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That Time You Weren’t Old--Why you should never RIP your dancing shoes

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

01/17/18


Off the beaten path in the French Quarter, in a haze of cigarette smoke and the bouquet of PBR on tap, is a dive, its brick walls bursting with the beat of late-night dancing. This is the Gold Mine Saloon, and I confess that after twenty years of Flaming Dr. Peppers and Journey remixes, I’m still a willing patron. Not a regular, more of a once every wild hair.


Two years back, my friend and I hit the Gold Mine and were self-proclaimed rock stars. As such, we posted a picture of us in front of the old arcade machines in the midst of all its shameless glory. Friends’ comments were heavy on “there’s a blast from the past.” Many had tucked the Gold Mine into that place in memory where youthful wildness goes to die. Admittedly, I’m not in the target Gold Mine audience anymore. But for that one night, I also wasn’t saddled with maturity either. I was young again.


Presently, we’re in that sweet stretch in New Orleans when we are called to be young. Flashy things distract us as they roll down the street. Our diet consists of chicken tenders and donuts. We’re eight years old again. We coordinate costumes and outfits with our friends. We’re fifteen again. We drink beer before noon. We’re twenty again. Nothings seems too young because we forget we’re old. Some of us repent the forty days that follow because we were maybe a little too young again. But must we guilt ourselves over a few wild oats? Are we ever too old to be young?


There’s a silliness that ensues the moment we’re young again. No longer sidetracked by responsibility, we actually see the little moments of hilarity. We get gutsy and toss aside our matured reservations. We take chances we normally wouldn’t. We invite mischief back into our lives and remember what it was like to be fun. There are some who frown and tease us for trying to reclaim something. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we are. We’re reclaiming a freedom that we lost.

Remember when spontaneity was always on the table?


“Wanna go dancing tonight?”

“Sure!”

“Wanna spend the day laying out at the Fly?”

“100 percent!”

“Wanna go to the coast this weekend?”

“Done.”


But eventually, we got jobs, alarms, or small humans who required supervision. The spontaneity fizzled and with it, our ability to be uninhibited.


“I’m too old to start the night that late.”

“I can’t lay around all day! Did you forget that I’m in a relationship with the LSAT?”

“I need at least six months to prepare my family before I can go anywhere.”


Suddenly, fun became a scheduled activity.


The things preventing us from spontaneity—course loads, jobs, children—are the same things that lead us to our life goals—a degree, shattering the ceiling, a family. But everything we wanted when we were legitimately young made us old.


Now what?



My sister is in her fifties. On summer days when all of the grandkids gather for a swim, she stands at the edge of the deep end with them as they chant her nickname, “Lizzard! Lizzard!” She suddenly counts to three and they cannon ball into the pool and surface in an eruption of giggles. Meanwhile, I’m poking my toe in the shallow end. Years ago the temperature became too cold for me to jump in—probably when I was getting old. But in that brief moment laughing at the surface, my sister is young. She’s free. Just like me at the Gold Mine.


I know enough to know that fun is relative and should never be taken for granted. It’s just as precious as glass ceilings and raising a child. Only, if I’m really honest, sometimes fun seems more precious. That which we always wanted is also what holds us back. Freedom is fleeting as is every phase of life—college, the childhood of our children, the prime of our careers. And although they are our greatest achievements, we can resent them if we let them zap us of the unhinged exuberance of our youth. We stop being young the minute we believe we’re too old. Until then, it’s ours to return to as needed.


This weekend I was at a bachelorette party in New York where we were the “she” to one another’s “nanigans” as the saying goes—all the necessary elements to the stories that unfold from a raucous good time. Were we reclaiming something? Damn right! And today the responsibilities that drove us to schedule the fun of the weekend are at once precious again. Our jobs are just a little more tolerable; our children cuter than ever.


We gave ourselves the chance to miss them while we were off having fun—while we were young.



Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.

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Annie D. Stutley

the short story

Back in 2017, “That Time You” took its first steps—a blog that humorously and inspiringly chronicled the chaos of everyday life. It was a canvas for what I referred to as “gaffes with glory” (what others may call hot mess success tales) and also resolutions for how to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges, plus personal victories within the daily hustle. I've never had all the answers, and truth be told, I still don't. Yet, I spoke the language of the Hot Mess and Walking Disaster, understanding that we don't need to have it all figured out or succeed at everything to truly grasp our purpose.

However, 2021 brought a drastic turn: I faced a Stage 3 cancer diagnosis and tragically lost my mother during my sixth round of chemotherapy. My path forward seemed impossible. Stumbling took on a whole new weight—it became a burden I struggled to carry in a place where trust felt elusive. “That Time You” evolved at that point because I evolved. Stripped of my plans and the future I had envisioned, I found solace in my one constant: my faith.

Since surviving cancer (and the loss of a parent for the second time in a two-year period), I transitioned into a full-time editing role and also poured my energy into contributing monthly to three different magazines. “That Time You” was put on a purposeful pause—two years for recovery, rediscovery, and revision. I'm gearing up for a relaunch. This time around, whatever I share with you will be rooted in the wealth of experiences I’ve gained over the past three years, because sometimes stumbling becomes an essential part of our path, forcing us to dust off our fuzzy socks and bravely venture forward, wiser.

“That Time You” lives on, on this site, and I do promise to continue to share my misadventures with meaning and celebrate blunders alongside triumphs. Yet, I’ll be chronicling the certain enlightenment amidst life's darkness—a testament to faith and, hopefully, a guide for uncovering God's presence in every situation, whether it's the mundane or the profoundly challenging.

 

Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Much love,

Annie

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