Awkward Age

I am at an awkward age; too old to be young but too young to be old.

I am in the eighth year of my fifth decade, or, put another way, I have passed the halfway point of becoming a Centurion by eight years.

You could also say that I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of my 39th birthday in February. I’m 58 years old and in February will be 59.

Actually, I think each of us has two ages: a chronological age and a psychological age.

Chronologically, I am 58; psychologically, I am much younger.

There are really two ages of me: the inner me (IM) age and the outer me (OM) age.

OM plods along the chronological timeline second by second, growing older with each tick of the clock.

IM can flit around time like a wisp of smoke drifting around a chimney in a light breeze.

Chronological time is irrelevant to IM, who can slip forward and backward in time at will, like H.G. Wells did in the Time Machine.

One minute IM is 12 years old, feeling all the pubescent awkwardness of youth; next minute he’s 30, feeling the strength and self-assuredness of prime chronological age.

OM is steady and predictable. Living chronologically calls for that sort of consistency.

IM, on the other hand, isn’t fettered by the realities of time. IM can still be performing antics of misspent youth while OM is long suffering their physical consequences.

I think in a well-balanced person, IM and OM can live in peaceful harmony, even enjoy a productive symbiotic relationship.

IM often prods OM to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do.

IM can still do the 100-yard dash in 10.2 seconds; OM tries, but would do better using a calendar rather than a stopwatch to gauge his time.

IM can still bounce up stairs two or three at a time; OM tries but knees, back, neck and most bodily joints protest too loudly.

IM sees each new day as an unknown adventure waiting to be explored; OM plans each new day the day before because it’s one less day to get everything done before the final chronological day, whenever that might be.

IM is impetuous and spontaneous; OM is deliberate and plans spontaneity.

I recall when I thought that 30 was pretty old, until I reached that chronological milestone; then 40 seemed old and 50 was ancient. Now, as I approach that sixth decade, 70 doesn’t seem old at all.

Well, I guess that depends on whom you ask; it’s a matter of perspective.

IM would say 70 is older than some rocks; OM would tell you that 70 is the new 60. Which is largely true; people are taking better care of themselves, living longer and enjoying it more.

Ask any parks and rec professional who works in senior programming and they’ll tell you that many 70-year-olds today are line dancing and bungee jumping instead of--or in addition to--quilting or playing checkers.

Modern medicine and technology have allowed IM and OM to live in closer harmony with each other.

In reality, IM and OM depend on each other. The only reference to reality that IM has is based on OM’s experience; IM can only feel 12 years old because OM has experienced it.

OM relies on IM to encourage him through the tough, unknown circumstances that time presents.

I have recently gone through a couple of significant life-changing experiences that have altered the course of my life and my family’s. I suppose that’s why this is weighing on me and why I feel I am at an awkward age.

My IM and OM have to work together more closely than they have in a while. IM is ready to plunge off in new directions, try new things, take some chances and see what happens. OM feels that pull, but is also rooted in the present reality of things that must be taken care of.

At this writing, the conundrum remains unresolved. For IM, the impetuous youth, things aren’t moving fast enough. For OM, with the advantage of age and experience, things could slow down a bit so he can catch his breath.

So, on this Friday, November 18, 2011, who is guiding your thinking? Is it your IM telling you, “Dude, it’s TGIF, chill, have an extra cup of coffee and let’s just see what the day has in store?”

Or is it OM, reminding you of the many miles to go before this day is done.

Listen to both voices, because somewhere in the middle lies the best course of action.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is a regular contributor to PRB and lives in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (678) 350-8642 or e-mail