I spent some time trying to decide on a title for this article. Should I call it Growing Old, Aging Gracefully, Over the Hill or should I be more diplomatic. I chose the latter.
Maturity; one source defines it as the state of being mature; ripeness, full development; perfected condition: maturity of judgment. Another source defines it thus: maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive. Both definitions indicate that maturity requires time, but the second definition indicates that both time and learning are a part of the process. I think that is a better definition; maturity is a learning process.
In case you have not noticed America is getting gray. The number of advertisements that address the needs of retirees is a vivid illustration of the fact that America is rapidly becoming a nation of "maturing" individuals. Hopefully those of us that are in the latter part of that process have learned how to do so gracefully.
If you have spent any time with a group of fly fishers; at a fly fair, fly fishing symposium, or have been fly fishing at one of the more popular fly fishing destinations, if you are the least bit observant, you will have noticed that the majority of the participants are in the mature class. That's a polite way of saying old. You see far more gray hair than black, you see more bald pates [and I'm not talking ducks here] than full heads of real hair, more prescription sun glasses and more bifocals. More anglers are using wading staffs, even in places where the wading is relatively easy and more anglers that simply fish from the boat. Even many of the guides are beginning to show these characteristics.
There are several ways to approach the maturing process. One way is to attempt to ignore it. Recently it has become popular to say that 70 is the new 50 or some similar phrase. Having passed the 70 mark I know that is a nice saying but hardly truthful. At 50 I did not need any type of assistance to see a size 20 fly sitting on the water 30 or 40 feet away. At 50 I could fish all day for several days in a row and be ready for more. I could wade any stream that it was possible to wade, poke a 6x leader through the eye of a size 24 fly with glasses, climb steep embankments without breathing hard, and a whole list of other things that I would never attempt today.
Another approach is to moan and complain. We can have our own personal pity party, but we will soon discover that it is a party where we are the only one in attendance.* "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone,"
A third approach is resignation, and this is an all-to-common approach to advancing maturity, a forced march to the rocking chair.
So what is the solution to the reality that maturity brings certain restrictions? We can jump but not a high, we can walk but not as far, we can party but not as long, but we still can enjoy life and just perhaps we can even enjoy it more. I say embrace it, run with it, just not too fast.
Finally we are free from the pressures of our fast pace society. Now we can walk slowly and not have to apologize because no one expects us to walk fast. We can take time to actually enjoy what we are doing before we rush off to the next event. We can tune out unnecessary distractions without being considered rude. We can doze in the sun during the afternoon doldrums and no one will consider it strange. We are finally free to speak our minds without concern about how it might affect our standing in the community or at the work place. We're mature, we have arrived. Let's revel in the glow.
*Quote Taken from a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox – Solitude – The Way of the World