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Barbara Gordon



“It’s Not The Years, Honey, It’s The Mileage”

Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark

Kelly Blue Book, the gold standard for car resale information, lists mileage and condition as the most important factors impacting the resale value of a car. As mileage increases, so does wear and tear. Condition, however, is more subjective than mileage. Although condition is closely associated with mileage, the two are not directly correlated. Even a vehicle with low mileage can sustain more than its fair share of wear and tear, which negatively impacts its value.

It occurred to me that this is also true of people. How can an individual’s lifetime mileage be measured? Certainly not by the years they have existed. I think a person’s mileage is greatly impacted by the conditions of the road they have traveled. Now that I have reached my sixties, I can identify which years I walked thousands of miles on bare feet down gravel roads. The years when my children were young and I worked a full time stressful job, kept house, took care of parents, and still made time to entertain for my husband’s business, can be counted as high-mileage years with no preventative maintenance. I didn’t realize, that those high mileage, low maintenance years would have such a huge impact on my body’s future ability to recover from life’s inevitable breakdowns.

Women, especially, are guilty of running until our bodies or spirits collapse. When that does happen, repairs are not always successful and our physical and mental health is forever diminished. My wise mother once told me that the hard miles we run in our youth will leave an indelible mark on our bodies. I am sad to say that as I have aged, her predictions have come true. My energy level has always been high, but the current weariness that has seeped into my bones doesn’t originate from recent activity; it comes from the years of living in a body that was never replenished. Cars have warning lights to indicate when repairs are needed, gas is running low, or when it’s time for an oil change. My younger self needed warning lights and unavoidable beeping signals indicating my engine was about to stall. The blinking lights and beeping noise should have been automatically set to continue until my necessary repairs were made.

In the early 2000s, the theory that biological age and chronological age were different became a popular topic of discussion. Written tests were developed that would enable individuals to calculate their biological age. Most of the questions related to three factors: lifestyle, current medical conditions, and medical history. I always thought that these three criteria were greatly limited and flawed. Lifestyle only included activities like alcohol consumption, smoking, exercise, and nutrition. The test didn’t include emotional stressors like caring for elderly parents, respite from a disabled child, relationship difficulties, etc. In other words: the condition of the road you have traveled and the mileage you have accumulated along this road.

Kelly Blue Book developed a simple algorithm to calculate the value of a used car just based on mileage, maintenance, and appearance. I wish someone could determine my value based on those easily determined criteria, but I am afraid my score would only deem my body ready for the junk yard. I, like many others, have arrived at the age where I can confidently say – “I should have listened to my Mother.”