Fuck Aging, But...

Not a fan of the concept of aging, but I've found ways to deal with it.
Fuck Aging, But...

Last week, my grandma was admitted to the hospital after suffering a minor stroke. Not quite unexpected considering her age, lifestyle, advanced Parkinson's disease, and a host of other issues.

Minor aphasia aside, she's doing fine for now. Still, it made me once again think about some of the more fun things in life, such as aging, loneliness, and death.

Not a fan of the concept of aging, but I've found ways to deal with it.

First things first, though.

Aging fucking sucks

Whoa, such a fresh perspective. A truly hot take! Nah, I'll just agree with a host of historical figures here (and disagree with a host of others).

Aging sucks. If it didn't, we'd have no myths about magical cures for it. Fountains of youth, elixirs of life, philosopher's stones, golden apples, all that good shit. We've been trying to outrun time for millennia, without much success. So you can try convincing yourself all you want that aging is part of life and thus good, but that's bullshit. It's part of life, yes. But it sucks.

Aging means less energy. Physical, mental. More effort to achieve less. More effort to maintain your baseline life quality, let alone improve it. Yeah I'm still young at 34, but I felt younger at 24. Dumber, more stubborn, less experienced? Yes. But, younger. More energetic. It was fun. Now, I know what awaits me at 44. And 54.

Aging means more maintenance. It takes more effort to maintain an old car. My Toyota Celica turns 23 this year. She looks young, but maintenance is a bitch. It took a major overhaul last summer to pass inspection. Cost an arm and a leg. And it'll take more than hip replacements to overhaul an aging body. The Body of Theseus. Yes, a healthy lifestyle helps. But only to an extent. You can't out-lifestyle DNA damage forever.

Aging means physical issues. Less flexibility. Less bone density. Less strength. Random aches and pains. I remember catching myself grunt when bending over for the first time in my 20s. I was like "whoa, whoa, this is new!". I've been suppressing my grunts ever since. Or replacing them with something like "ha!" or "hell yes!" Makes me feel at least a decade younger. And it better lower my risk of other fun stuff that typically increases with age. Cancers and shit. Neurodegenerative disorders. Those are the worst. Loss of self is scary.

Aging means mental issues. And I don't mean mental illnesses, although middle-aged and older adults are at a higher risk of suicide. I mean the normal decline in cognitive abilities. You get less sharp with age. It's easier to get stuck in routine ways of thinking. Harder to break out. Keeping your mind active helps, but only to an extent. My grandpa was in his 70s when we got him a PC. He immediately jumped on it, quickly figured it out, and spent the next few years happily playing sudokus on the internet. Then the fucking cancer got him. You just can't win.

Aging means less time and fewer opportunities to live. More past, less future. But memories fade, so your past disappears, too. Less past, less future. Less serendipity, less to give to the world. Fewer opportunities to do, plan, expect. More need to accept, come to terms with, resign. Up until my mid-20s I knew I could theoretically become anything I wanted. A neurobiologist. An astronaut. A Jérôme Le Banner. A Ronaldo. (The OG one.) Then I got too old to imagine, even in theory. Every day I become too old for something new.

My Ronaldo was cooler than yours.

Aging means less novelty. Less chance to experience new activities, countries, people, thoughts. Experiences. You're either too old for them, or you've already had them. I thrive on novelty, so this one hits hard. What if I'm 60 when I decide I want to give snowboarding a try? Shit, it feels dangerous already. I first tried downhill at 32. It was thrilling, but I knew a single crash can easily cripple me, if not end me altogether. Envied the shit out of 12-year-olds flying around me. Lucky young bastards. Gravity wasn't a thing when I was a kid. I'll stick to drugs when I'm old. Not trying heroin and meth until I'm 75! Don't do drugs, kids. They're for grandpa's sense of novelty. Go snowboard instead.

Aging means less independence. Less autonomy. Less opportunity to enjoy things you love. (Unless it's heroin. Enjoy at any age!) I enjoy being self-reliant. Strong and independent. Doing whatever I feel like. Aging makes you weaker and more dependent. Elderly drivers are a problem, but I get where they are coming from. You'll have to pry the steering wheel of my 73-year-old Toyota Celica from my cold dead 85-year-old hands in 2073. Love this car.

Aging means loneliness. Less energy + fewer opportunities + less autonomy = less capacity to socialize. To make new friends. And old friends disappear. Grow distant. Move away. Die. And yes, I'm grateful for the internet. Immensely grateful. The internet will keep me alive when I'm old.

And heroin.

Aging fucking sucks.

So stop reminding me about it

I try not to think about aging too much.

In fact, I never really thought about it at all until my early 20s. Why would I? Too busy dealing with teenage life to notice the passage of time. During my punk phase, I was sure I'd join the 27 Club eventually. The punk way. So who cares what happens next? Age just wasn't a thing.

I had my first identity crisis at 25, when I first realized I'm not what I had always imagined myself to be. Not only was I not good enough to get rich and famous and successful and happy, I just haven't started yet, but I found myself struggling to keep up with regular life. Just a socially anxious nerd. "I'm destined for greatness" gave way to "I've failed at life". Neither a dreamer nor a doer - just a schmoe.

Then the second crisis came at 31. For years, I tried to become the person I had always imagined myself to be. Or, rather, I was trying to fake it, poorly. Like an 18-year-old dropshipping guru TikToker pretending to be the next Jeff Bezos. It shows. My small business empire fell apart and I realized I'm still a schmoe. But an older one this time. That's when I first realized I'm running out of time. I'll only have that many retries. Besides, I missed the chance to join the 27 Сlub, and the 30+ Сlub wasn't fun at all. "Live fast die young" sounds a lot more exciting than "get bogged down by life, see it pass by, die an old wreck".

I try not to think about it, but I get reminded of it all the time. Pisses me off.

It pisses me off to see my parents, relatives, friends, pets get older. Slower. Marked by life. This one's the worst. My childhood idols get older. When I grow up, I'll be just like Eminem, or Keith Flint, or John McClane. Shit, wait. I'm all grown up. Keith is dead, John has aphasia, and Eminem is middle-aged. And I'm nobody's childhood idol. Welcome to the party, pal.

It pisses me off to see "published 15 years ago" under YouTube videos. That's an eternity in YouTube years. I don't enjoy those "This day 5 years ago" reminders by Apple either. How the fuck has it been 5 years already? Yet I can't stop my brain from calculating the year difference between today and past events.

But wait, there's more!

Going from "25 to 34" to "35 to 44" in censuses and surveys. Seeing those "your life in weeks" infographics. Thanks for reminding me I'm on my way out. "You only have X more days with your parents before they're dead". Thanks, didn't need that. "Kids born in 2005 are 18 now!" "Remember X? This is him now, feel old yet?"

Yes, dammit. I feel old, stop reminding!

But since life does not stop and start at my convenience, you miserable piece of shit, and since my feelings are my problem, I'm always looking for ways to deal with them.

Direction and meaning are the two biggest ones. I don't care about aging when my life has meaning and I'm following a direction I'm confident in. Aging stops mattering altogether then, the only thing that matters is pursuing meaning.

Meaning is what keeps you going. It doesn't have to be grandiose, although it can be. Putting a dent in the universe, making a difference, living a good life, enjoying the little things, living to see another day, not letting the existential dread set in. Not needing a meaning can itself be meaningful. Totally up to you.

Just living my life here not thinking about the big stuff, y'all. 

My meanings come and go on a regular basis. Some of them were moving abroad, growing a business, getting a job to pay off debt left from that business, helping friends survive through rough patches, being involved in charities, leveling up my skills. There's one overarching one, though - to stay optimistic and keep playing the infinite game.

When I lose direction, I use various thoughts as band-aids to stave off unwelcome thoughts. I'm still young. And I'm kinda enjoying life. And I've lived a good one so far. And I'm optimistic. And science will save me, one way or another. And everyone deals with this anyway. And those younger than me will inevitably get older. And in the end it doesn't even matter. And then I keep going.

But generally I try not to think about aging too much.

Life fast, don't age

Obviously, the best way to age would be not to age at all beyond a certain point.

There are two ways to do it: one possible, but not ideal, and the other ideal, but impossible.

Did you know a cure for aging exists? Always has existed. It's a cool little remedy called death. It's widely available! Please consult your physician for personalized advice. Dying young is possible. But it's not ideal. It's best suited for those preferring to burn bright and go out in a blaze of glory. Those living fast:

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or a saw a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"

I stumbled upon Kerouac's On the Road in my late 20s, and it perfectly captured my inner turmoil. The inner Dean Moriarty vs Sal Paradise. Living fast vs being along for the ride. I'm more like Sal, though. Dying young is not an option for Sal.

Living slow and dying young is such a waste of life. Dying young makes no sense to those infinitely curious. It's a tragedy. Just wrong.

As a quick side note, living fast to die old isn't great either:

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt." - Hunter S. Thompson's suicide note

So death is one way not to age. Not ideal.

Ideally, you'd just stop aging. Keep getting better without getting older. Let me stay "18 to 25" biologically speaking and I'll handle the rest. You don't have to get older to get wiser. It's a matter of experience and mindset, not age. The notion of respecting elders unconditionally is bullshit - a jerk doesn't magically stop being a jerk later in life. Jerks get worse with age.

We can't just stop aging, though. If we don't die young, we get older. And since it's part of life, we might as well do it the right way.

Aging, right and wrong

I grew up in post-Soviet Eastern Europe surrounded by people who aged the wrong way. Poor. Gray. Bitter. Infirm. Helpless. Hopeless. Despondent. Complacent. Husks of themselves. I grew up seeing them around me, and the thought of becoming one of them has always terrified me. It's why I got a mohawk in school. It's why I was looking forward to joining the 27 Club.

I don't blame that generation too much. Just a little bit. Growing up amidst the chaos of WW2, maturing slowly, modestly, predictably in the Eastern Bloc, and then seeing your whole world collapse, descending into chaos instead of enjoying a cosy retirement isn't fun. But it's a fact. A whole generation of people have gotten old the wrong way.

But here's a thing. You don't have to be an ex-Soviet citizen to age wrong. You don't even have to grow old to age wrong. You just have to adopt a fixed worldview, shut your mind, get stubborn, and refuse to change. Refuse to move. Refuse colors. Refuse curiosity. Refuse novelty. Embrace nostalgia. Things ain't what they used to be. Yell at clouds. Damn kids, get off my lawn! Get ready to die.

I know old people younger than me. Hell, I remember catching myself getting old in my late teens:

"These new 3D games suck, I'll never play them! My pixelated childhood games are the best. I don't need a smartphone, it's a gimmick. I'll stick to my dumb phone. A driver's license? Why would I ever need that, a bus is enough. Stylish clothes are for posers, I'll keep rocking my greasy oversized camo. And social media is for jocks. I'll stick to IRC." - An 80-year-old Martin in an 18-year-old body

My two identity crises in my mid and late 20s pulled me from my downhill slide into the oblivion of aging wrong. Life punched me in the face and made me take a hard look at myself, twice. I didn't like what I saw, I knew there was a better way.

In fact, there is a better way to age. Aging right is staying young at heart. Staying open. Staying curious. Infinitely curious. Colorful. Active. Strong. Optimistic. Responsible, but fun. Grown up, but youthful. Mature at times, juvenile at others.

Acting your age is bullshit for bores. My German teacher, Lydia Petrovna, was in her late 60s and dyed her hair pink. Not fuchsia, and it wasn't a mohawk - but it was pink. I thought it was cool. She had a personality, may she rest in peace. I love older people with youthful personalities. Dressing stylishly and colorfully. Being active. Having a sense of humor.

Being just people, not old people.

There's no child-adult-senior division. It's made up. As a kid, I used to think of my parents and teachers as adults, as them vs us. Now, I know there's no them. We're all us. Just people. Age is just a number with implications. You don't turn X years old and become one of them. You are always you. It's up to you how you age.

Nowadays I mostly feel like an 18-year-old in a 34-year-old body. Looking forward to the eventual triumph of science over aging, but doubling down on staying young at heart in the meantime. I rock a mohawk again, but now it's an amiable one, not a confrontational one. I swapped my ill-fitting camo for vibrant colors. I keep identifying and fixing the traits I don't like about myself. I keep exploring. I stay an optimist, and I'll never stop being one.

Some people think I'm childish. Some tell me to grow up. Mom says I act like a clown sometimes. It's true. But it's on purpose, mom! I'm just aging the right way.

Just staying cool here.

Fuck aging, but...

Stay cool.