There’s a stigma that goes around today that the older you get, the more popularity points you lose. We’re afraid to age, because with more years involved, it often translates to additional responsibilities, set routines, and less spontaneity and excitement the more we become exposed to things. But, what if I told you that getting older —or rather, being an old soul regardless of what age you are, can be rewarding?
Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli —a film and animation studio —was interviewed by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, on what attracted him to make a film based on British author Diana Wynne Jones’s book Howl’s Moving Castle. Miyazaki states, “Sophie, the girl, is given a spell and transformed into an old woman. It would be a lie to say that turning young again would mean living happily ever after. I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t want to make it seem like turning old was such a bad thing —the idea was that maybe she’ll have learned something by being old for a while, and, when she is actually old, make a better grandma. Anyway, as Sophie gets older, she gets more pep. And she says what’s on her mind. She is transformed from a shy, mousy little girl to a blunt, honest woman. It’s not a motif you see often, and, especially with an old woman taking up the whole screen, it’s a big theatrical risk. But it’s a delusion that being young means you’re happy.”
Miyazaki breaks from the stereotype of starring young faces in the industry of filmmaking when he lets old Sophie be the center, because he understands the value in her journey of maturing that gives the audience an authentic message. Being an old soul means having the sort of wisdom and outlook on life that denotes intelligence. This type of intelligence that an old soul possesses isn’t synonymous to memorizing textbook definitions. But rather, it’s a type of sincere intelligence that can only be gained by seeing what happens in the world and understanding the intricacies of why those events occur.
On the surface, an old soul might seem bland because they often don’t take part in activities that are culturally hip, but there’s always more to them than meets the eye. Sound familiar? Here are 10 sure signs to look out for if you think you identify as an old soul:
1. You have a deep thirst for knowledge.
You’re constantly connecting information you pick up on —whether it be through the literature you read, the films you watch, or the people and diverse cultures you interact with. You weave them altogether in a webbed fashion. Nothing gained is ever lost for you, because it helps you feel more whole. You don’t just softly skim the surface across various subjects. Instead, you take the time to carefully investigate the things that you strongly connect to your inner self and core beliefs that creates depth and not breadth overtime. That’s how your wisdom develops, because you actually put in the effort to really understand.
For instance, I’m passionate about the books, films, cultures, and topics I choose to learn about. I don’t like being given just cookie cutter information. Instead, I prefer to go the extra mile and do extensive research on what fascinates me, because it helps increase my self-growth. Some might call me a tad bit obsessive when my hobbies reach a whole new level, but swimming in the deep end only feels natural when the knowledge provides a great outlet.
2. You hate superficial small talk.
Forget mentioning the weather or what you had for dinner last night. Instead, you like having meaningful conversations that stimulate your thinking. Messages can be very nuanced when you speak. You’re careful and selective about your word choice, because you like making every thought count. Naturally, you make a strong communicator with excellent verbal skills. When others can’t keep up with your conversations, it often makes you feel even more alone.
I’ve always found it massively uncomfortable when I’m in the initial stage of getting to know someone and I ask thought-provoking questions, but get such small responses in return. I don’t believe that one always has to start in the shallow end of a conversation before delving deeper. People are usually impressed by my ability as a great conversationalist. And it comes not from a place of seeking admiration, but rather, a desire to create meaningful connections everywhere I go. It’s like leaving a distinct footprint when people recognize the way I speak or type.
3. You are a big picture thinker.
You have a philosophical bent and enjoy contemplating the meaning of life: what it means to be alive, to be human, to be anything at all, etc. You’re not afraid to question the systems and institutions of society and ask the why’s instead of just accepting things at face value. You’re a truth seeker. You’re comfortable delving into the realm of abstraction, exploring theories and the what-if’s. You lean towards possibilities and you’re fixed on the future, because what’s more abstract than the idea of a moment that hasn’t happened yet?
I’ve been judged for my ambitions that seem silly to people who let their own fears take over, and I know their ridicule is just a reflection of their own insecurities. But, it never stopped me from trying, even if might potentially result in great failures. What often saves me from curling up in a dark corner is looking at the grand scheme of things. Ten years from now, I will most likely regret the chances I didn’t take to make my dreams a reality. I take pride in questioning the status quo and am very much an independent thinker. Things don’t seem so bad when you let the truth set you free.
4. Dating today is actually painful for you.
Hook-up culture is something that is difficult for you to wrap your head around and you prefer not to participate in it. Shallow flirting, playing games, and stringing others along are all languages that you simply don’t speak. You have a strong sense of self and standards that you refuse to lower, because that would only mean painfully denying a core part of who you are. It’s not called being unreasonable and it’s not called being difficult; there is logic in knowing that if someone like yourself exists, then there’s bound to be someone else out there who wishes to meet someone, such as yourself. When you finally find someone who gets it, you simply don’t take them for granted, because it was hard for you to find them in the first place.
I’m heavily drawn to mature personalities when I seek a love potential. In fact, that’s the first trait I noticed about the person I’m currently seeing right now. I was very much attracted to the wise outlook he provides. He’s an old soul himself, so naturally, we connect. If I had to describe it, when two old souls meet, it feels very much like a rare, once-in-a-blue-moon type of phenomenon —not necessarily igniting sparks of excitement, but evoking a strong sense of familiarity, like stepping into an old room again for the first time in ages. It’s a lot more subtle and hushed, but special because of that.
5. You can see right through people.
You can detect lies and deceit miles away. You’re good at reading people’s intentions and you don’t let just anyone in. You’re careful about who you choose to associate yourself because you see so much. People often find it uncanny that you’re able to figure them out right from the get-go without seemingly having to lift a finger. This makes you a natural psychologist.
People continuously fascinate me and I always want to know what makes them tick. I take pleasure in reading them, because there’s a degree of vulnerability met when I unravel the many stories and layers in others. When I find it, for a second, it’s like lifting the veil and what was behind it that was once shrouded in uncertainty vanishes —the fog diminishes. Only clarity stands like a majestic lighthouse. It becomes easier for me to forgive people.
6. People often go to you for advice.
They gravitate towards you because they admire you for the maturity you display. You’re often seen as a role model. Even if you don’t have it all together, somehow, you can take even the most chaotic situations and find some sort of valuable lesson in them that makes what you have to say incredibly insightful. Your introspective nature is what helps you make important revelations and reflections and people often respect and trust you for having such clear, sound judgments.
If I can count the number of times people have run to me for advice, I’d be a billionaire by now! I’ve even considered being an advice columnist at one point. (And it’s actually still not too far out of the question for me.) The thing about giving advice for me isn’t necessarily being someone with all the answers. Because I definitely don’t. It’s more so about raising the important questions and getting people to see what part of the context they originally missed. And sometimes it’s not even about giving sound advice. Sometimes, it’s as simple as lending a shoulder to cry on and letting the person know that what they’re feeling is completely valid. I find myself playing both roles quite often.
7. Empathy is your middle name.
Sensitive by nature, you are an emotional sponge and can pick up how others feel within your immediate environment. You’re always willing to lend a helping hand to someone in need and you’re naturally skilled at placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, making it easy for you to see from many different perspectives. You don’t like being judgmental. Instead, you’re very open-minded and open-hearted. As a result, the following quote by Ernest Hemingway is something you can deeply identify with: “I understand. That’s the trouble. I understand. I’ll understand all the time. All day and all night. Especially all night. I’ll understand. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Sometimes, I’ll catch myself wanting to be mad at someone, but can’t even fully do it, because I understand why they did what they did. And just because it doesn’t necessarily justify what they did to be right, I can still empathize. I used to think it was a sign of weakness on my part, but it’s not so black and white as that. The thing about empathy is that it eliminates boundaries and walls. You think for a second that holding a grudge means being strong because they’re created by strong surges of anger and resentment, but it’s not. It means missing out on life, because you were too busy creating separation instead of merging.
8. You like your space.
You value your alone time, because it helps you re-charge. You find it meaningful to roam off on your own, because distance and time away from the social scene helps you connect the dots and make sense of things that can’t be understood right in the exact moment nor in such close proximity. You thrive on solitude because it speaks to you on a level that can’t be reached by others.
I feel suffocated when there’s too much togetherness. Too much of anything is bad for you. Space to me is synonymous to being a breath of fresh air. I always go on late night drives by myself because it clears my head. There’s something therapeutic about having the road and the view ahead to yourself. In moments like that, being alone helps me let go.
9. You have a hard time fitting in with people your age.
You often feel light years apart from your peers and seek people with wiser personalities and more life experiences to become your friends and lovers. You always feel out of place with what is currently trending in pop culture. Instead, you march to the beat of your own drum. This can easily cause others to categorize you as a nonconformist or an oddball, but you’re willing to live with the consequence of being misunderstood if it means keeping some of the genius you have tucked away. You don’t want to stop growing at your own unique pace. Instead of hanging out with a group of people who make you feel even more alone, you find the special few who encourage and nurture you to be the authentic old soul you are.
Good friends are hard to make. Finding people who get it is hard. I can get along with just about anyone, but I’m particularly selective about who I choose to let in. Part of me always felt like I was born in the wrong generation, but I think what is particularly rewarding about being an old soul is that I can interact with people from all walks of life. If I was content with only forming bonds with people around my age, then I’d be missing out on so many other rich perspectives.
10. And yet despite feeling out of place with time, no one gives you as much clarity than yourself.
Knowledge is power, and you cherish every ounce of knowing who you are, even if it is in disagreement with your generation. Ultimately, you take on a quiet sort of pride that you guard within you. At one point, you realize that you’re not obligated to explain yourself; you just are, and no matter how lonely the path may seem at first glance, ultimately you realize the way you function undeniably plays an important role in this world. Old souls have their own special niche. May you always have the courage to embrace it.
Talbot, M. (2015, January 17). The Auteur of Anime. The New Yorker, 64.