For the past fifteen years, I have greatly enjoyed teaching English as a Second Language classes to adult learners, but lately I have noticed a disturbing trend—the so-called adults seem to be getting younger and younger. Just this morning, one of my new students gave her birth year as 1996. At first I thought she said 1986, which was painful enough for me to hear because in 1986 I’d already been married for six years and had a four-year-old child. But, 1996, how is that even possible? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it still 1996?

That unwelcome brush with reality this morning really brought me up short (although it’s possible age-related osteopenia also contributed to my shrinking stature). Regardless, I realized that I had somehow failed to notice two decades of time zipping by and that realization started me on an earnest (and slightly desperate) search to redeem those lost years by finding the silver lining in being an “adult of longstanding.”

At first I had a hard time getting the ball rolling. I mean strip away the obvious (wink-wink) senior pleasures of downsized early bird portions and super-sized Jitterbug phone buttons and what are you left with? Your chins, that’s what. And, okay, maybe a few chin hairs too.

I’d begun to despair, thinking I’d never find any silver lining to the golden years, when the obvious hit me—silver and gold, the lyrics from the old song we used to sing in Girl Scouts. You know, way back in that other century.

“Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.”

How fortunate I am, I thought, that I have such a beautiful blend of both elements in my life. With the advancing years, I have suffered the heartbreaking loss of some of my golden friendships, but I am grateful to still have a few remaining. With a shared history of thirty or forty years—and a little more in some cases—between us, my golden friends and I continue to navigate life together, smoothing the rough patches for each other and holding each other close through the sharp twists and turns. I’ll never know anyone as long as I have known these women (unless I live another fifty years!). Like gold, lifetime relationships are rare and irreplaceable treasures. Yet as lovely and lustrous as gold is, silver is uniquely beautiful too. I have been amazed and delighted in the past few years, and even as recently as a month ago, to forge silver bonds of friendship with people that are as real and genuine as if we’d known each other all our lives. Unexpectedly connecting with kindred spirits later in life is a true gift as well.

Upon reflection, it appears that 2016, however it came to be, is a pretty good year for me—chins, chin hairs and all. I am incredibly grateful to hold such a substantial share of the precious metal market at this point in my life. And to my “adult” student born in 1996, I say, “May your life be blessed with an abundance of silver and gold, just as mine has been.”

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