Why Do We Grow Old? The Inevitability of Aging

Why do we grow old?

I would like to talk about the aging process. One of the most overrated experiences in human life, second only to having wisdom teeth extracted or listening to someone tell you about their gluten-free diet in great detail. We come into this world full of youthful optimism, velvety skin, and an ignorance so blissful it can only be rivaled by people who still think the Earth is flat.

Then, as we amble along in our lives, something sinister happens: our bodies betray us. Suddenly, “sleeping wrong” is a thing. Hangovers last for days, not hours. You start making weird noises when you bend over to tie your shoes. What is happening? Why are we cursed with growing old?

“Gift” from Mother Nature

Well, first off, let’s all raise a metaphorical glass to Mother Nature, the real MVP in this tragicomedy called life. She’s the ultimate trickster, offering us the bait of childhood and yanking it away just when we’ve started to feel invincible. You might think that aging is a biological necessity, programmed into our DNA for the survival of the species. And you’d be right, if you enjoy subscribing to “facts” and “science.” But between us, we all know Mother Nature just enjoys a good laugh.

You see, in the grand scheme of evolutionary life, being old was never the plan. Imagine cavemen and dinosaurs, living their best lives side by side (don’t @ me, science). Back then, you were already considered ancient if you lived past 25. At that ripe old age, you were expected to have passed on your caveman genes and wisdom (like the best way to light a fire or invent the wheel), so you were practically expendable. Mother Nature had no need for you to stick around, Instagramming your paleo meals.

Midlife Crisis, The Biological Edition

Moving on to midlife crises — your biology’s desperate cry for help that comes sometime in your 40s or 50s. What happens here? Well, a midlife crisis is not just for buying red convertibles or regrettable tattoos anymore. It’s your cells telling you they’ve had enough of this “replicating perfectly” nonsense. They start to make errors faster than a toddler let loose on a keyboard. And what do these errors result in? Wrinkles, gray hair, and the newfound inability to recognize any of the songs in the Top 40.

At this point, you might be tempted to combat your biological midlife crisis with an actual midlife crisis. Go ahead, buy that Harley Davidson, but know that it won’t make your cells divide any better. It might, however, give you a cool story to share at your next high school reunion. That’s if you can remember it, of course.

The Ever-Popular Existential Dread

Another reason we age is, of course, because of existential dread. No, I’m not joking. Remember how stress is bad for you? It turns out that contemplating the meaningless void of existence while stuck in a dead-end job or a loveless marriage can actually accelerate the aging process. Who knew?

Cortisol, the stress hormone, enjoys running rampant in your bloodstream when you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for your child’s college education or why your cat looks at you with such disdain. This hormone not only adds years to your face but also shaves years off your life. Isn’t biology fascinating?

So why do we grow old? It’s a mix of evolutionary inheritance, biological breakdown, existential doom, and sometimes, just a sheer lack of trying to stay young. But worry not, because just like how every cloud has a silver lining, every wrinkle comes with a story. Usually, it’s a story of how you should’ve worn sunscreen, but hey, we’re all learning here.