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[Opinion] Getting Older

Posted January. 02, 2004 23:31,   


As the New Year comes we grow one year older. When I was young I had several bowls of rice-cake soup, the food that Korean people eat traditionally on New Year’s Day when one grows one year older in Korea, because I wanted to become an adult fast. Yet I’ve become afraid of getting older since I turned twenty. Particularly, the last night before I turned thirty, I was so depressed and unwilling to end my youth I couldn’t fall asleep. To my shame, I couldn’t stand well when I turned thirty, the age when Confucius stood enough, I had many things to be ashamed of when I was in my forties, the age when Confucius was free from confusion,, and I couldn’t understand men’s mind, much less Heaven’s will when I turned fifty, the age when Confucius understood Heaven’s will.

I was touched by a book that an acquaintance sent me this New Year. This book contains stories related to the years from age one to age 100, under the theme “You may be able to tell how life is at the age of one hundred or so.” In the book it said that at the age of one “everyone looks similar,” at the age of 12 “one is old enough to understand the power of money,” at the age of 24 “one passes society’s justice to the younger,” at the age of 29 “one cannot go to a place seriously good to enjoy in however perfectly he adorns himself” and at the age of 48 “one makes the most money statistically.”

At the age of 50 “one enjoys a documentary on TV,” at the age of 56 “one comes to hate apartment houses,” at the age of 59 “one thinks that everything is difficult but for the privileged classes,” at the age of 62 “one is afraid of women in their thirties or forties,” at the age of 66 “one awaits his or her grandchildren who are studying at a private academy,” at the age of 73 “one can break wind regardless of who is beside him or her,” at the age of 86 “one is indifferent to what others do to him or her,” at the age of 99 “one can sometimes fight with God” and at age of 100 “one rests after getting his or her job in life done.”

Of course, biological age is different from mental age. There are adults who are thoughtless for their age while there are the young who have deep thought for their age. There are naïve old people while there are aged young people. What does the age matter? At whatever age, one has roles and meaning that suit their own age. For the meaning that this year will have in my life, I have both expectation and anxiety. I hope that, in any case, I will not be told that I am unworthy of my age.

Editorial writer Oh Myeong-cheol oscar@donga.com