Half way to being the aged martial arts master, at least according to the common wisdom of aging. To my twenty year old self, I’m old and wise. Rich with experience and knowledge. I’ve lived my dreams and then some, and suffered enough equal any of the tragic romantic heroes of fiction. Twenty year old me figures I must be a most awesome person now.

Do you know what the difference is between a twenty year old person and that same person twenty five years down the road? Feels like about two weeks, give or take a day or two. You are still full of hopes and dreams. You want to achieve the next big thing. You feel more confident about your ability to do things, but. But.

If you are twenty, imagine waking up two weeks from now. You don’t feel any different. Lying in bed, you think about doing a few workouts. Maybe learning something new. You have to work, you have class, but you are so aware of how many hours are between those activities. So many wonderful hours to do whatever you want with.

Then you get out of bed and feel yesterdays workout. On top of the workout from two days before. You’ve eaten really well, but still your body doesn’t seem to have quite topped up the muscle tank the way it should have. Maybe the workout can wait until after breakfast. Then you head into the bathroom and …damn. What happened? Looking back over the last two weeks, you didn’t eat that much more than normal. And you worked out like normal or even a little more than normal. What the hell happened to your waist? Doesn’t matter, though. You are still your fit, bad-ass self under all of that, right?

Still vibrant and looking forward to conquering the world. Still dreams to be met, challenges to be conquered. Then you head out into the real world.

Two weeks have passed for you. You feel no different. But the world looks at you different. You don’t really belong anymore. You feel like you do. You have the energy, the drive and the interest…but you meet the politest cold shoulders. You don’t fit in some circles anymore simply because people assume you don’t anymore. It’s confusing. You don’t know why this is happening, but you can’t deny that it is.

You won’t wake up in two weeks and stick a sign on your chest that says “Old.” You will wake up in two weeks and find that sign has been stuck on you, though. It’s not fair, but you can’t take it off. If you try, it just becomes a clown hat and even more visible. All of a sudden, you are apart. You don’t have the luxury of being just a person anymore, now you are a person with a label.

Of course, in those two weeks you’ve somehow learned a shitload of amazing things. So you know there is no point in even thinking it’s unfair, even though you feel like a child who’s just had his birthday cake taken away. Or watched a lover move on. You’ve been there. Somehow in two weeks you’ve gotten all these scars, and each with a lesson.

You have to drop the hurt…you can’t. But you can accept it. And move forward in spite of it. You’ve done it before and you the value you can find for yourself in overcoming things, no matter the myriad feelings that shade it all a little black.

As we get older, our body maintains a log of things that went wrong through scar tissue, adhesions, calcifications and shortened tendons. We can read from that log and advise those around us, to help them avoid the rocks and shoals of training.

Our eyesight fails, and we learn to be humble. We cannot see everything clearly, most especially that which is close to us. We learn the value of touch, and of overcoming the distance we’ve kept from others.

Science tells us that our hearing becomes more acute as we get older. We hear more, and it becomes harder to distinguish all the noises, one from the other. All becomes noise, and we learn the value of perception, of being able to sort through all that input and distinguish the true message.

Science also tells us that we never stop learning and remembering, but that we can only have so much capacity for recall and connection. Sometimes our minds will “white out” when we try to remember something, because there is just too much data to sort through. We learn the value of organizing our mind, of daily practice in thinking correctly, and of building and maintaining places in our mind to hold all that we know.

And this is why, as we get older, we are put apart. It stings, it tears and hurts, but you have to keep your head up and see that the hands that pushed you aside have lifted you up and their eyes have turned to you. You can run and hide from that, or you can try to jump down and feebly try to belong again. Or you can accept that you have been given a place to speak from. You haven’t earned the place,  because it’s still just two weeks away from twenty for you. But it’s your place to lose or win. You can read your own lessons, and see the value they might have for others. You can speak, and some of those eyes that have turned to you might not look away.

You don’t have to let go of your dreams or goals, and you can still strive for all the things you wish. But if you are willing, you have been put in a place where you can take up a new challenge.