I'll never forget a brief exchange I had during my college semester abroad. I was sitting with a classmate when I (somewhat rudely) asked him how old he was.
He said, "Maybe 30."
I felt a bit sheepish. In my 22 years, it had never occurred to me that some people don't really keep track of their age.
I have wondered since then — would we be more relaxed if we stopped counting? Is it all this counting that is at the heart of the American obsession with age?
The answer came years later while I was thumbing through the famously wacky gift catalog SkyMall. On page 60, I found the “Tikker” — a watch that counts down to your death based on your own “health algorithm.”
As presumptuous as that seems, I think it merely reflects the flawed sense of certainty that many people like me have when they think about their age and the "life expectancy figures."
In other words, I think our obsession with age isn't about counting up but counting down. Knowing your exact age provides a more accurate figure of how many years you have left. That's why we use terms like "midlife crisis."
But life does not play out like a YouTube video with a progress bar. It is, you know, more like a confusing GIF that doesn’t loop. And I think that many people (like my classmate) understand this uncertainty far better than I do.
So 32 years in, I am remembering to be thankful for the long life I’ve had already. And I’m trying to remain aware of just how fortunate I am each day I am healthy and ultimately ask, "What good can I do with these days?"
Though I hope to live many more years, I can't set my watch to it.