20’s – You sling burgers at Bronco’s until you have exactly enough money to buy an Epiphone 12-string guitar. You quit your job, buy the guitar, and stay home writing songs about heartbreak, despair, and how work is a copout.
50’s – You work at a profession you sometimes love and sometimes can barely tolerate. You worry about your 401K and health insurance. You bring work home. You work in the evenings at your dining room table. You catch up on work-related paperwork most weekends. You think about work whenever you’re not working. While you’re working at home, you listen on your brand new 120-gig iPod to songs about heartbreak, despair, and how work is a copout.
20’s – You can eat your weight in French Fries, which you wash down with Coke or butterscotch malts. You like your butter with a side of mashed potatoes. You go barefoot all months of the year except January. You drink ½-gallon of whole milk daily. You ingest things not meant for human consumption on the advice of your trusted friend Arnie, who’s anemic and has a chronic cough. You spend long periods sitting motionless, wearing headphones cranked loud enough to be heard one floor below. You sleep an average of 4 hours a night, sometimes on the living room floors of strangers. You haven’t been to the doctor since 7th grade. You don’t drink water because it might be polluted. You are thin as a rail and healthy as a really healthy horse.
50’s – You count Weight Watchers points. You live on whole grains, lean chicken or fish, and leafy greens. You whittle away at your life’s savings to buy organic. You take Centrum Silver, Spirulina, Vitamins C, E, and D, fish oil, calcium, and nutritional yeast. You drink 6 oz. of skim milk daily with your vitamins. You exercise regularly. You wear sensible shoes. You drink 3 quarts of filtered water daily. You get checkups, bloodwork, mammograms, colonoscopies, pelvic exams, and eye exams. You have arthritis, bad joints, heart palpitations, a mysterious skin discoloration on one arm, and you’re 30 pounds overweight.
20’s – You worry that you’re too (short/tall/fat/skinny/pale/dark/smart/stupid/loud/quiet), and you’re sure people don’t like you that much.
50’s – You worry that you’re too (short/tall/fat/skinny/pale/dark/smart/stupid/loud/quiet), and you’re sure people don’t like you that much.
20’s – A girl who goes by the name “Butterfly” you met once at a chakra-clearing workshop in New Mexico shows up at your house at 4 a.m. with her old man Carl, her cousin Franco, Franco’s pregnant girlfriend ChiChi, and a Rottweiler named Little Bit. They raid your fridge, crash on your living room floor for a couple hours, pack up several of your albums, and head for Montana. You never wake up. The next day, the milk, beer, winter coats, leftover spaghetti (the albums, though you won’t notice that for a couple weeks), and toilet paper are gone. Little Bit is on the couch and won’t let you in your living room. You go back to bed.
50’s – Your good friends from Minnesota tell you 3 weeks in advance that they’re coming to visit. You immediately put clean sheets on the guest room bed and set out decorative dishes of potpourri. They email 2 weeks later telling you they’re still planning to come. You develop a diabetic-conscious meal plan. They email 1 week later telling you they’re still planning to come. The night before they arrive, you put an organic free-range chicken and parsnips in the crockpot. They call you twice the next day to give you ETA’s from the road. You have a wonderful dinner and all stay up laughing and drinking coffee till at least 10 p.m. You discuss reckless youth, multiple vitamins, and failing memory. You discuss reckless youth, multiple vitamins, and failing memory. You make blueberry pancakes in the morning. They leave, you load the dishwasher, go back to bed.
20’s – You go to someone’s house to party, go to the bar at 10 p.m. to hear a band, leave the bar at 2:30 a.m., go to IHOP for coffee and waffles, go to someone’s house to party, go home at 10 a.m., sleep till 2 p.m., shower, rinse, repeat.
50’s – You go to someone’s house for one glass of red wine (antioxidants), go to the bar at 5:30 p.m. to hear a trio and have a dark beer (B vitamins and antioxidants), leave the bar at 7:30 p.m., go home and eat a salad with bean sprouts and avocado, watch TV for an hour, go to bed with a book, fall asleep after 3 paragraphs, don’t go out again for at least a month.
What’s it all mean? Maybe part of getting older is stripping the rosy glaze off the trifocals so we can stop clinging to a romanticized past. These looks back help us see that we were absurd & extremely lucky at 20 and really, nothing has changed.