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The process of aging is characterized by older cells dying, at a faster rate than the creation of new cells. The same holds true for activities that add to our lifelong experience. As we age, it seems that older activities ‘die off’ quicker than new activities are ‘created’.
When we were youngsters, we tried everything, or almost everything. The ‘almost everything’ was remedied by peer pressure, mostly from our friends: “oh, c’mon…just try it! it’s fun!”. Risks were fun!?
The first time we went down a slide, it felt extremely risky, even terrifying. We were scared to go down the slide, even though so many others slid down. Some would even shove us out of the way and almost tipped us off the top! And down they went. They made it look sooooo easy. But we still hesitated at the top.
We then either took the plunge on our own, or someone at the top of the slide shoved us down, or our parents/guardians/siblings assisted us down. Either way, we went down the slide. Each time we went down after the initial traumatic start, we were less afraid. In fact were even excited to go down! If we repeated the cycle quicker, we reduced the risk feeling. Fear was replaced by anticipation and downright fun! We got so skilled at going down the slide that we even tried new ways to make it riskier. We loved the feeling and sought more danger; danger was absolutely exciting! We went down backwards, on our tummy's -- ya, we scraped and chaffed, but so what? It was awesome. And some even rode their bikes down: that was nuts! But we did it!!! We totally conquered the slides for as long as we kept these ‘cells’ alive. We were juggernauts!! Juggernaut? Love that word. We were powerful and unstoppable.
But then, we went to the park less frequently, and then almost never. Never again did we go down a slide. We are now older, and the feeling of high risk seems more constant. Our rationale, due to experience, suggests that it’s fine and potentially fun to do that risky thing, but we are more and more scared. We are scared that we may risk hurting ourselves:
- hurting ourselves physically
- hurting ourselves financially
- hurting our reputation by looking silly
- hurting ourselves in some unknown aether in the future
Other than our own fear of getting hurt, what’s also changed is that we may no longer have the support network of our youth: the kid that shoved us down the slide, or the family members that held our hands going down. And if the support is still available, some of us have become more skilled at not accepting, or preventing them from shoving or guiding us down the ‘risky’ path. We may get angry with them “Don’t tell me what to do! I know what I’m doing! Mind your own business! Blah!” (ok, that’s kinda harsh, but I’ve heard these often). Or we may be nice in turning down help: “it’s fine…I’m ok…I’ll handle it”. Or we may provide very mature ‘reasons’ to not do something: “excuse #1…excuse #2…excuse xyz”. But in all our rejections of help, we still tinker with the thought, of doing that risky thing…someday.
Our ability to impede our desire and supportive networks in trying a new “scary” thing, can leave us feeling scared at the top of the slide. If we remain at the top of the slide, we will never again experience that excitement and joy; at least not as frequently as we did as a kid. What’s worse about staying at the top of the slide, is that we still carry the feeling and thought of going down; we continue to crave the ‘need’ to have that new experience. And not following through with creating new experiences, our lives can become uneventful and downright boring. It’s no wonder we don’t laugh and smile as much as we did in our youth.
Youthful people continue to play on the slides of their past and present, they continue to take risks and try new things, and ultimately create new experiences. So re-experience the old, go down a slide…do it soon (oh, but don’t let your hands or skin touch the slide, definitely uncomfortable…experience has made me a wiser slider!). And more importantly, create new experience ‘cells’. Apparently, we humans are meaning-making machines. So do just that, by creating new experiences. Remind yourself of the fun, remind yourself of the rewards, remind yourself of that feeling of conquering the new, and finally, remind yourself that you’ve done riskier things before and it felt awesome!
Oh, forgot to mention, according to some studies, new experiences contribute new pathways in our brains – so LIVE IT UP!
New experiences and creating new pathways doesn’t need to be physical, but can include:
- My personal favorite, talking to people you would never ever talk to before; this leads to immense increase in new experiences
- Sit in a different section/seat at the table…funny how your home looks slightly different from the different seats
- Reading new genres, even if you don’t like it.
- Listening to new music
- Wearing different clothes
- Using left hand instead of right, like brushing teeth, hair, cleaning..etc
- Eating a green pepper, cucumber, etc.. without cutting it
- Conquering monkey bars…oh, wait…where did they go?!
Read more from me here!