Monday afternoon I was on a flight to do a speaking event for the Yale School of Management, and the universe provided me with the most wonderful seat mate. I typically split my time on airplanes between work and leisure (allowing myself the guilty pleasure of watching a mishmash of whatever t.v. shows were free on iTunes), but this time I was mainly working. Half way through the flight the older woman next to me asked if she could read the magazine that was in my seat pocket, and somehow she started asking me about Twitter. “What is this ‘twitting’ all about?” Oh my god she was cute. I started explaining how it all worked and why people use it, and she was soaking in everything she could (all while making funny, snarky comments). She told me that as an 80-year old she still had a desire to learn about all the new things that were going on. She didn’t understand why some of her friends her age “were too scared” to keep up with new technology or trends.
She asked me what I was working on and what I do. I told her about it and then asked her what she does. She replied that she was retired, so she didn’t “do” anything. I prodded her a bit and made the statement that just because she was retired didn’t mean she didn’t “do” anything. She paused for a minute and then confessed “I’m 80 years old and see my life as a circle, of which I am on the last slice. I am on a journey to expand that slice as much as I can. I explore new ideas. I read a lot.” One of the new ideas she was exploring was the concept that more exists than what we can see. (I was surprised by this one as her late husband was a minister, but it wasn’t the last curveball she threw me.) Another was that language limits our ability to expand what is possible. An example she gave me was that two hundred years ago the word “airplane” didn’t exist, because no one could fathom it. The same could be said for the words “telephone”, “internet” or “Tweeter, or whatever that’s called” as she giggled.
We talked for the rest of the flight about various things associated with personal growth, pushing boundaries, learning, taking risk and the great things about being curious. We exchanged contact information, I learned her name was Dee, and that she also lived in the Twin Cities. She invited me to get together sometime with her and some of her friends who like to “talk about things”. She had a wheelchair waiting for her when we landed and before she got in it she gave me a kiss on the cheek.
How freakin’ awesome is she?! I aspire to be like her when I reach her age and beyond. I want to be a life-long learner who has a zest for life and its unlimited possibilities. I want to continue to have amazing, mind blowing experiences until the very end. I always say you’re either growing or you’re dying. Dee is still clearly growing by leaps and bounds though she is entering her 80s. In fact, it’s possible that she is just about to begin the climb to the peak of her mental abilities. The human body has the capacity to adapt at any age. Studies show that senior citizens can increase muscle mass well into their 80s with resistance training. It is possible to positively adapt at any age if we give our bodies the right stimulus. Unfortunately, we can also adapt to disuse – growing weaker physically and mentally if we don’t continue to use those “muscles”. “Use it or lose it” is more than just an analogy – it’s a physiological truth.
Dee is seriously flexin’ it.
How about you? Which way are you adapting? Right at this moment your body is adapting. Have you been sitting for several hours? Your body is adapting to that. Has it been several hours since you’ve eaten anything? Your body is adapting to that.
Make the choice (everything is our choice) to adapt positively. Set yourself up for growth, improvement, and increased capacity – both mentally as well as physically.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do everything I can to keep myself out of diapers for the longest time possible. I don’t want to be “trapped” in my body when I’m older.
I’m going for it. All of it.