The season is changing, and it feels like the blinking yellow light between green and red. Pause and proceed with caution, cuz things are gonna be different. Autumn is our annual metamorphosis when we give up the pretty dress we wore all summer and start to let our leg hair grow again. It’s pie season. Enjoy the harvest calories and chuck down some sugared fruit. Let go of your inhibitions and have a second helping of something delicious. Prepare to put on your winter weight. Autumn is our last hurrah before the season of rest when we sit beside our lamps and mainline stories, books, films, podcasts, the content blanket that comforts us while we wait for the light to change. We’re in transition.
Yellow light heralds the autumn equinox, a time when day and night share the clock as equals, six months from the minty vernal equinox in March, when I’ll be 70. This is my latest ponder. It’s only math, but it’s also time, a very long stretch of time. Like the autumn light changes colors and lengthens shadows, seven decades illuminate a new perspective. I’m mapping myself. Asking myself questions. Reconsidering the ways I spend my energy, what seems like it’s working, what feels tired, how I can improve.
Being 70 is a new beginning. My dad is almost 91 and goes for a miles-long recumbent bike ride in the morning. His mother lived until the week before her 100th birthday and my maternal grandmother lived to be 103. If our lifespan has increased to a century, then it seems to me we should be defining middle age as 40 to 70, and our ultimate stage as 70 to 100. So, I’m like an autumn leaf turning from middle age to my ultimate stage. I like the leaf metaphor because it conveys an ongoing cycle, one generation puts down the nutrients to feed the next. Our ultimate stage is regenerative. We are the medium in which the future is planted. Youth sprouts from our story.
These days ultimate olds are everywhere. Society has never seen so many. But despite the trend, we are not a monoculture. Our hair may be similarly aluminum, but there is great diversity among the soft shoe set. Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m not telling you anything new. In our heads we hear the same voice we heard 50 years ago. My partner and I went to a Carlos Santana concert and saw 10,000 seats filled mostly with olds. A sea of grey hair sparkled like tinsel under the lights. We are changing what it means to age, morphing the cultural blueprint followed by our parents and grandparents, doing recreational drugs, dancing to the music, using social media, shopping online, driving EVs, going vegan. Still tuned into what’s cool.
As my 60s unfurled I felt unprepared for aging. Now at 69, I’m a pro. And in my ultimate stage, I’ll be even better at adapting. I have less resistance, and more momentum, although now it’s mostly mental momentum. I accept how people see me, the saggy face, the crow’s feet, the grey hair and the eyeglasses denting my nose. I know they make judgements about who I am and how I think. But don’t we all do that to everybody? Don’t we always judge people first by how they look? In my ultimate stage I expect ageism. It doesn’t ruffle my feathers as much as it used to. Maybe because when I look at the youngs around me, I think how lucky I am to have grown up when I did. I don’t want to be young anymore. 70 is cool. That’s the insight I carry with me into my ultimate stage.