The wisdom of age
I have been thinking about age this morning, and how it has often been associated with wisdom. When you get older, you begin to think a lot about age, believe me. Or perhaps it is only me?
In your seventh decade, you might be expected to have learned from mistakes in the past. Not only your own, but those of others around you. All those jobs, the relationships, friendships, and the thousands of people you have encountered in passing. That should all have rubbed off on you by now, surely? You should be mellow, enjoying some contentment, and spreading the wisdom of that experience far and wide.
But in some cases, certainly mine, emotions overwhelm commonsense. You continue to make all the same mistakes, the bad choices, and the wrong decisions. As the numbers of birthdays grow, some strange mixture of nostalgia and desperation often prevents you from accessing that wisdom, even though you know it is there, deep inside. The tolerance you were developing in middle age is harder to maintain, and the temper of your wilder youth seems to be trying to make a comeback.
You might well try to impart some of your knowledge and wisdom to the younger generations, but there is every chance they won’t want to hear it, and consider it to be little more than the babbling of an old bore. There is a place in the social structure that you are supposed to inhabit, and still your brain is telling you that it is not time for you to go there. Not just yet. Better to look back to when you thought everything was better, and in the process foolishly trying to recapture some of that youthful spirit.
Remember when you had ideals, dreams, and aspirations? That doesn’t go away. But the frustration of never having realised most of them comes along too. Grumpiness can become the default condition of old age, and wisdom will take a back seat once that takes hold. When you are young, you look ahead to times when you are sure everything will be good. Leaving school or college, owning your first car, getting married, travelling to that place you always wanted to see, or maybe buying your own home. As you tick off those milestones in life, you conveniently ignore the fact that it wasn’t quite as exciting as you had expected it to be. You reach out to the next ones instead. Children, a good career, grandchildren, then retirement on a comfortable pension.
On the way, wise old heads tell you it is not going to be what you expect, but you ignore them. What do they know? You will do it differently, and you will make it all work. They are just old and bitter after all, resenting your youth and vitality. When you are older, you are never going to be like that. Then one day, you realise that you are no different to them, and that everything they told you was true. But you refuse to accept it of course. It feels similar, but you know you were different. Your time was the real golden age, and you will be sure to be wiser than them, when your time comes.
But it wasn’t, and you won’t.