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THE STINGER

THE STINGER

The student news site of Emmaus High School

THE STINGER

THE STINGER

Learning to embrace the good, old days

Photo+by+Carina+McCallum.+Photo+edited+by+Carina+McCallum.+Canva+by+Carina+McCallum.
Photo by Carina McCallum. Photo edited by Carina McCallum. Canva by Carina McCallum.

This was previously published in our April 2024 issue.

Sometimes it feels like the world has aged much more rapidly than I have. As I got older, I began to notice just how old everything else around me was. The world lost its youth in tandem with me.

My dog, Coco, a lovable mutt, is now around 13 years old. My grandfather is in his 80s, my parents in their 50s, and my siblings in their 20s. I am the youngest of my family — barring Coco, who, while venerable in dog years, is only freshly a teenager — and occasionally, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that everything is turning to dust around me.

I used to get emotional every time I thought of aging. Even thinking about old people, I would be overcome with sadness.

I remember once, sometime in my preteen years, talking to a man at church when I said offhandedly, “I don’t like thinking about old people. It makes me sad.”

He replied, in his infinite, middle-aged wisdom, “Our lives are like days. The sunsets are beautiful, but are bittersweet. I can see why it makes you sad.” I then immediately started crying. He framed aging in such a picturesque, yet simple way. He must have rehearsed that line — it was too stunning to be something he spitballed.

I think I viewed aging too cynically. I saw it as deterioration, not as a conclusion. Until he said that, I never saw sunsets; only the day plunging into unnamed darkness.

Each day, I could only look at Coco and think, Will it be today? The event? Will today be the day I lose you, or tomorrow?

I’d been asking that question for years before I finally, with joy, gave up. I had been hyper-focused on bleak chances. I had wasted both of our time being scared; thinking only of punctuation and not of the sentence before it. It frustrates me now to look back and think of the precious time I used over being anxious towards what the future entailed.

Coco’s body doesn’t work like it used to. She no longer has the energy to run after frisbees as she once loved to do. She needs help when she bounds into the car for a drive now. She can’t always hear you when you call her name.

In the past that’s all I saw. But that’s not the reality.

Coco is still here, ready to be loved each day. She may not play fetch, but she still trots around the yard in spite of her arthritis. She may need a lift to get into the car, but she still remembers how to open the window by standing on the button so that she can stick her head out. She may not hear when you shout “in the house,” but she makes sure of the fact that you can hear her; in her old age, she has not once let her reverberant “woo-woo”s go unbarked.

Family is just the same. It may be sad to see them age, to watch the gray hairs grow in, the wrinkles form. Regardless, they are still there. The more time spent worrying over what this indicates, anxious over some non-existing countdown or numbered “days left,” the less time there is to make meaningful memories, memories that will in the long-run, give someone life even after they are gone.

I still think about how these years are likely the final chapter — the sunset — of Coco’s life. But I don’t dwell; not anymore.

Now that she’s older, she is way stinkier. I let it slide. I let her sit next to me, stinking up the room as I do my homework. I don’t mind the smell; she’s there, and instead of agonizing over how her age could or could not have caused it, I simply enjoy our time together.

I’ve been a lot happier since I stopped focusing on the cause and effect. Once I took a step back, many interactions have been meaningful, without an underlying sense of urgency or fear of “is this the last time we do this?”

In reality, aging is beautiful; the last years of our lives don’t have to be the fear of a light going out. They can be lasting, beautiful sunsets.

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About the Contributor
Carina McCallum
Carina McCallum, Opinion Editor
This is Carina’s second year on The Stinger. At Emmaus, she is Secretary of the Red Cross Club, as well as a member of EHS’s Science Fair, Model UN, National Honor Society, Student Mentors, and Hornet Ambassadors. In her free time, Carina likes reading, baking, and spending time with friends.

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