Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Keep From Getting Old

"You learn something new every day." It's cliche, I know but since making lots of new friends at the museum, many of whom have children my age, I think it may just be the Fountain of Youth. This weekend I spent 3 days traveling to Chrystal Bridges Museum of American Art with my fellow docents from the Brooks Museum of Art. Besides learning a wealth of information about art, travel, history, and life in general, I learned something I needed to know in the worst way: I can stop being so afraid of aging. Because these people are doing it beautifully and are some of the smartest, most fun people you'd ever hope to get to know.

When the 80 year olds are calling you a party pooper at 10:00 because you say you simply can't stay up all night playing cards after a day packed with activity, you really have to chuckle to yourself and rethink the idea of who is "young."

Interested in not getting "old?" Here are some observations I made that will help you maintain a perpetual youth no matter what the calendar says: 

Keep learning. This is the first order of business. All of these people have lots of interests, are constantly learning, investigating, and talking about what they are studying at the moment.

Keep an open mind. All weekend the topics of discussion wove in and out of art, religion, politics, education, and culture.  Everyone was willing to both listen and speak respectfully. Disagreeing was done in the most polite ways possible and real hot topics, while not avoided, were treaded about gingerly. Learning something new, not scoring points in an argument, was the priority.

Keep moving: Carrying bags, climbing stairs, touring buildings--nothing was daunting to this group. Then at one overnight stay we were introduced to a couple in their 70s who live on a lake. He canoes and kayaks frequently, and she is a master gardener who swims often and then across the lake (which looked to be about a mile and a half) at least once a year.

Keep laughing: Age is no excuse to get old and lose your sense of fun. My silly group of friends who make hilarious jokes and are willing to do crazy things like walk down a crowded street with flashing teeth in their mouths (extra funny when it's a group and not just one person) are the antithesis of every stodgy stereotype you can imagine.

Keep thinking: Kind of like "keep learning" but different. When 13 people are standing around an art work discussing what we see, it involves observing, it means you aren't just thinking about if you like it or not. You are thinking about what the artist intended, hidden meaning, symbolism, the elements of art, and historical context. Look for opportunities for critical and divergent thinking. Ask questions, ponder things. Wonder.

Be the kind of person who others want to be around because you are fun, energetic, positive, and curious.   Don't assume that you know enough to skate through life and learn nothing else.  Don't presume that your opinions are right and you will never have to change your mind about anything. Put it all together and share it. Be flexible. Be open. Be kind. Keep sharing and by doing so, you'll release a powerful energy into the world that will return to you.

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