Living in my own version of reality, I often forget that I am actually 47 years old. I instinctively think that most people I meet are older and wiser than I am. They certainly know more.
Yet a few minutes spent with our kids and me making comments like “I can’t believe that commercial just said that. When we were kids that would have been outrageous!”, it is obvious that I am not the young, spring chicken I pretend to see when I look in the mirror.
I’m not sure when I got old, or older as the case may be. It just seems to have happened while I wasn’t looking. Regardless, phrases that used to make me roll my eyes when I heard my parents utter them now come quite readily out of my mouth.
What’s more, they reflect what I actually feel.
There is something about being young and in college and so sure that we know more than the older generation. Our solutions will work; just wait until we are in charge. We are going to change the world. Life will be ultimately fair to everyone and all people will be kind to each other. We’ll show these old duffers how it should be done. They are so closed minded that they just can’t see it.
I remember feeling invincible and smart and insightful and, most importantly, passionately right in my opinions.
I don’t think that is a bad place to be; in fact, probably the opposite. It is good to be excited and energized about moving a cause forward. It is good to want to change the world for the better. It is good to be willing to actually do something about it.
But I find it kind of interesting that the generations go through a similar path of being so sure about being right and knowing how to fix the problems, to someday slowly finding themselves scratching their heads at the younger generation and wondering just when we did in fact turn into our parents.
And for the most part it really does seem to happen to each generation.
What happens in between the magical time of planning to rule the world, to a world where we are just hoping to get up the next day and make it through until it is time to go to bed again?
Mortgages, medical bills, accidents, layoffs, estrangements. Hard, painful things happen.
This is going to happen to everyone. It cannot be escaped. Because no matter how much we wanted it to be so during our exciting days of college and youth, life is simply not fair. Life is difficult.
That will never change.
So what are we going to choose to do about it?
We can be angry and resentful and find reasons and people to blame and continue to shout louder than the next guy about how it really should be. Just turn on one of the many news channels or talk radio. There’s a lot of that out there.
That doesn’t do much good, even though every generation tries it again and again. You’d think we’d learn.
Or we can open our eyes and really try to see what is flashing quickly around us as we somehow morph from our 20s, flying through our 30s, and find ourselves at the end of our 40s – children leaving home, life completely different than we had planned and anticipated it to be, and feeling like everything is moving just a little too fast for us to keep up.
While we have become the person who drives under the speed limit, infuriating the young person behind us that we used to be who knows that you can go 4 mph over and not get pulled over, we can now appreciate the beauty in the slower movement.
Could it be that we just don’t want to miss it anymore? That 10 mph difference that seemed to be life or death decades ago, now is just really not a big deal at all. We don’t even notice that we are going slower.
Because we are looking around.
Looking at the new homes going up, looking at the trees and the flowers, looking at the people.
And we understand that life happens.
Marriage, children, accomplishments, laughter, peace, self- confidence. Good, joyful things happen.
Even though life is unfair and difficult, life is good.
Perhaps what changed was our ability to look through the spectacles of wisdom. The more we learn, the more we understand that we just don’t know. We don’t know all the facts to make a judgment. We wonder more about the individual than the group at large. We recognize our vulnerability and just how fragile everything really is.
This gives us strength to accept and embrace that life is difficult. We find ways to make the hardships work for us rather than against us. Our physical and mental and emotional and spiritual muscles grow from the strain and we recognize the power to handle more and more as it comes.
Is age a requirement of gaining wisdom?
I don’t think so. I think there are plenty of older people who are still kind of stupid. And I see so many of the next generation who are emotionally stable and set and ready to really tackle the world in ways that will make a true difference.
So what would be the requirement for wisdom?
I wonder if it comes down to humbly recognizing that there is Someone out there who knows more, who is in control, who helps when needed in the ways we need it most.
I wonder if deciding to try it His way rather than only our own way makes the difference in our difficult lives being good, really good.
Instead of being the adult, charging forward with all the answers, we recognize ourselves as the children we are, still learning, still figuring it out.
Children of all ages who are willing to see themselves as eternal students can have their minds opened up to wisdom. We are able to charge forward ahead of the game, not necessarily doomed to repeat the arrogant mistakes of the past, whether they are our own mistakes or those of others.
Maybe we did in fact change the world after all.