In my teens, I was invincible. During my 20’s, I was smarter than anyone. In my 30’s, I was incredibly clever and my 40’s brought a level of sophistication that had never been seen before. The common thread running through those decades was a degree of self-absorption that now makes me blush.
There are not many advantages to getting older but there are a few. I know just enough now to know how much I don’t know. I doubt that I will ever lay claim wisdom (I’m too smart for that), but I will acknowledge at least a certain degree of perspective. Viewing the panorama of past decades allows one to better rank current events and situations with those that have been previously experienced. Events are now filtered through a sieve that allows all the small stuff to fall through. As the years go by you start to understand what seemed like a big deal in your early years was truly fluff.
You also start to understand some of those things that were neglected in your early years truly were important. You eventually learn that the universe does not revolve around you. You grasp that time spent listening is much more important than time spent talking.
If you are lucky, the years will allow you the luxury of being comfortable in your own skin. You can learn to appreciate your strengths and not be devastated by your weaknesses. I am okay with never having ripped abs, understanding particle string theory or much closer to home, being organized and not leaving piles of mail on the nightstand. Though Susan is still holding out hope for the later.
Hopefully you learn not to dig up the corpses of past mistakes. Don’t stare in the lifeless eyes of the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.” Let those mistakes stay buried, allow them to decompose and enrich the soil of future growth.
I’m slowly learning that it doesn’t matter what make of car you park in the grocery store parking lot. But it does matter how you treat everyone you come in contact with in the produce aisle. Every person you come across is a child of God. They may be saints; they will be sinners. They may leave piles of mail stacked up on their nightstand, but they will all have a story to tell. Our lives are a tapestry of events and relationships. Don’t limit your tapestry to 3 or 4 threads. Talk to people who are violently different from you. Listen to their stories, it will not diminish you.
Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers (except to your grandchildren, keep them fooled as long as possible).
E.L. Doctorow once said about writing, though I think it applies to life as well, “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Life rolls out ahead of you, it’s a two-lane twisty affair with potholes and unexpected turns. You make mistakes, you make adjustments, you turn the high-beams on, you check the rear view mirror … you keep driving!