In the interview, Sendak talks about life and happiness and getting older. He is happy in the interview. But it’s kind of a bittersweet happiness. He is at once, sad about friends who have gone before him and happy about getting older and what it has meant to his creative self. He sees things more now, or then as an older man. He sees the maple trees in his backyard, their height, their beauty. And he is happy about this, happy that in his age, he can now find the time to see the things, do the things that he previously could not do. He says at one point, “it is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music.”
I heard that and thought “yes.” That’s something that should be celebrated, shouted from the rooftops about age and aging. Perhaps it is with age that we can become more in tune with our selves and the things that ultimately would support and nourish our creative selves, our creative desires and aspirations.
It’s unfortunate that we’re so obsessed with being young. It’s unfortunate that we are a culture obsessed with being rich and staying young, but not simply young, but perfectly young,which seems to be somewhere between 19 and 25.
It’s unfortunate that always being so busy in our pursuit of “all-the-things” ultimately does nothing but distract us from our true selves, and that this, or being so distracted that you can’t enjoy your life— to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music– is considered normal.
But it’s not normal. It’s all just a distraction, something that blinds us from our true selves and keeps us from having the time and ability to see and to do the things that would matter most, should matter most.
We can’t stay young forever. Even with the best creams and surgeries and glossy magazine articles on how to “Look 20 at 50” and “Beat off the grays!” we will eventually die and get old and have age spots and lose hair. And when that happens we will be doomed, or at least that’s what the purposely missing final chapter of the “How to Get Old in America” novel would seem to suggest.
I used to be afraid of getting older, and that’s why I would dread birthdays. But I am beginning to catch glimpses of the beauty of age in words like those of Maurice Sendak and in the smile lines of my 90-something year old grandmother.
Confidence comes with age. Confidence to pursue the life you always wanted, to do the things that always mattered to you.
There’s more freedom, I think, in age.
With the awareness that no one likely cares anyway about the little things about yourself– your smile lines, the drooping cartilage on your nose– that ultimately don’t matter.
You become more free, with age, to be yourself, to be fiercely creative, to do the things you really love with no expectation of what those things may mean to the everyone else.
And isn’t that the most beautiful thing in the world?