I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said youth was wasted on the young. When I heard it as a teenager I decided he didn't know what he was talking about and just envied those whose candles were not guttering out. I've lived a bit since then and now I know what he meant.
It seems strange that we struggle through childhood, adolescence and early adulthood to get to a point where we've learned something, some skill or profession or placed in the world, only to be forced to slow down just when we get it right. Time and tide wait for no man -- or woman. So many cliches come to mind, including Strike while the iron is hot. There is no other way to make a sword blade; you cannot make it when the iron has cooled into immobility, much like muscles and tendons and circulating blood that slows with time and tide.
We should all, like Fitzgerald's begin old and grow toward youth since we all end up the same way: in diapers being taken care of by someone else. At least we would be less trouble and much smaller, take up less space in the ground.
The years of trying to fit in and all the emotional trials and tribulations when speaking up was one way to get beaten or ostracized are now over for me. I have reached an age where I no longer care what people think of me or what I say. I have earned the right to be salty or quiet or blunt and I use my rights judiciously and often. All the things I hid for fear of being censured and cast out of my family now come easily to my lips as they have always come quickly to my mind. I have my own income and my own place in the world, a place I have earned and paid for, and I need beg favor from no one, including my family. If they do not know who I am by now, then they never will. Chances are most of them never will, holding in their memories a self-effacing child and young woman desperate for approval and approbation. The child and young woman I once was was like Sally Field when she won the Oscar for Norma Rae. I was stunned that people actually liked and saw me as someone with talent and ability. No more.
I have always known I had talent and ability, but much of it was wasted doing what I was told I ought to do, bowing to duty and expectations, none of which were my idea of how to live. Oh, to have those years back and be able to use the strength, agility and flexibility I had, but then I would not have the wisdom to know how to use them. That is what Shaw meant, that all that energy and youthful power was like spitting into the wind. It ends up back in your face.
No, even though I am less mobile than I once was and cannot walk for miles without thought, I am content to be middle aged, if by middle aged one means that I will live to be 110. I do not mind the snap, crackle and pop of joints first thing in the morning or the pistol crack of knees when I kneel or crouch. They are reminders that I am still here and still moving about. The grumbling of gristle and crunch of cartilage are music to my ears first thing in the morning, no matter how stiffly I move for the first two steps, because they are a signal that I am alive and able to feel.
I see women of my age and older who have given up own bras, the breasts drooping like heavy ripe pears from frail branches, and I smile. They have come to terms with gravity and time. I laugh whenever I see Maxine on a card and read her pithy pronouncements because what she says in print I say almost as often to anyone listening and to those foolish enough to ask a question without really wanting the answer. I do warn them ahead of time but, with the impetuosity and carelessness of youth, they will ask and hesitate. It is all the invitation I need to have my say, and I will have my say, one way or another. In writing or verbally, the lessons and experiences of more than half a century of living spill from my lips, not unheeded, for I do consider my audience, and some small glimmer of hope remains that one or two or even more young people will listen and remember. If not, it doesn't matter.
Like leaves inscribed with poems, thoughts and deeds I cast the leaves of my late summer tree to the winds to carry where they will never fearing that they will land and some inquisitive soul will glimpse the words and want to know more. In the meantime, I keep speaking and writing and casting leaves to breezes bound for nowhere and everywhere. I have earned the right.