Here’s a fun question to ask people after a few drinks: What’s your permanent age?
I’ve observed that everyone has a permanent age that appears to be set at birth. For example, I’ve always been 42-years old. I was ill-suited for being a little kid, and didn’t enjoy most kid activities. By first grade I knew I wanted to be an adult, with an established career, car, house and a decent tennis game. I didn’t care for my awkward and unsettled twenties. And I’m not looking forward to the rocking chair. If I could be one age forever, it would be 42.
When I ask people about their permanent age, they usually beg it off by saying they don’t have one. But if you press, you always get an answer. And the age they pick won’t surprise you. Some people are kids all their lives. They will admit they are 12-years old. Other people have always had senior citizen interests and perspectives. If you’re 30-years old in nominal terms, but you love bingo and you think kids should stop wearing those big baggy pants and listening to hip-hop music, your permanent age might be 60.
Another way to divide people is by asking if they live in the present or the future. I live in the future. I don’t dwell on the past. I’m always thinking about what’s next. When I sit down for a movie – no matter how much I expect to like it – I always look at my watch and imagine it being over. My mood is mostly determined by my expectations of how tomorrow will be. This works for me because I’m an optimist, and the future can’t disappoint me in the present.
Other people live in the moment. If today isn’t just right, they believe today is a bad day. Tomorrow is too far away to influence how they feel today. That’s a good point of view as long as today is going well.
Some people are locked in the past; it sneaks into all of their conversations and colors their perceptions more than it should. They spend their lives either consciously or unconsciously trying to turn the future into the past. They tend to be unhappy.
So what age are you? And do you live in the past, present or future?