“When I was One I had just begun
When I was Two I was nearly new
When I was Three I was hardly me
When I was Four I was not much more
When I was Five I was just alive
But now I’m Six, I’m as clever as clever
So I think I’ll be Six now for ever and ever” — A.A. Milne
So, my cohort group is turning sixty next year. Sixty. It’s an impressive number. Jo will enter this decade first (though at the end of the day, first or last the goal is to get there and keep going), and it prompted a lot of conversation about what the heck it means.
In an effort to avoid the obvious, we didn’t come up with anything particularly cogent. And that got me thinking, which as you know, is typically dangerous.
As we grow up, we measure our accomplishments by how old we are. At six or seven, there’s first grade and entering real school. Turning ten, at double-digits – one proudly has succeeded at no longer being ‘little’ and has become by rite of age, way cooler than anyone who is younger. Celebrating the introduction to being a legitimate teen-ager at thirteen, it’s even sweeter at sixteen. When eighteen knocks at the door, it brings the perceived gift of becoming ‘legal’, getting out of the house and the anticipation that for all intents and purposes, society will consider you a grown-up in three short years. Of course by the time one is thirty, the realization that learning to be an adult is no longer an acceptable excuse. And so on and so on…
Our self-definition and stories are inextricably tied to our age. What we learned and when we learned it. I think we could have extended conversations about the decades we have lived – tying our stories and our years together in crazy, multi-colored bows.
Somewhere along the way though, we realize that life is measured not in years but in exquisite moments of attention. When the question that begs to be answered is less about our individual successes, accomplishments and somewhat self-absorbed chatter, and more about what we have brought to the table. Did we offer life a groaning board of our best selves or did we just sit there expecting to be fed? (Given that Thanksgiving is next week, it seemed like a good analogy). Though we got here while acknowledging chronological landmarks along the way, such landmarks no longer define the road. We are left now to figure out the topography, and the area is large.
And the dialogue changes focus – am I giving the best I’ve got? Am I more about others and less about me? And if I live another sixty years, will I create a path that others will choose to walk with me?