The words above – those in the title of this post – confuse me. And that means I’m confused quite often as I hear these words on quite a regular basis. In fact, these very words were spoken to me as recently as yesterday after I talked about my travels of the past year to an interested person I had just met.

Let me break down these words and try to explain why I always end up standing there in silence, with a distorted attempt of a polite smile on my face, every time I hear them.

You’re Still Young

Young, old, middle-aged…I’m a firm believer that one’s age, in terms of how many years they have been present on planet Earth, is a poor indication of a person’s abilities, life views and general lifestyle decisions. However, that doesn’t stop us from using these numbers to stereotype and make broad assumptions about other people all the time.

For example, if someone learns that you’re 33 years old, they will often think that you must therefore be married, perhaps with children, be in the midst of a solid career, long past your adventurous days and just living a well-structured, responsible life as all 33 year-olds are expected to live.

Well, I’m 33 years old and none of the above applies to me.

In addition, every 20 year-old out there isn’t automatically lively, youthful and carefree. And likewise, there are plenty of 80 year-olds who put most 20 year-olds to shame in terms of energy and passion for life.

As Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

So, whether you’re 22, 32 or 102, don’t let anyone (including yourself) convince you that at some point in the future, you will no longer be ‘young’. You have the ability to stay young for as long as you desire.

I’m Doing ‘IT’!

Apparently, not only am I still young, but I’m supposed to keep on doing ‘it’ while I can. However, I have a relatively strong hunch that neither I nor anyone telling me about this ‘it’ actually knows what ‘it’ is.

Is ‘it’ traveling around the world, living overseas, not pursuing a traditional career, wearing sandals every day, not being married, napping in hammocks, eating Indian food three times per week, working on the Internet or just pursuing my dreams in general?

At the end of the day, ‘it’ seems to involve anything associated with living outside the normal boundaries and expectations of life. And this ‘it’ is often implied to be a phase that I’m expected to grow out of, just as a child grows out of their fondness for nose-picking. The fact that I consider my decisions to be more than a nameless phase oftentimes goes completely unnoticed.

So, if your life involves an ‘it’, one that you are truly passionate about, you should always take it seriously regardless of what others may think. Not even for one brief moment, should you believe that time is running out on your ability to live the life you want.

And with that said…

While I Can?

Is there something that occurs at age 35 that nobody has told me about? Does it become illegal to carry a backpack or to enter India? Do I wake up one day and find that my shorts and t-shirts have been replaced by a closet full of pin-striped suits and my passport has turned into an employee access card?

I personally find it difficult to envision an inability to do something tomorrow that I am currently able to do today.

I know the common argument is that once you have a family, you then need a career, which leads to increased financial responsibilities that make it increasingly more difficult to pursue whatever your ‘it’ may be in life. But I say, boo to that. This view of life assumes that everyone is one day required to give up the pursuit of their dreams and goals and then settle down (if settling down is not one of your goals), not because you want to settle down, but because you are supposed to settle down.

I feel that if you want to carry on living your ‘it’ for all eternity, then go for it…why not? Don’t let the idea of ‘while you can’ stand in your way. Next year’s birthday cake is not going to be laced with a ‘settle down’ drug that instantly forces you to replace your current life with a completely different version. No matter how old you are and no matter what you’re trying to achieve, you remain in control of your decisions at all times.

Once again, Henry Ford sums it up best: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

And the next time that I hear “you’re still young, do it while you can”, Mr. Ford’s words shall be my reply.

Have you been told these same words before?