Aging begins when you stop changing

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Aging begins when you stop changing


“This year-end’s special, ‘One Year Older,’ ordered by Mr. X, will be delivered tomorrow morning, so please verify your receipt upon delivery.” A few hours before New Year’s Day, I received a text indicating that a product ordered by a co-worker would be delivered soon. As a complimentary gift, “More Wrinkles” would be added for free, the message read. But a warning followed: “This product cannot be returned, exchanged or refunded. Please be advised that if you abuse the delivered product with anti-aging products, you will receive “Ten Years Older” in a few years.”

The clock struck midnight and the gift had arrived. When you cannot turn down a present, it is best to take it with gratitude.

After I turned 50 a few years ago, I grew rather insensitive to getting older. As a friend or a colleague dies of a chronic illness or an unfortunate accident, I sometimes feel that the rest of my life may be a bonus. It seems only natural that I should be wary as I compare increasing average life-spans with decreasing expected pension payments. But for some reason, I don’t want to fret about my old days. It may be the last remaining pride as a baby boomer who has lived so fervently all along.

For some time, I have lived by the conviction that everything in life is relative to the way you look at it. If I wear black glasses, the world will be black. Through yellow lenses, the world will turn yellow. If you have a negative mindset, everything in life will seem distorted. You can spot the silver lining in the dark clouds only when you look with positive eyes. Who would like an old man who is dark and negative? I drew a big balloon in my mind and put every dark thought in it. On the morning of the New Year, I let the balloon fly away.

When you grow older, you become more negative about changes and even reject them altogether. A big branch will break when it gathers snow. However, small branches may bend to shake off the snow and spring back to the original state. Some 2000 years ago, Lao Zhu was walking in the snow and realized that it was better to change the shape and follow the changes rather than being inflexible and resistant.

A person who follows changes does not grow old. When you stop changing, aging begins. I am grateful to my co-worker for sending me unexpected humor as a gift for New Year’s Eve that made me laugh and realize the meaning of life at the same time.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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