For the Souls of Old

It’s late into the night and a young man finds himself to be the last one awake. With no desire to slumber, he keeps himself up by staying busy with small (and probably insignificant) tasks. He walks around a bit and peruses some books, ponders life’s great problems, and plans for a wonderfully dramatic future ahead of him. While these things certainly do not tire him, he is the prudent young fellow and understands that a well-rested body is most important for living a fulfilling life. At the very least, he will need to be rested in order to fully enjoy tomorrow. That is when he decides that now would be as good a time as ever to go to bed.

As he lay there in the stillness, he imagines himself going to bed in a different era, perhaps even a different world. He thinks about being a Victorian crewman who is comfortably reclining under the main deck. The rock of his hammock is nearly canceled out by the greater sway of the vessel on the mid-ocean waves. He thinks about what it would be like to be a man on the run who has found himself trespassing in a barn, secretly nestled within great big bales of hay. Or maybe he’d be a mighty medieval warrior slumbering in a camp of countless soldiers with only a few fire pits dimly casting shadows on his coarse tent wall.

Freshly wakened the next morning, he dresses and embraces a new day full of adventure, half believing himself to actually be the characters of his night’s dreams. To be very honest, I roughly based this person off myself. Not in specific, but in principle.

You see, I very much like to define myself as an “old soul” and, as such, find it very charming to ponder the virtues of ages past. Nothing can get me so moved as the wonder of what it was like to live in times that are now only history. As I have grown older, I can see how it has affected my tastes in music, the way I dress, the way I eat, and most certainly the way I think and see the world.

The old adage of being “a forty-something trapped in a twenty-something’s body” used to do me justice. Now, however, I think it would more accurately be something like “an ancient historical artifact in a twenty-something’s body.” And to be frank, I don’t think I’m fully aware of which artifact it is because it would be such a hodge-podge of different kinds. (Although if I had to take a guess, I would say it would be either an early twentieth century bicycle or a colonial era button.)

Having come to this realization more and more as I’ve matured, it had become simultaneously easier and more difficult to relate to the world. Easier because I know myself much better. More difficult because I see just how different I am from the more accepted modern conventions.

Fortunately, there are wonderful outlets for old souls to get in touch with their older self. There are antique shops, thrift stores, museums, libraries, horse stables, and a plethora of other options! One of my personal favorites of these outlets is Pinterest. The funny thing is that I used to mock people who used Pinterest until I saw what great stuff there was on there. Now I’m hooked!

Just the other day I got all caught up in pinning fascinating quotes about feeling like an old soul who is displaced in a modern world. After a few minutes I came to realize something startling: everyone feels like they’re an old soul.

Or at least a lot of people they think they are.

Clearly there are many people walking around feeling like old souls. Some of these quotes were pinned by over ten thousand people! Granted, ten thousand people is nothing relative to the world population, the United States population, or even the total population of Pinterest, which, according to Forbes, is over 150 million people on a monthly basis! But nonetheless, the abundance of articles, pins, photographs, and quotes that describe the solitary feeling of being an old soul sort of testify to the fact that being an old soul may not truly be so solitary after all. This reveals two important points.

Firstly, it tells us that we might not be as special as we think. Being unique at times can cause one to feel strangely superior to others in a rather melancholic way. I’ll be the first to admit that the old soul gene can often translate into a sense of being “I-understand-this-unsatisfactory-world-better-than-you.” We are eager to pride ourselves on being so very different form the rest. In reality, though, it seems that everyone is different and has a special outlook on life that his or her neighbor doesn’t and may not understand. So we shouldn’t use our uniqueness as leverage to puff ourselves up in our own minds.

Secondly, the fact that there are many more old souls than may seem probable at first glace tells us to stay hopeful about life. Though the overwhelming minority, we are not alone – not truly. There are others who share our fondness of weirdness and quirkiness. Be they writers, musicians, directors, or dreamers of any and all sorts, they too are experiencing this very same feeling of being grossly misunderstood. That is why I find that the old souls often produce the most beautiful art because it is birthed out of their deeply personal experiences. But whether they remain silent or produce art to share their experience, old souls walk among us – we just need to understand how to find them.

But perhaps knowing that they are near is good enough. Perhaps there is something special about not becoming familiar with other old souls. There is a special beauty to concealing our disposition within our own hearts. Does the locked trunk give greater value to the gems inside than if they were exposed? I think the answer to that is a personal one. Just know, whether you seek them or not, that other old souls are out there and you are not alone.

At the end of the day, this feeling of belonging to a different time is warmly drawing. It helps us form our identities and influences our tastes and even guides the way we reflect on the world. Truth be told, there are likely many more of us old souls than you might have first thought. Many people think they are misunderstood in some way or another, and that is probably because they are. Being an old soul is a unique experience regardless of how many there are. And though we are not as special and superior as we might be tempted to believe, we should all savor the fact that we have been graced with a unique outlook on life and that others share this experience as well. So here’s to all you who probably would’ve been more comfortably suited in a different age – to the old souls. Cheers!

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