Growing Up Is Optional

Age is just a state of mind. I’ve long taken a stand against growing up. Growing old, MEH. Growing up, NEVER! It just doesn’t seem my style. My father used to say to me when I was in my thirties and still playing fast pitch women’s softball “Tam, you’re going to have to grow up and give up sports.”

I dug my heels in on that. I have never wanted to be what people call “adult”. The image that comes to mind is serious, stern, pulled together and boring lifestyles. Something about that idea of grown up just doesn’t resonate with who I am.

This weekend I’m happy to say that I met someone who I wouldn’t mind modeling my growing up after.

Enter Aleks— an attractive retired man, full of spirit and a thick Russian accent.

I was working my table at The Revolution of Consciousness expo minding my peas and queues when he approached me. He stepped into my energetic field with sharp blue eyes and a strong presence. We made small talk and I poked him a bit, “Aleks, what do you do for a living?”

“I make people happy,” he said in all seriousness.

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“Oh, okay, one of those people” I thought as I smiled politely at him. My human mind quickly spoke to the fact that he was being evasive. It put me on edge but I continued to share observations about the expo and make small talk with him.

Time heals all wounds I suppose and within seconds I put my guard down. We both softened. So I asked again,“Aleks, what do you do for a living?” His reply was the same “I make people happy”. I think I may have stomped my foot (I don’t remember) but then came the loveliest story.

Aleks explained that he was currently retired but that he was a former rock star in marketing and sales. He had worked for companies with big names, REAL BIG names, in the American toy industry. Aleks was in charge of marketing some of their hot shot accounts. In particular he was in charge of Mr. Potatohead.

Yes, Mr. Potatohead was Aleks’ pet project.

He told me that he was one proud peacock making money hand over fist running the account on the wildly popular toy and the time he was only in his mid thirties. He admitted to being full of himself, as though he knew everything there was to know.

Being a super cute thirty something Russian man with money, he thought he had it all. As he progressed through this time period with Mr. Potatohead sales and marketing he met an older man – the guy that dressed up regularly in the Mr. Potatohead costume and did live events.

How ridiculous it must have seemed to Aleks. Here was this retired guy pulling on this silly, heavy costume to wear out in public. How awful! How could this guy do this work day after day?
Aleks asked the man “Why do you do this? How long are you going to go on like this?”

The gentleman looked at Aleks and said “And why would I stop doing this? I get to go out every day and make people happy.”

“The trick is growing up without growing old” – Casey Stengel

That exchange must have imprinted my Russian acquaintance profoundly because he told me that in that moment he was changed. He knew that when he retired all he wanted to do was “make people happy.”

With more than enough wealth to be comfortable Aleks now spends time spreading happiness (and probably well-timed anecdotes). I’m not sure if he also serves those he meets in a business way, by consulting, or just by his charming presence. Either way it’s win-win.

I still don’t want to grow up.

But today I’m declaring publicly today that if I must grow up (and I know it’s optional…after all, age is just a state of mind) then I choose to make my retirement work about “making people happy”. And as I write this last sentence I hear God whisper through my heart “just start today”.

And so I shall.

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