Famous Misquotations: Growing Old is Mandatory; Growing Up is Optional

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional” is one of those popular quotations you find all over the Internet, emblazoned on mugs, posters, t-shirts, journals, signs, pillows — you name it. Another variation is “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” It is attributed to either Walt Disney (1901-1966), the famous animator, or  Charles Theodore “Chili” Davis (born 1960), a Jamaican-American former baseball player who is now a coach with the New York Mets. Like so many other quotations that seem to endlessly multiply on the Internet, it is a quotation in search of an author.

Let’s take a closer look at the two most commonly attributed authors. It certainly makes sense that the quote is attributed to Walt Disney whose work and theme parks are focused on capturing (or recapturing) a child’s sense of wonder and delight. It certainly sounds like something he would say; however, there is no evidence that proves that Disney ever wrote or said this. On the other hand, there are numerous collections of quotations posted within the last decade that cite Chili Davis as the source of this famous quotation; however, once again, there is no article or interview where this phrase appears. One of the earliest sources for the quotation, but lacking any attribution, is in Keith Evan’s Internet Joke Book: Volume Two (page 131), under the heading “Growing Old.” Lacking any definitive, verifiable written source, one can only conclude that this is an apocryphal quotation, most likely written by some anonymous individual, that has been circulating on the Internet for at least 20 years.

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For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting


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