Education, Health & Wellbeing, philosophy, Politics

On Aging, Climate Change and Escaping Nihilism

You might think I’m a little young to be preoccupied with the passage of time, but I have acquired both an appreciative fascination for it and a vague uneasiness about it. Mostly, I’m trying to just enjoy what is – because eventually, it won’t be. I’m now that cousin/aunt who says things like “I remember when we listened to cassette tapes and CDs instead of video game soundtracks on YouTube” and “wait, you don’t know what a USB is?” My cousins recently declared me old when they found out I finished high school in 2015, and if that’s what Gen Z dubs to be the line these days, I don’t know how much hope there is for the rest of us. As a wise kōtiro once said to me, we should enjoy what ever stage we’re at while we’re in it. These rangatahi, dude: they know exactly what’s up.

Change is Nature

I also have a fair few gripes with society’s depiction of aging and the relentless stream of content aimed to make us feel ashamed of it. As a result, many of us seem to put ourselves down for, get anxious or embarrassed over what is definitively a natural process. Perhaps I sound reductive or simplistic about this, but it makes me sad when I see people I care about wasting time fretting about an unalterable fact of life. Why change ourselves in the hopes of being perceived as younger? Why use precious time and energy beating ourselves up for the shape of our bodies, the lines appearing or the grey hairs sprouting? I hope to never do that to myself, in spite of pressures from media and society to fear or feel guilty as I age.

Surely, getting older should be a cause for celebration. Lines and sagging and cellulite – are these not physical markers that we have lived through shit and learned things about ourselves in the process?

Enjoy your Youth

It might be a case of just-you-wait syndrome, but relentlessly as young people we have our opinions dismissed due to perceived ‘lack of experience’. Is there a sense of resentment there, or hint of jealousy? That as it currently stands, we young people have more time?

“‘Enjoy your youth’ sounds like a threat… but I will anyway.”

Regina Spektor – Older and Taller

I know that teenage me would be astounded by the 23 year old that she has become. Still bohemian; still hopelessly inquisitive, but much freer. Less anxious, more self-assured, and working on being unapologetic in practice, not just on paper (pixel). I read a letter I wrote to myself the other day and boy, have I strayed from my own expectations of who I thought I would be when I was fifteen. I much prefer who I am now though. I don’t think I’m ready for marriage yet, and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for penis.

Again making reference to previous schools of thought – I return to this quotation from my 2019 blog post:

There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a non-renewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and if you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever.

– Neil A. Fiore

Pushing it a little further: we can always make more money, but we can never get time back. When time is gone, memories are all we have. And videos, photos, keepsakes, if we’re lucky.

I know that I’ll blink and suddenly be 40. It’s bizarre to imagine, but it was equally bizarre for eight year old me to imagine my baby sister as a “big kid”. She turns 18 this year. It was just as strange to envision myself as a university student when high school stretched on and on. I’m 6 months out from gaining my Master’s degree.

Nature is Changing

Staring me down in my older adulthood is the vortex of climate change, which is already accelerating with a vengeance and I anticipate it to be worse than we all try to tell ourselves it will be. The most cruel part of it is I’ll probably dodge the most catastrophic aspects of it but it will strike at my children, and their children’s children, assuming we get that far – assuming that in spite of all this, I do the baby-making thing. I think about Z for Zachariah, a book I read for year 9 English, and I think about Sweet Tooth. Those worlds, while fictional, feel hopelessly tethered to a universe that is plowing towards us with no signs of stopping.

Escaping Nihilism

I have found myself at times tempted by nihilism. While that’s an easy place to exist from, it’s also highly unfulfilling. Furthermore, how can I hope to inspire and empower my future students if I choose to actively disengage from their futures? It is nothing if not hypocritical for me to stand in front of a classroom and tautoko these up and coming change-makers only to go home and tell myself that nothing we do will ever be good enough to avoid what is coming. Even if it is the truth – which is something none of us can objectively know, living in pointlessness is still the most futile thing there is. It is boring, and for what? To stand there on the sidelines and say I told you so? I don’t want to give any of my finite time and energy to the idea that we’re fucked. I’d rather focus on how I can acquire new skills, learn new things and figure out how we navigate the reality that awaits us. I’d rather use my time to make good, to have fun with the people I love, and to count all the beautiful things in my life. Time is fleeting. Papatūānuku owes us nothing, but I owe her my deepest gratitude.

2 thoughts on “On Aging, Climate Change and Escaping Nihilism”

  1. In an attempt to find meaning and relevance, people often turn to imagination and over-thinking. Some discover, there is no truth there. The happiest people I’ve ever known are honest, don’t think the grass is greener on the other side, work and take care of their family, correct the children when they’re wrong, and care for one another in honesty.

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