Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

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.

83 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

  1. This is a very interesting article to me, fantastically written by the way. I am in my late teens and can be considered naive and ignorant. I have recently been interested in philosophy and I seeking more knowledge and wisdom. I find think that wisdom is simply experience and exposure. You may make that same mistakes now as you did in the past, that does not make you unwise, posting this and telling people of your experiences is wise. I think younger people should listen to their elders, rather than guessing/imagining what life will be like, ask someone who has experienced it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and your kind words about the post.
      I think we all have the same problems, I know I did. We listen to people with experience, but tend to grow up believing that we will do it differently. Yet in most cases,, that doesn’t happen. Being in your teens doesn’t make you necessarily naive or ignorant, but it may be valuable to learn early on that there is a chance you will make the same mistakes later in life, almost unconsciously.
      Of course, all of this is just me ‘thinking aloud’. Your destiny is not cast in stone.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  2. Is it bad that at 29 I think like this not my generation wise as an older generation mostly. Even though this post was a bit depressing my friend, I understand. In my case, I think because I didn’t have a childhood and had so many life experiences I am older than most my age and my disabilities didn’t help. I love all your posts but am giving you extra hugs and reminding you that ‘you got this and think positive’! Sending you lots of love!๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’œ

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought what you said about the realization that certain dreams and aspirations will not come true during your life is very true. I see this in certain elderly people that I know and it is frustrating for them. I wish they could see their achievements with more clarity and not regret what hasn’t happened. Old people are very interesting, Pete, I have learned so much about recent history from elderly people I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe.. obviously your reply is well-intentioned in its sympathy for “old people” but since I am currently entering that demographic I am aware when it seems like I’m under a microscope and/or considered a behavioral novelty for the young to explore. ๐Ÿ™‚ I might suggest you’d be far better off tapping what they (we) know rather than how they (we) behave.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t judge Robbie by her comment, Doug. She is a lovely lady, and a great supporter of this blog. ๐Ÿ™‚
        And she is in fact saying that she is interested in what they know, rather than what they ‘are’.
        (I’m the only one allowed to be grumpy on this blog! ๐Ÿ™‚ )
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Like

  4. this a favorite-I can relate . You eloquently put in words, a great definition of this time in life, To me, it is somewhat like being 13 again-ugh. Fresh out of childhood, but not so far-and what used to work, no longer does. Our world changes, and we must find new ways to get along it-We know more than we did, but not so much. I agree about wisdom. Why we can not listen to our elders is beyond me. I remember a few years back, that my parents really were right, I will say, I am a better listener now. You nailed the situation. Best wishes to all of us-we are going to need it! ha! Michele

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your comment section was as engaging as the thoughtful post that inspired it. I took a course from Erik Erickson who wrote thoughtfully about the central question at each stage of life. At our age the challenge was ego integrity vs despair. I find that very true for myself. Can I take a realistic compassionate look at my life and feel ok or not? It varies, but I tend towards satisfaction.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m reminded of the final scene in “Saving Private Ryan” likely most of us remember. The older James Ryan is staring down at the grave of Hank’s character in the film.. contemplating all the guys who fell in battle trying to get him back home. His wife comes to his side, he turns to her and asks, “Tell me I’ve led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.”

      Maybe that speaks for all of us pondering what was vs. what’s now.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You have picked a great subject here Pete, I have enjoyed your post and the comments, some very sound advice in there, with a fairly even split on optimism and pessimism.
    You are sharing your wisdom every time you post on this and your other blog, and it must be good otherwise you wouldn’t have attracted such a following. You have a rare ability to entertain, provoke and engage your audience and in that I always feel your wisdom is beyond what most of us have.
    As for mistakes and learning from them, have you ever considered that maybe it is others that have got it wrong? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I recall once saying to a friend, “Is it only me? Can’t the others see it too?” There was certainly a time when I thought everyone else was oblivious to what was happening around us in life, at least in Britain. But I also confess to making lots of insanely bad decisions in my own life, often adopting a ‘Why not?’ attitude, and being left to regret it at leisure.
      Hopefully, you are right to say that this blog is where I am able to get my personality over in many and varied ways, occasionally still managing to offer some advice and the benefit of experience to some people who genuinely want to hear it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Age just happens. Sure some don’t get old. For the bulk of us, age just happens. 20 odd years ago when I approached retirement I figured I would need something to do that involved other people. I still think that is a good idea to fend off isolation. Just as volunteering like you used to do, it keeps you involved if only for a few hours a week. I also find that if left alone I can curl into myself–that is definitely not healthy for me. As a former teacher, I learned that what I have to teach is not always welcome by those who actually say they want to know what I know. So, I offer when asked otherwise I keep my mouth shut. It is not important what goals one has as long as one has some goal.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 2 people

  8. So many of your thoughts reflect my own and it’s hard to realise, for me at least, that now I am not nearly as good as I once was and, never will be. Proofreading, for example, I used to be very good in this regard but I am now simply mediocre. It is hard to come to terms with one’s physical decline too – my God, when I look in the mirror at my truly emaciated body it is truly ugly (the multiple scars don’t help). However, it is what it is and neither you nor I can do anything about it. Enjoy those memories, milestones and funny moments (like when my testicles separated themselves from my shorts on Bude beach for all to see!) for you will surely not get another sixty plus years on this earth. As far as you are concerned Pete, as the old adage goes: “There’s life in the old Blog yet”. Blogging has become an integral part of your life which is great news for the future. By the way, I don’t think the youngsters today will listen to any advice from a sagacious Elder, I know I didn’t. Love Brian

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Not sure where I sit on this one – so it depends on how I feel when I get up in the morning! I certainly don’t feel wise despite advancing years. I would like to be more impulsive. I’d like to get on a bus and travel around Scotland (now I have my bus pass the journeys won’t cost anything) but don’t do it and have no good reason for not doing it. I shall think more about this post, Pete and it will either inspire me to do things or depress me as I realise I won’t live long enough to read all the books I want to read, see the films I’ve missed, travel to countries I want to visit…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Wonderful post Pete! When you say ” 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. ” I totally agree with you. I’m not fifty yet (three more years) but my body is telling me from time to time that I have to slow down. Nothing serious but I’ll hurt longer after a workout etc. The problem is that my brain has not gotten the message yet and I fear it will never understand that I’m not twenty anymore. I have always be an avid learner with many interests. I’m passionate about life and all the things I have still to do and discover. When I was in my teen I remember thinking: “When I’ll be old…” but the problem is that I will never feel old. Happy Sunday!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have written, posted, and replied in just this same way about growing old, Pete… age doesn’t recognize political boundaries apparently. Well written.. and I can confirm and verify the authenticity of each and every word.
    After all this we (old guys) are left with the rest of our lives. So.. what do we do now? Well, we can hunker down with our memories and wait until the end, or, try and make some “noise” like we did when we were young and hacking out our own existence… and keep making that noise until we need the proverbial drool cup and wheel chair.
    Fuck the young.. why? Because we were also once young and we cried out “Fuck these old people who run our lives and think they have all the answers.”, too. We learned decades ago that actions speak louder than words.

    So.. my preference.. do what I can, with the faculties I have left, to make a noise. Right now I have a hobby of a political blog. Not everyone wants that or even cares about that. We are all different. Grabbing at something is the important thing… and continue to let others know you exist, even if it doesn’t rattle the cages of others with the same vigor as 30 years ago.

    You have a wide readership, Pete. Why not have a segment simply on your readers sharing their stories of their past occupations and struggles to get there. I am guessing that will present some interesting feedback… because in general, we were all once proud of the jobs we had. Just a thought.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. YES! and YES! That is hands down one of the best hours of television ever made. Letterman and Zevon fronting up to mortality with honesty and pathos. A lifetime of history encapsulated in painful awkwardness and heartfelt concern. YouTube it Pete or better yet check it out on my award winning blog. One of my first piece. By the way, this is such a great post Pete. I really enjoyed it and I like what it has to say. Bravo.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. A good recap of the pathways in life. As long as the good feelings when looking back outweigh the sorrow, then life is good. Fortune or fame donโ€™t really matter. Thanks, Pete. Best to you!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Pete, a serious topic to ponder about. High expectations bring high disappointments, yes?

    Our lives are nothing more than a series of transitions. We shed skins and pain is to be expected. What we do and say and dream and strive for are the energies of the mind and heart. That’s living. All one can do during these steps through life is practice positivity, give to one another, and protect the creative juices inside, for that’s what is precious and keeps us individuals, gives life meaning and keeps the bloodsuckers from draining our life forces. Give. Love. Stay positive. Create.

    The more you do these things on a daily basis, the abler you are to bat away the demons of regret and pessimism which eat and rot you. So, in overwhelming situations, where there seems to be no right way, I repeat to myself, “I can only control my own behavior.” It’s the inability to control the world around you that brings frustration and panic and grief. Stay calm, and carry on. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m 55 and in moments of clarity, I believe all this to be true. When I’m fuzzy and overwhelmed, I say my mantras, think of Winston Churchill, and take lots of walks. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 7 people

  14. A couple of my managers said to me that I was wise…when I was 50, and a tad younger! To some degree it’s the experiences you’ve had, and a state of mind, rather than age, per se

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve certainly found myself thinking even more about such things now that I find myself in my seventh decade. I’m aware of time passing more quickly than I might wish. I can easily find myself thinking that really, I’ve not done a lot with my life and that really, I know almost nothing. Despite being alive all these years. And that can become depressing and demoralising. I start to wonder just who I am. Existential crises can happen at any age, it would seem.

    But I’ve also realized that life is what it is in this moment. Expectations and anticipation will frequently lead to disappointment: best just to enjoy what is now. To be content with what is – or at least to make peace with it. And to like oneself – warts and all ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Written in haste, which is frustrating when the topic is such an important and fascinating one. Nice post, Pete)

    Liked by 6 people

  16. The wisdom that you revealed today in your blog is like a hidden treasure, which seems to be accessible only to those people in their seventh decade or older. I agree with you, Pete, that it is unwise to burden the younger generation with your life’s experiences. But when you are asked for advice, set aside your grumpiness and share it freely.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Well, there are still people out there who want to listen to you! Why do you think we’re all in here commenting on your words?? ๐Ÿ’“
    But, I understand what you mean and I don’t know if it’s getting worse with the way the generation gap is expanding, or if I’m just getting old and it feels that way. I find things are changing so quickly in the world and children are growing up so immersed in technology and information and act so privileged that I was 25 saying “well, back in my day…”, children are born with a cell phone in hand and a wealth of (not all true) information at their fingertips that make them feel invulnerable… Or again, maybe I AM just getting old. Lol! I’m in my 30s shaking my fist thinking “kids these days!”

    Liked by 4 people

  18. I don’t think I ever thought about being old. In my head I am still 25, but the mirror tells me differently. I have always been a fatalist so tend not to worry or get angry or argue, but recently I have begun to feel very angry about the world and some of the people in it. The inhuman way some people treat others. The inequality. Billionaires and yet still people not having clean drinking water. The destruction of historic cities, lives, animals, rain forests. I think the human race is the worst thing that ever happened to our planet. My older grandchildren irritate me as they think they know it all, and laugh at my ways and they make me feel very grumpy! You are not alone Pete ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  19. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to ‘never pass on a problem’. The fellow who told me that said it was okay if you didn’t see the problem, but if you saw it, you had to do something about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. We always say that with age comes wisdom. We have reached that point in life where we live it from day to day, just enjoying the precious moments, treasuring the memories we make and doing what we have always wanted to do in our young lives, but not always of course, there are still pockets of hindrance in the process. Always be happy!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. There are certainly things I still want to do. Dreams not yet realised, other plans. I had a year last year where my best friend was so depressed that it began to effect me personally (as I shared on another post with you). But during that time, I also came to realise something else: be grateful for the things you have, and did achieve. And that’s what I am trying to do this year. So far..it’s going well. I’m happy where I am at, and one of the most positive things I my life is blogging. Every day is different. You meet new people at times, read interesting posts…and exchange comments with likeminded people. Not every day is the same of course…and sure sometimes there are days when I feel full of regret myself. But…I try not to let thoughts like that take hold of me too much anymore. Life is too short for that ๐Ÿ˜Š Great post Pete..have a terrific sunday ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 5 people

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