When did I commence my journey into old age? I am bereft of any notion. Much like the transition from summer to autumn, one merely perceives the gradual cooling of the weather, yet remains oblivious to the precise advent of autumn. At which juncture in life does the “onset of autumn” commence? I am ignorant. The threshold of youthfulness is incessantly expanding. At times, I am inclined to believe it is an artifice contrived by the elderly. In their endeavor to conceal their own senescence, they persistently refer to others as youthful.
Nevertheless, I perceive myself as aged. When individuals inquire about my age, I hesitantly pose the question, “What age do you believe me to be?” While simulating composure, I yearn for the figure suggested by others to be slightly more youthful than my factual age. If someone proffers an excessively diminutive number, I clandestinely ponder whether that individual is deliberately mocking me. I find myself gazing into the mirror with increasing frequency. Novels often portray young girls as enamored with their reflections, but such depictions are erroneous.
Young individuals have no need for mirror-gazing. The envious gazes of the world serve as their mirrors. It is those who are plagued by the ebbing of youth who genuinely scrutinize their appearances with greater intensity.
Thus, I invest all my energy in my children. I recollect a certain autumn morning when, having just completed the night shift, I summoned my resolve to accompany my son to the park. My son traversed the cobbled path, leaping upon the tiles flanking the walkway, progressively distancing himself from me. “Stick to the even road at the center!” I vociferated to him with great urgency.
“No, Mom! I prefer…” he retorted without casting a backward glance.
I abruptly halted, for this sentence felt strikingly familiar. Once upon a time, I, too, uttered these words to my mother: “I relish traversing uneven paths.” How rapidly it all transpired! On which day did my pace of movement begin to decelerate, and my grievances regarding rough terrain multiply?
This serves as irrefutable evidence of aging. Time is immutable, and I shall never reclaim my youthfulness.
“Child, I envy you!” These words, spoken in a genuine and measured tone, emanated from behind me, as if my mind had transformed into a television screen, accessible to anyone perusing the subtitles.
I turned around. There stood an aged woman, unaccompanied by anyone else. Thus, she envied me. I scrutinized her intently: her tresses bore a hue of gray, and her attire was unremarkable, yet she exuded an aura that commanded reverence, despite her frailty. I regarded her with skepticism. I remained oblivious as to why I should be the object of envy—a woman who had just completed a night shift in a factory, her visage marred by fatigue.
“Yes, I covet your age, your very age,” she lightly tapped her fingers, encompassing within her gaze the diminishing figure of my son in the distance, “I would willingly relinquish all that I have acquired, in exchange for your current age.”
I remain unaware of her identity, and the nature of her amassed possessions eludes me, yet I express gratitude for allowing me to perceive the abundance I possess. Often, we become excessively fixated on others, unknowingly sacrificing our most invaluable treasures.
Human existence resembles a chain—a continuum. There shall always exist children younger than oneself and individuals older than oneself. Each of us occupies a unique position, safeguarding a treasure impervious to plunder. Cease your preoccupation with youth and senescence. As long as we endure for a single day, the riches of youth shall radiate. Solely one somber night has the power to dim its brilliance—when one erroneously perceives oneself as aged.
Dear young companions, do not covet others. Remember, it is we who are coveted by others!