Last night on my way home I ran into an old “acquaintance”. I hadn’t seen him since new years and I haven’t seem him in daylight since last summer. It was a very brief encounter on the U-Bahn platform and not much was said. But the one thing that struck me was that he had aged. He looked older. I could see that one year that had passed. It was nothing dramatic, just a few more lines here and there, but still a testimony to the passing of time.
It’s happening to me a lot these days. I run into people who I haven’t seen in a while, people my age, and it hits me that they have aged. Noticeably. I can see their age in their faces. Not in a bad way, it’s more like they for the first time actually have an age. Like just started happening. And for some reason that scares me a little. Partly it’s of course this obvious fear that they see the exact same thing in my face, which of course they do, so it’s a sort of well-founded yet completely retarded fear. Yeah, of course I’m aging, we all do. And I am actually quite ok with that. I don’t mind getting older all that much. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Then again, if that is really true, why would I even care that my face has also started showing the signs of time passing? Why is that important enough to care about, to actually spark fear? Does aging actually scare me? Yes, I guess in a way it does. Or rather in some ways.
Again there are some obvious fears, like the aging of the body, not having as much energy, getting ill; all the very real, rational worries that could potentially be understood as fears. But I actually don’t think that’s what scares me about aging. It worries me, sure, but that’s not the reason these encounters spark fear in me. That fear has much more to do with conformity and socially imposed restrictions. They all look so tired. And that’s what scares me. That look of having given up on living life to the fullest, of having stopped having ecstatic fun. Of having embraced society’s rules for so-called adult behavior. You become a grown up. A grown up. The whole expression radiates a sense of being done. As if you were finished evolving. Nothing remains to be done. You are grown up. There’s a sense of termination in it. As if you have reached the point where it all just turns into vegetating. Waiting for the last stop on the line. Just waiting. Growing up implies activity, engagement. You are actually doing something. Working on something. Exploring. Trying. And then one day you’re done. You’re done growing up. Done being actively engaged in a process. You’re done. There’s no longer a reason to engage in anything. No longer a reason to explore. You are done. There’s nothing else you need to know, need to experience. You are all grown up now.
After a certain age you are no longer allowed to experiment. You are supposed to be done with that. Society no longer condones it. From this point on it’s all about preservation of the status quo. Maintaining the equilibrium. Stay on track and just wait for the final stop on the line. No more exploring to be done. No more play and trying things out. But how can you be done exploring before you are dead? Aren’t you supposed to actually live your life till the end and not just be alive? And doesn’t living also imply an activity? As in something that actually requires engaged involvement? Live is something you do, being alive is something you are. Growing up is something you do and being a grown up is something you are. Static. On the other hand – aging, being old? Yes, but in our society aging isn’t loaded with the same permissiveness as growing up. Aging is a downwards spiral whereas growing up is all about peaking. You grow up and then you grow old. Up and down. And I think that’s the reason for my fear. I don’t want to come down. I realize that there are limitations, pure physical limitation that have to do with age, but I see no reason why these have to apply to the mind as well. I am not done exploring. And I hope I never will be. It may sound like a cliché, but I am serious. The only reason I am still alive is because I am curious. I want to know what’s going to happen next. But there is this subtle increasing sense of suppression in regards to curiosity and age. It’s like the older you get the less acceptable it is to still be curious. And I don’t really think it has all that much to do with experience, that sense of having seen it all, because no one has. Sure experience does come with age, but there is no way you can have had all the experiences that are out there to be had. I just refuse to believe that the lust for life naturally subsides with age. There’s just no reason. No reason apart from society’s norms. The mental confinements put in place to make sure you stick with the program and stay in line. You get old and comfortable. And that’s what scares me. To chose contentment over passion. Security over freedom. Because that’s what’s expected of you. You are supposed to get with the program and stay in line. Be content with the path you’re on. But none of that makes sense to me. Yes, age gives experience, and that’s precisely what feeds the curiosity. The more you experience, the more you understand. And the more you understand, the more you realize just how little you actually know. You are never old enough to have seen it all because it’s just not possible to see it all. One lifetime simply isn’t enough to see it all. There’s just so much out there. More than we can even imagine. But for some reason you are not supposed to care about that. You are supposed to care about having a comfortable life, status, wealth. Explorers are not easily controlled, but consumers are. And that’s why we all have to get in line. It’s like a subconscious conspiracy to keep us occupied with the meaningless money game. To make us forget that possessions can never give the same satisfaction as a moment of ecstasy. And the older we get, the more we are supposed to care about our possessions, our worldly assets. And I see that too when I look at some of my friends. The more money they make the bigger TVs they get even though they could use the money to travel the world. Because we are taught that possessions are valuable and experiences aren’t. Consumption and procurement as the meaning of life. Acquire loads of shit and let it tie you down. Make money and pile it up so that you can keep on consuming till the day you die. But that is exactly the point, some day we die. And to me piling isn’t living. I am at an age now when most people have transitioned completely into piling but I have discovered I can’t. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. All my life people have been implying that some day I too will comply to the norm, but so far every attempt has made me fear asphyxia. “You’ll see when you get older” – yeah, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. That I will be content.
Maybe it’s not really fear that I’m feeling, maybe it’s the scraping of the norm grinding against my values. I don’t want to grow up because I don’t want to come down. I want to grow older and wilder. I don’t want to be safe, I want to be free. I’m not afraid of getting old, I’m just afraid of what society says it’s supposed to be like.