am at the local cafe. Not the best one, but tolerable for a cup of coffee or two. The owner is working at the bar today. And since I hardly learn anything, like “never sit at the bar when there’s an owner present because he will be talking non-stop”, I sit there, right in front of him.
“Hey, you are a smart man, Alex, aren’t you?” he starts right away.
I have not even ordered my coffee yet. I get a feeling that this might be trick question to drag me into another conversation of his favorites: on politics, other people’s appearance or character, the importance of patriarchy, religion, disabled people and so on. And I immediately regret my decision. Why oh why have I decided to sit there? Have I no brains at all?
– Well, I suppose you can say that, but I would not call myself smart – I reply cautiously.
– Tell me what. I give classes in film making…
It needs an explanation. See, besides being a so-so cafe owner, he is also a kind of local town reporter and a bit of a film making teacher. Something of everything, with nothing under control, sadly. A jack of all trades, master of none, suits here perfectly. I wish it was the other way. And I would sincerely love him to succeed, as I do love visiting the cafe I am sitting at, it has great potential. But to my regret, all of it is, no doubt, wasted.
“… and they are like for teenagers and scholars,” he carries on. “For their pass time, you know. But it happens so that lately I get a lot of requests from old people. Like really old ones. Over 40 or even 50. Weird, is it not? I mean to start studying anything at this age, is not it insane? Do you recon it’s some kind of fashion for oldies? I really don’t get why they need that.” the owner finishes his speech and stares at me, waiting for an answer. What could I say here? I have no idea. To suggest I was disgusted and devastated to hear something like that is to say nothing at all. I have not even tried to explain my point to the cafe owner on the matter.
I knew he would not get it.
But I believe I kept a straight face and replied something in polite and neutral manner to avoid further discussion of the topic. I kept thinking about it for a few days more. Not about why the “oldies” are still happy to discover new things, but about the life this cafe owner leads. Life that makes him ask questions such as this.
I should say that our conversation took place in Russia. Why is it important to note? Because in Russia you are expected to become an “adult” in your 18. Why in quotes? See, Russian culture has an extremely perverted understanding of what being an adult really means. It will take me about 3 other blog posts to try and explain it to you, so let’s just drop it for now. The thing is, every time I am in Russia, I feel myself as an old man. Things people expect here from you, well, they are expected too early. And when in, say, UK your life only starts at 30 and only blossoms by forties, in Russia it’s about the time your life as an active member of society is coming to an end.
Remember an episode in Sex and the City that’s called “Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys“, where most of the men under 30 are considered to be teenagers, almost children? That’s how I was and I am treated in US, UK and all over Europe. And I love it. In countries like Russia people don’t have that luxury. Why? I have no idea.
That was a remarkably long and sad introduction for what I wanted to say here.
Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart.
Sings Frank Sinatra in a ballad by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh.
Do we know? I think we let ourselves forget about it pretty often. We walk around with these serious faces, constantly worrying about stability, future, taxes, responsibilities an so on. We strive to be respectable, successful, sensible, we live to other people’s expectations. Does that cause anything but anxiety? I highly doubt it. Well, depression may be, or a midlife crisis.
This habit of living sometime later makes us exist, not live.
Our lives fly by us with a crazy speed of a car on an autobahn. And if things such as money, food, clothing are renewable – time is not. We don’t have too much of it to waste. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life having a mind of a grumpy old man? I don’t.
But the main thing is, don’t get old at heart when you have a great time ahead of you. And even if you are 105, and most of your days are behind, why give up now?
Every day can be an amazing adventure if you make it.
PS. I am including that marvelous song “Young at Heart” written by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh and performed by Bing Crosby (I am a fan of Crosby, so naturally I prefer his version), because despite doing my best in explaining my point of view here in that post, these guys did it much better.