On Aging

Last Fall (2013), I took a class titled "Perspectives in Medical Humanities". As I walked into class one day, the professor declared a 10-minute quiz. That wasn't unusual but the question was; it wasn't our typical "What did XYZ say" or "What does this mean for medical practice" quiz. She completely spun the reading on us. Here's my original submission. Someone got an A! :) How do you feel about yourself growing old?

Last week, I decided to peruse my old pictures from freshman year. What I saw shocked me. There I was - a young, unstressed, full-cheeked and healthy-looking human. I stared at myself in the mirror and tried to find a resemblance but I could not figure out what exactly had changed about my face; I know my body had gotten thinner. This was scary. I almost cried. Where had my youthfulness gone?

Three years of toiling in college had made me unaware of the changes that were occurring on me physically and although this aging has nothing to do with pathology or morbidity, the reality that this is going to continue happening scares me. Aging as a whole is terrifying to me. Why can’t we remain young and agile forever with our age increasing in number of course? And although I wish we could not age physically and lose or experience deterioration of our body’s organs, I do not think it is wise to deliberately prolong one’s lifespan.

I see a beauty in aging. The gray hair, the droopy eyes, the frail skin and feebleness all signify that one has reached the apex of life and/or living. Of course, this is much too frequently altered by diseases. And as I am growing older, I can only imagine what it would feel like to get to that apex. I think it is a good thing that I went through my old pictures because though I was terrified at the change, it made me realize that aging is inevitable and all humans must go through this process.

As I age, I hope to age gracefully and I hope I make lifestyle choices now that will not negatively impact my aging process. I hope that once in a while, I can stop to smell the flowers, to smile at people and to enjoy life because the one thing that terrified me the most when I compared my pre-freshman year pictures to myself now was that I had not been taking care of myself. I do not want to be in my 80’s and look back at my youthful self with regret. As much as I want to succeed in life, I have made the decision to take proper care of myself and enjoy the company of people because by doing that, aging will not be jolting. And if disease decides to set in, as far as I did my part with lifestyle choices, then so be it.

In retrospect, I solemnly take that last line back. Nooooooo!