Play, Mask, Cane

I spend a good bit of time thinking about the little old lady I want to be. From growing my hair out now (I will never, ever have short hair again, I swear unto my patron goddess) to checking my smile to make sure the lines I want will etch themselves on my face, to pricing swordcanes (look, just because I’m old shouldn’t mean I’m helpless) to working on brain flexibility–you get the idea.

I have a horror of losing mental acuity. For a long time I thought a lovely, agile brain was the only thing I had to recommend me. Nowadays I value myself slightly more, but the habit of regarding my own prospective mental loss with intense horror has remained. That’s why I keep going back to the piano, and playing around with languages. I’ve shifted to Korean and (my first love) Latin, since I’ll need to spend serious time on them both–French and Spanish are lovely, but it feels like cheating to practice them at the same time I’m studying Latin, you know? Also, Duolingo has just released their Japanese pack. That seems like a good way to spend multiple hours.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying something I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s never too late, and you are never too old, to find something that delights you. Getting in the habit of looking for delightful things and playing with new stuff is an investment in your future self. If what makes you happy is problematic or nerdy or strange, don’t let that stop you from gaining what enjoyment you can from it. We’re here for such a brief period, might as well find neat things to play with in the meantime.

People tend to calcify as they get older, and it seems such a shame. Practicing juicy flexibility now, in order to retain it as long as possible, looks a much better way to be. Besides, if one approaches things like, say, new technology, in the spirit of play, being okay with making mistakes and poking until you find out new ways of using it, learning is ever so much easier. When you’re “just playing,” a lot of mistakes are recoverable.

It helps to be in the habit of going, “Huh, I’m wrong, let’s find out some cool stuff together!” or “I don’t know, let’s look it up.” Parenting taught me that it’s okay to admit being wrong and trying again. It is, in fact, not just okay but preferable. Kids tend to respect an adult who admits, “Hey, I fucked up, let’s revisit that.” It cuts out so much bullshit.

We could all do with a little less bullshit.

So, my advice for today: spend some time thinking about the old person you want to be, or even just planning for your future self. The mask you wear will become your real face, if you do it long enough. It’s far better to consciously choose than to let it be thrust upon you, or being blindly reactive.

Also, if you see me with a cane…beware.

  • Wolf Lahti

    Mental flexibility – or lack thereof – has never had the slimmest chance of becoming an issue for me. Indeed, my problem is that I’m too frakkin’ interested in *everything* — I want to know and do it *all*! This tends to… spread out my effectiveness. If I could focus with laser-like intensity on a single arena, the things I could accomplish there would be legendary (he says, humbly).