In a magazine interview published last week, actress Susan Sarandon, 66, was asked about the “best age.” For a woman, she replied, “It has be to post-30 because you spend your 20s trying to figure out who you are and what your voice is.”
It is easy to conclude that advanced age brings wisdom and maturity, but I believe the best age for men is age 20-25. Maybe, as Sarandon said, they might be trying to figure themselves out, but they also are in a position to dream big. There are hallways with many open doors. These doors begin closing as one approaches middle age, and they become firmly locked as one hits the senior circuit.
At age 20-25, you believe you can write that great book, your rock band will sell millions, your start-up company (or your career) will soar and dominate the market. Too often, by the age of 50, we settle for a job with decent health insurance.
As author H.H. Munro (“Saki”) wrote, “The young have aspirations ... the old have reminiscences of what never happened.” One of these statements is hopeful, though possible naive; the other a winsome shrug at what could have been.
With a new movie version, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is once again topping best-seller lists. The theme revolves around Jay Gatsby’s yearning to achieve and his youthful ambition to succeed and fit in with high society. In the final chapter, the narrator muses, “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it ... Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.”
There is comfort and satisfaction in all ages, but the young have the benefit of wonder even while trying to find their voice.
Whimsically, if I were to pick the “best age” I would say seven. Old enough to be independent, young enough to be filled with wonder, and too little to get into any real trouble. I would not be 14, possibly the worst age of all.
I agree with Susan Sarandon that in our 20s we are still trying to figure out who we are. Still in the throes of early marriage, parenthood, and career, my 20s felt like a juggling act where one ball was always being added to the mix just as I was getting the hang of things.
By our 30s, most of us have gained some proficiency but are nowhere close to figuring it all out. Moms in their 30s are busy chauffeuring the kids to soccer practices, to ballet classes, to piano lessons, and finding time to help with homework and fix dinner. “Figuring it out” was more about logistics than deep soul-searching.
By the time we hit 40, we are able to catch our breath and assess where we are. It’s probably the cause of the midlife crisis. Prior to 40, we are too busy to be maudlin and desperate. Around the time the kids leave home and the years to retirement seem daunting, we take a look at things and say, “Is that all there is?”
Fifty can be the age of contentment. Our bodies may not be as indestructible as we once thought, and we are not famous for anything. I don’t feel the need to strive for greater corporate success or title. I’m more willing to take chances. The motto of my 54th year has been, “If you can, you should.” It applies to flying to Phoenix to see Clapton, fulfilling a dream to hike the Redwoods, and taking a late start at yoga.
From here on out, every age is going to be the “best age.” I’m counting on it.