There’s an old-school video game we all know in which you guide your little plumber along in a straight line. Once you pass a certain point, you can’t go back; only the path ahead can be rendered. Behind lies nothing but pixelated memories.
Now compare that to the huge scope of an open-world game. There’s ostensibly a main quest, but the real joy comes from exploration, from getting lost, from going back to revisit something in the light of newly acquired information or skills or just out of sheer curiosity.
Our traditional idea of a linear progression from “youth” to “age” is like the former. We pass through each stage — youth, adulthood, middle age, late middle age, old age — dealing with their expectations in sequence. Once a level is complete, it is done, no matter how much you might have enjoyed it or want to have a go at doing it better. There’s an accepted order and set expectations, and seemingly we don’t question them.
If you have any assumptions about what aging means, you’re probably wrong.
This is a horribly limiting way to live our lives. What if we wanted to start from the bottom in a new career in our forties? What if we wanted to try casual dating in our fifties? And what if we felt ready to pioneer bold new approaches to senior management in our twenties? I believe all those things are possible, if only we could relax the tyranny of expectation bound up with our understanding of “youth” and “age.”