coming of age

American Graffiti is a classic coming-of-age movie.  One site summarizes the film as “a nostalgic look back at the days of diners and drive-ins” that “follows a group of friends on their last night out before they leave for college.”  It came out the summer I graduated from high school, so its release was timed perfectly for me.

I recently ran into a YouTube video titled, “American Graffiti (1973), Then and Now 2019.”  It’s made up of still pictures, portraits of the main characters in the movie (then) and the actors who played them (now).  Let’s just say that a different coming of age has occurred.

I know, I know.  I could have just looked at pictures of me from high school and then at a mirror to get the same effect, but that’s a little too close to home.

Within the last few days, there has been a surge in popularity in the use of FaceApp, which transforms a picture of you in different ways.  (If you’re thinking about using it, be aware that it may be another way that Russian operatives are fiddling with us.)  While there are a variety of adjustments that can be made by the app, the one that’s all the rage right now is seeing how you’ll look a few decades in the future.

A well-known financial commentator (who is a friend of mine, but much younger than I am), posted his before-and-after pictures on Twitter, which showed him on a boat.  By chance, I had just come off of the lake when I saw his future picture and said, “OMG.  It looks like me.”

Unfortunately, time can go by quickly.  We move through different stages in our lives, but the changes are blurred (as this amazing less-than-a-half-minute progression displays).

Along the way, we really have a series of coming-of-age adventures, even though the teen-into-adult ones get all of the attention.  It’s convenient to think of them in decades, as the poet and philosopher David Whyte did in a recent On Being interview:

“Just as we go through the different decades of our life, we have to change the structures of our life in order to keep things new, in order to keep our youthfulness.  And I do think there is a quality of youthfulness which is appropriate to every decade of our life.  It just looks different.  We have this fixed idea of youthfulness from our teens or our 20s. But actually, there’s a form of youthfulness you’re supposed to inhabit when you’re in your 70s or your 80s or your 90s.”

You probably know someone who has retained their youthfulness well into their later years, who has continued to make a difference in their chosen field, their causes and volunteer activities, or in the personal lives of others.  A snapshot of them now looks much different than one from decades ago, but what isn’t captured is the spirit aflame inside.

Coming of age is an ongoing process.  We have the chance to adjust to new circumstances and embrace the wisdom that the years reveal.  So, I guess I should listen to my wife when she tells me to get out of the house.  It’s not too late to learn some new tricks.

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