As kids, we spend a lot of time imagining what we want to be when we grow up. But now here we are, all grown up, and I notice nobody seems to be daydreaming about what kind of old person they want to be. Everybody fears growing old, but believe me, we are all just one scary diagnosis away from looking at the elderly with jealousy and longing, desperately hoping that we get to stick around long enough to get thoroughly gray and wrinkled.
I’ve decided that I want to be the kind of old lady who isn’t all crabby and resentful, who’s savoring her days and still learning new things, who gets out there and keeps active, whom the youths of the day can look at with admiration and maybe learn a thing or two from.
Well, guess what? I am apparently so gifted and talented that I have skipped middle age and gone straight into my golden years, about 25 years ahead of what I thought was the schedule.
See, yesterday was the last Zumba class of the spring semester. There are usually 30-50 girls packed in the room, about 95% of them college students and 5% of us faculty/staff members. Because it was Finals Week and the schedule was a bit different, only 6 people showed up. I was standing in my usual spot in the back corner, chatting with one of the university’s nurses who’s also a regular, when a student approached us.
“I just wanted to tell you two that I see you all the time in these classes, and you inspire me so much! You know, because you’re so…”
“Old?” I asked.
“No, no, no…I mean…you’re so…you know…dedicated!”
I bit my tongue and kept from saying, No more dedicated than those two twenty-year-olds standing in the front of the room, also Zumba regulars, that you left out of this conversation.
The nurse, the student, and I were all laughing uncomfortably, and I was thinking what a complete waste it is that I once lost 30 pounds and have kept it off for 10 years, that I have a metal hip, that I’ve survived a copperhead bite, cancer, appendicitis, and a couple nasty cases of poison ivy, and this girl doesn’t have a clue about any of those things. Little did I know, all I had to do to be inspirational to the young people of the world is go to Zumba class while simultaneously being 42 years old. All that other crap was completely superfluous.
Take note, universe, this means you don’t have to do ANYTHING else to me to build up my character or show me how strong I am or make me an inspiration. An easy, downhill run from here on out, capiche?
Seeing myself through this young girl’s eyes stung a bit, I won’t lie. I briefly considered telling her to turn down that loud music, put on some less-revealing clothes, get back to her dorm room and work on that paper she’s been avoiding, and get off my damn lawn. But I remembered the kind of old lady I want to be and decided to stand down and accept the compliment. I told her the truth, because old people need to impart their wisdom to the whippersnappers, which is that I look forward to exercising every day, that endorphins are key to keeping me happy and sane.
So the rest of y’all stay back there and enjoy your adulthoods. I’ll be up ahead in my dotage with my cane and my bag of butterscotch candies, waiting on you to catch up with me in a couple decades. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 8:30 p.m., which is past my bedtime.