Celebrating and contemplating my birthday

Feb 14, 2011 by

My birthday is coming up later this week. I’m definitely excited, (it may not surprise you to know that I’m the kind of person who celebrates her birthday for a week on either side of the actual date) but I’m also a little worried. Every birthday I’ve had for the last few years has worried me. Why? Well it may sound ridiculous, but getting older scares me.

Image courtesy of Flickr user freakgirl

Let me make it clear that I know I’m not ‘old’ (what does that even mean these days when American’s typically live 75+ years?) and I understand the advantages that age and experience can bring. But, as someone who defines herself and has defined herself as a young professional for many years, I often wonder where the line is between young and…not so young.

This brings up worries both silly and serious: when does it become ridiculous for one to define herself as ‘young’? And how ridiculous does that make her look if she continues to do so? But more importantly: what if, by becoming older, one begins to lose that essence of youth that is more important than one’s actual age?

Essence of youth. That sounds so fluffy and silly, but I think you know what I mean: a sense of idealism, openness to new and fresh ideas, willingness to pivot and change at a moment’s notice. Is it possible to retain these things? And how would you go about doing it?

I know it is possible. I know – and I’m sure you do too – wonderful people who have been doing the good work of social change for many more years than I and who have retained that sense of youthful idealism. Now I just need to figure out how I can be like them.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. Do you worry (even a little) about getting older? How do you retain that which makes you young at heart? And how can we, the ‘now generation’ of young nonprofit leaders, make sure that we carry our vision into the future intact?

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  • Hi Elisa,
    this is the first time I read your blog. I learned about you through the article on The Chronicle of Philantrophy that highlights Ms. Thurman’s list of 10 New Nonprofit voices. Congratulations.
    I am totally with you on asking the question: When do I stop calling myself a young professional? It is scary to ask yourself that question. Let’s just hope that as long as we feel comfortable using that adjective to describe ourselves, no one cares whether we’re young or not. What’s important is that we “feel” young, professional, active, ready to learn and listen to new ideas, always willing to learn and change, and happy with our acomplishments. I think it’s more important to be young at heart than to focus on our age. Maybe that’s the trick!

    • Thanks for the comment Sara and for reading the blog!

      I think you’re spot on: being young at heart is the key. I just worry that
      someday, when I’m not looking, my youthful heart will slip away. Hopefully
      if I continue trying to maintain it and value it, it will stay with me.

      Thanks again!