I'm Not "Benjamin Buttoning," Nor Do I Want To, But I'm Feeling More Youthful Than Ever

I think I'm finally getting okay with "the inevitability of aging."
Publish date:
November 13, 2013
aging, youth

I recently posted this picture on Facebook:

It's a goofy impromptu picture I took of the knee-high pleather pirate-ish boots I bought for a show my husband and I are working on.

The boots are so not "me," and I thought some of my close friends would get a good laugh. And, duh, a part of me thought I looked kinda cool.

The responses ranged from "Hawt" to "You know you wanted those all along" to this comment which gave me some pause.

Huh. I know my friend meant this comment to be a compliment, and I did take it as such, but I also have some mixed feelings about it.

I've written about my issues with aging before. Earlier this year I had sort of a freak-out that I was actually starting to look my age, and I started to worry I wouldn't be able to hide behind any sort of "wunderkind" potential I still might have.

But the year has moved on, and in the past few months I've had a couple sudden reminders of our mortality. My perspective has changed. The idea of aging being a privilege as opposed to a trap to be avoided has become a constant in my thoughts.

To quote myself, I think I'm finally getting okay with "the inevitability of aging."

Now I'm not saying I throw a party for every wrinkle or line that graces my face, there are nights I look at myself in the mirror and think, "Damn, Lou, you're not 25 anymore," but I'm becoming somewhat fascinated with the age appearing on my face.

What I am noticing is that the age in my body is bringing a renewed sense of vigor and adventure to my person. It sounds awfully dramatic to say I'm trying to "seize the day," but I'm realizing our days are in fact limited, and that is exactly what I've been doing.

I try to wait less, do things that I'm afraid of, and leap more often without planning out several levels of safety nets. Even though I'm just now conscious of this transformation, I realize this is a process that has been happening to me for some time. More and more I'm being told that I'm a "young spirit" instead of an "old soul."

In high school and college, teachers and professors always remarked that I was like a "little grown up." They talked to me differently than they did my peers, leveling with me as opposed to instructing me.

I definitely did my share of the "dumb" things associated with youth and inexperience, but amidst all of that, I was often the mom to many of my partners in crime. It was a role I settled naturally into, and it gave me purpose to be go-to caregiver when wild nights would get out of hand.

"You're like junior faculty," is how one of my college professors described me. With the title "Assistant Production Manager" in my university's theatre department, I was like a glorified hall monitor. A much cooler, more understanding hall monitor I'd like to think (though in retrospect, I'm sure some would beg to differ), but an extension of the grown-ups nonetheless.

This carried through into my mid/late twenties. Then something started to change.

I think I unclenched. I stopped worrying what everybody else thought of me so much, and started to do ME more.

I think most people would call this growing up, the direct result of which was that I chilled out and discovered a sense of whimsy I'd long looked down upon.

Being dropped into the giant ocean of people and experiences which is Los Angeles, and later O'ahu, made me realize that I couldn't control everything and everybody's actions and reactions around me. I gained a sense of freedom (and a better sense of humor about myself).

A couple months ago I was on an airplane and opened up a magazine in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt was being interviewed.

The article mentioned the fact that he himself had sort of "Benjamin Buttoned." I believe it was John Lithgow who commented on how when JGL was a kid on the set of "3rd Rock From the Sun," he was like a little old man. However, in adulthood, he's lightened up and become a rather youthful adult.


Though I usually am not in sync with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this rang true for me.

I've grown from a sort of serious, wannabe adult, to an actual adult with a young streak.

If you'd told my 20-year-old self this was going to happen, I probably would have been embarrassed and doubled down my efforts to be taken seriously. But living it now, it feels right.

Yeah, my body doesn't bounce back the way it used to. I get TIRED. But I'm trying to find a pleasure in this. For the first time in years I'm really FEELING my body. I'm aware of how my muscles and skin and joints work. I know my limits, and I know how to push them.

There's a small part of me that wishes I'd taken greater advantage of my early 20's resilience -- I really wish I'd started taking those contortion classes sooner -- but another part of age I've found, is not dwelling (or committing to trying not to dwell) on coulda-shoulda- woulda.

I don't regret any part of the journey I've taken. What is there to regret? I don't think I missed out anything. My old soulness has given me a solid foundation on which to build all my "young spirit" hijinks.

So I'm not necessarily "Benjamin Buttoning" nor do I want to anymore. I think deep down I'm still an "old soul," but I'm embracing the fact that age has inspired me to traipse through life with a little more youthful, though thoughtful, abandon.

Do you find yourself "growing young"? Were you, or are you, an old soul? How has aging changed you?