Age and Mortality

Cover photo by Blair Speed

I’ve been thinking a lot about age lately. I look in the mirror and see both a woman in her youth and the beginning of wrinkles. The “Wheel of Time” turns, every day, and the seasons become years, years—decades.

In the Book, age takes many forms. There are immortal creatures and regular humans; there are characters who live up to 3,500 years old. Even humans learned in plant magic can live past 150 years old, given they aren’t killed.

Having such a diversity of lifespans in the Book’s cast asks me to explore my own relationship to age. Would I choose immortality, given the option? Probably not. The undying characters in the Book struggle with a sense of meaninglessness in their lives. Mortality, as we know, gives our years value in their finiteness.

Which begs another question: does the value of years cheapen in a life when they are greater in number? Age isn’t a market commodity, but like relationships or hobbies, quality can be compromised with quantity. I figured the answer to this question could only be found on a case-by-case basis, given each character’s unique personality traits.  

One three-thousand-year-old character, for example, clings onto the grief and pain of her past. Her physical being decays faster than her peers. I know unhealed emotional wounds fester in the body: science links depression and anxiety to inflammation. For this secondary character, age became a burden.

Another character is over two thousand years old, the equivalent of 60 on our human scale. While she, too, has experienced grief and pain, she chooses, again and again, to return to hope. She lives a life driven by purpose, and this unwavering focus on healing the world shapes her daily actions. She makes learning a lifelong pursuit; she seeks to help others discover their own powers for the greater good. This way of thinking and being manifests in the glow that surrounds her.

I created both of these characters from my own life experience. Youth, as they say, is a mindset, not a number. And while a cultural narrative still persists, telling us to fear old age and the inevitable decay it will bring, I witness living narratives every day that debunk this fear-driven myth.

Just last week I was in a power yoga class; the woman next to me moved through the sweaty sequences with fluid grace. In her sixties, she reminded me of the choice we have: do we let grief and pain decay our minds and bodies, or do we choose hope and curiosity, purpose and service?  

Recovering from loss requires time—years, even. And since we don’t have three-thousand to spare, the process of healing becomes can be a lifelong pursuit. Yet in exploring mortality through the Book and life at large, I’m convinced mortality invites us to take our lives more seriously. To love deeper. To give more. To live knowing age is inevitable, but how we age is a choice.