Getting Older Just Means More Wisdom to Share
I am writing this specifically for those of you out there who, like me, are more experienced in life — and by experienced, of course, I mean old.
I’m now 60 years old (I know, my dashing good looks and youthful spirit make that hard to believe) and I have gray hairs in my beard plus the aches and pains associated with that age. But I have also garnered lots of experience and, I dare say, wisdom that comes from living that many years on this planet.
Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly aware of the necessity and privilege those of us well into the back nine of our work careers have in passing along that wisdom to the generations behind us.
Don’t think that that’s not wanted or needed. The Millennial generation, especially, seeks the insights and wisdom of those with more experience, especially those of us in the Baby Boomer generation. Maybe we remind them of their grandparents.
And it’s good for us to look back at how we used to be at that age — full of hopes and dreams, a zeal to make the world a better place, a head full of undyed hair — and reflect on what we’ve learned and how we can help the younger generations navigate the tough road of life.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the four decades of adult life.
Life will knock you flat but rewards those who get back up. Fresh out of college, I had a number of aspirations for life (not counting the one where a scout would discover my amazing baseball talent and sign me to a Major League contract). Being newly minted with a college education, I had no doubt that every one of my plans would result in a rousing success.
Then life said, nuh-uh. Some plans failed because of bad luck, others failed because of lack of knowledge, some petered out because I lost interest. Some survived, like having a career as a writer.
But what I discovered is that there’s no point in crying over the proverbial spilled milk. That milk never gets put back in the glass. So, pour yourself a new glass of milk — or sometimes, something much stronger — and move on.
There have been rewards along the new path that I would have never dreamed of or discovered had my original plans not failed.
People are much more important than things. In 1980, I spent the summer working in Gatlinburg, Tenn., as part of a Campus Crusade for Christ project. I made many wonderful friends there and have many fond memories. But when I look back through my pictures of that summer, I see mountains, streams, even some animals. Virtually none of the people, though.
At that point in my life I was much more wowed by things, and that spilled over into my career as well. Writing stories, meeting deadlines, buying things all seemed so important then.
Now, I look at life much differently. Relationships with people are so much more important and valuable than anything I could do or possess. I wish I could regain some of those relationships from 40 years ago, but even if I can’t, I can make an effort to make new relationships and value them properly.
Think bigger than yourself. One of my favorite pastimes is wandering through old cemeteries. It sounds weird, but it reminds me that even if I live to 100, my life span is relatively short and will ultimately be reduced to a marble slab with the date of my birth and the date of my death, separated by a short dash.
What I do in that dash, then, is what really matters. And what I give to the generations after me now will allow me to have an impact and an influence beyond that death date.
Rather than being morbid, that outlook makes my forays into old cemeteries inspirational.
So, as the calendar pages continue to be whisked away, it’s important to remember that we still have time to leave a legacy, even if it’s just helping a younger colleague navigate a rough patch of life.