With another birthday coming up tomorrow it’s time for the mandatory birthday review post. In my younger days I used to self-indulgently analyze the past year’s misadventures and make a long and hopeful to-do list for the upcoming year. But thankfully all that is past. To rephrase a dialogue from the first Spiderman movie “with great age, comes great freedom”. In that sense age is a blessing- as it means that you can kick back and relax with a freedom which you never had as an youngster and no one will ever accuse you of being lazy for they will agree that you have done more than your share over the years and now deserve all the rest you can get.
As you age your memory goes and you forget all your little goof-ups and the only high points of your life which you remember are the fun times- which makes even an average life look interesting when you look back in nostalgia. And also when you know that you no longer have a long future, a possibly boring future, stretching out before you (like a stretch in jail) – you don’t have the urgency to make impossible plans to succeed in life and try to make them come at least partially true by working your butt off (night and day) anymore. You can even forego the necessity to take stupid risks now to make your future life interesting and be content with living a bland life for the rest of your days.
If you think about it you will agree with me that in your younger days you are rarely allowed to be yourself but play every role assigned to you- be an ideal student, a perfect employee, a passionate lover, an affectionate family man, a dutiful son and all those predetermined templates society tries to fit us into- in short to be a roman in rome thing or to put it in a more pithy local idiom – if you act a dog, you gotta bark.
But having survived everything life throws at you over the years- school, college, work, friends, colleagues and acquaintances- you no longer have to role play- you can just be yourself regardless of opinions and consequences. Wanna be a bad boy? Then just be one, for who is going to judge an old man who lives life on his terms. They will just be jealous of us that they can’t do it too. As this clarity comes to mind, I no longer feel the necessity of proving anything to anyone- let them judge me as they want I don’t give a damn about it- for I am content with being in my own skin – a luxury only great age has afforded me.
I used to wonder about the old stories of rishis going away into the forest to meditate after getting to a certain age and I used to judge them harshly as shirking their duties to society. Now I understand with more clarity- to use a cricketing example- they are like a batsman who has got out, whose innings has been played out and is now free to retire to the pavilion and leave the win or loss of the match to the rest of the team yet to bat. Believe me it’s a great weight of the mind when you realize you no longer have anything to contribute except watch the game from the sidelines- mental peace at last.
And so here I am on the eve of yet another birthday and at the fag end of a long and fruitful life, a life moreover lived with taste and enjoyment and I can’t help but devote the rest of the remaining few days to the kind of mental peace that would have been the envy of my younger self. It’s time to lie back down under the beach umbrella, sip a pina colada and stare at the waves. My parting words to all you youngsters? Watch and learn.