Fill your life with young people

Yesterday I mentioned that someone on Facebook recently asked his friends when they knew that they were old.

It was an annoying answer, I know, but I responded by saying that I still feel young.

As young as I felt 20 years ago. Truly.

I wrote yesterday about the importance of aggressively trying new things whenever possible as a means of always feeling young.  

It's hard to feel old when life never gets old.

I suspect that I also feel young because I am constantly surrounded by younger people. As a teacher, my life is filled with kids who are decades younger than me, but because we spend so much time together and become so close, those decades always seem to melt away. Kids who are just 10 and 11 begin to understand me better than some of my own friends, and I feel the same about them.

Later on, when these kids grow up, many come back. They babysit my children. Attend my storytelling shows. Visit the classroom. Become genuine friends. 

This week I'm teaching storytelling at Miss Porter's, an all girls school in Connecticut. I'm working with girls ages 11-15, and I have a staff of juniors, seniors, and college students working with me as well. 

I'm spending my days telling stories. Listening to their stories. Teaching. Laughing. Walking around campus together. Eating meals together. I'm a 45 year-old man sitting at a table with 19 and 20 year-old women, but except for the occasional reference that I make that soars over their heads, I honestly don't feel much older than them.

We're working together. Doing the same job. Trying to make the same difference in the lives of these girls. 

And it's not only through teaching that I stay in contact with young people. Last week at The Moth, I spent the evening with my twenty-something friend. Met his girlfriend. Hung out with some of his other friends, all younger than me.   

Keeping young people in your life is important.

I suspect that the reverse does not apply in this case. These younger people whose company I enjoy likely see me as older than they are. Much older in many cases.

I know this.

They know my life story. They know how long I have been teaching. They are aware of my writing career.  They understand the long journey I have taken to get to this place. They see the bits of gray hair and know that I was alive before the Internet even existed.   

I'm quite certain that the decades don't melt away as easily for them as they do for me.

But that's okay. It doesn't matter. When I spend time in the company of people who are one or two or three decades younger than me, those decades really do melt away for me. Before long, I see them as fellow human beings, occupying a space in my life like any other person, regardless of age.

It's a beautiful thing when you feel as close to a 10 year-old boy or a 20 year-old woman as you do to your 45 year-old friends. 

Recently, I played golf with three friends who are about my age. We had a great time together, but throughout the day, there were the occasional groans associated with getting older. Painful joints. Tired muscles. Expanding waist lines. Laments about a time when they could hit the ball farther and straighter.

I have no problems with the groans. I try to avoid them myself, and on that day, I honestly felt none of them. I play golf more often than these friends, so perhaps my body was better prepared for the rigors of the game.

I've also never hit the ball that far to begin with.

But I tried to imagine how I might feel if I was constantly in the company of friends and colleagues who lamented their advancing ages. Groaned about muscles and joints. 

I think I might start to feel old, too.

But it turns out that children and teens and even people in their 20's and 30's don't lament their age. They don't groan about their ailments.

This is a good thing.         

If you want to feel young, find a way to spend time in the company of people younger than yourself.