by Tasteslikeonion, also known as Woman. Write Dear Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.