By Avish Parashar

This year I turned thirty-four. By any standard, thirty-four is a rather unremarkable year. There’s no “On Your 34th Birthday” greeting card from Hallmark. My insurance rates stay depressingly the same. I can already drink, drive, and vote (not at the same time, of course!) However, in my own slightly confused mind, one big change did happen: I made the official move from “early thirties” to “mid-thirties.” I remember feeling the same way when I moved from twenty-three to twenty-four (early-twenties to mid-twenties), though not so much from thirteen to fourteen – I was probably too focused on puberty at that point…

Right now you are probably thinking, “oh no, are you really going to complain about feeling old at only thirty-four? Stop whining, you loser!”

And you would in fact be correct. Age is just a number, a number that many people use as an excuse. Take my parents for instance. They may be two of the most computer illiterate people I know. The most dreaded voicemail I can receive is one of my parents saying, “call home, I want to ask you something.” 99% of the time it will be a computer question that I will in no way be able to answer to their satisfaction. My mom can somehow rig up a DVR, satellite dish, four TVs, and a VCR (yes, she uses a DVR and VCR) to simultaneously record two shows while watching two others, but she would not even be able to turn on the computer. My dad bought a laptop one year ago that still only comes out of its case – not a “real” laptop case, by the way, but rather a forty year old hard top old-school briefcase – when I go home to visit. Every time I try to get them to learn, they say, “oh, we’re too old now.”

Poppycock I say! I have had too many recent experiences that show me that age really is a state of mind:

I have been doing improv comedy with an “intergenerational improv comedy troupe.” Members range in age from fourteen to eighty-five, and some of the strongest performers are over eighty. Eighty! One performer is eighty-four and leads ten mile walking tours of Philadelphia! I’m thirty-four and I hop in my car to avoid a ten block walk. I am so lame…
I attended a martial arts seminar with three different Grandmasters. Usually when one of the Uber-Masters is teaching the other two hang out, observe, and occasionally make jokes (seriously – it’s like karate comedy). On this particular day one of these Grandmasters was having us practice a technique, and I look over and see one of the other Grandmasters practicing right there with the rest of us. This is a man who at the time was over eighty, is a legend in the martial arts, pioneered his own fighting style, and is happy to sit there with the rest of us wannabes learning something new. It’s kind of like seeing a middle-aged person with braces. Initially it seems kind of odd, but then you think, “hey, here’s a person doing something good for themselves – that’s pretty awesome.”

I just saw the rock band, Genesis, in concert. These guys haven’t performed together in about fifteen years, and wow – they’ve still got it! If you only know Phil Collins from his schmaltzy adult contemporary and Disney soundtrack work, you don’t know what you are missing. Two and a half hours without a break playing with incredible energy. Here’s the thing – these guys could be considered old men now. Phil looked like death decided to take a holiday and tour the world singing “Invisible Touch.” But he was bouncing around the stage, playing with the crowd, and rocking out on the drums. I will never complain about “feeling tired” before a speech again…

It really is a matter of perspective. No matter how old you are, you can use age as an excuse for something. Too old to try something new, too young to be taken seriously, not old enough or young enough to have anything to complain about, etc.

For me, things have happened that could bring me down. Since I turned 30, I have:

Gained ten pounds. This, while I was trying to *lose* weight. I’m no nutritionist or personal trainer, but I don’t think that’s how weight loss is supposed to work. I’ve also been wanting to look a bit younger and was checking out snail serum for skin and a friend of mine said the cream really works. Should try it out and see for myself if the cream works.

Thrown out my back. Twice. Both times while exercising in the gym. It seems ironic that the only time I have been to the doctor in the last four years has been as a direct result of exercising. Maybe that’s a sign that I should stop working out.
Realized that when a friend asks, “do you want to go out and grab a couple of drinks?” what he is really asking is “do you want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling tired, unproductive, and dehydrated?”

Actually considered buying an ear and nose hair trimmer. I haven’t bought one yet because I would be way too self-conscious that the person behind the counter would be staring at my ears and nose. I can think of few things more humiliating than the person behind the counter giving you a look that says, “good idea on chopping down the forest, ace.” I suppose that’s what the internet is for.

But it’s all perspective though, right? I can reframe all of the things above:

Sure, I gained ten pounds, but it could be worse. It could have been twenty. At least I’m eating. And eating well, evidently.
I threw out my back and felt sorry for myself. Then I found out a friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That gives you perspective real fast. Now I could try to make a compelling argument about how hard life is when you can’t stand up straight, but I think, “I have a potentially malignant growth in the frontal temporal lobe of my brain,” trumps that. Fortunately, she is fine now and doing great. As an added bonus, she stands up straight all the time, I can only assume just to rub it in my face.

At least I still have friends. And, I suppose I could switch to drinking Shirley Temples (but then the grenadine would contribute to that whole weight gain thing).

I may have hair in my nose and ears, but at least I also have hair on my head. Small price to pay for avoiding baldness. Although I did just read and article that claims that bald men have higher levels of testosterone, which is why some women are attracted to bald men. That would explain the appeal of Patrick Stewart and Sean Connery.

The point here is that age, and any excuse really, is just a matter of perspective. For me, I am going to stop whining about feeling old and start enjoying where I am and take inspiration from the more experienced, more open-minded, and even more energetic people around me. I encourage you to do the same with whatever excuse you are currently using too!

Avish Parashar is a dynamic professional speaker who transforms high-energy improv comedy into practical business skills. He weaves together humorous stories, witty observations, and interactive exercises to show people how to quickly make the most of whatever life throws at them!

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