I have never been one to believe that age is just a number. Call it a curse for seeing things from all angles. Call it a lesson learned from experiences that ended badly but would have turned out better with the wisdom of experience. That is not to say that someone has the right to commit ageism against you, should you happen to be young, nor when you are old and they would like to send you out to pasture. Age equals the number of years you’ve been on the planet experiencing the human experience. We can’t just dismiss that as meaningless.
Of course, there are always exceptions. There are very wise young people, and very ignorant old people, and vice versa. We need to not be so offended by generalizations, especially when the offense comes from a place where we are seeking to not be seen as the same as others. How contradictory is that? We struggle to fit in, but when we’re seen as fitting in we balk? Wisdom would laugh at taking such an offense. It is obvious that we all fit to some group, but are simultaneously individuals. If we’re going to explore group shared experiences, then generalizations make a lot more sense than individualistic comparison.
Anyway, what changed for me in the last twenty years…
I grew up. I grew up quite a bit. A lot of twenty year olds think they’ve got it all figured out, that they know how this game works. They’re so cool, so worldly. I was too. Until I realized I hadn’t a clue in the world. I was just a big kid. Regardless, I learned that my optimism was a beautiful thing to behold and I miss it from time to time. I wouldn’t say I’ve become a cynic. No. I’ve become a bit more of a realist in that I am firmly grounded in what does and doesn’t happen. Let’s call it, working with the laws of the universe (unlike some thought manifesting guru would have you believe, our world is pretty rigid as far as cause and effect).
Conversely, I dropped my angst. Yes, I was both optimistic and angsty (a pairing I think most young people enjoy as they come to terms with the world). You know what I mean. That attitude young people carry around, where you’re not sure if they’re going to say something mean or keep a sullen silence (thanks, Dead Pool, for helping to put that succinctly). Instead of viewing the world as open to me with every possibility at my finger tips, or viewing it as a cold dark place that is waiting to eat me alive, I’ve learned it is instead a pretty steady gray area. Bad shit happens, but it’s a long time coming as result of something back when, but good luck following that in either direction clearly. Likewise, good things happen for the same reasons. It boils down to the few choices framed before us.
That leads me to another point. I no longer believe in free will. I think free will is a concept that is used to both punish and reward arbitrarily. Instead, I see us as the sum total of our experiences, even the experiences of ancestors thanks to genetic memory. Those experiences, along with circumstance frame the choices before us. That limits the choices we’re given, whether we are simply perceiving that or it is reality. (That’s logic! Remember math class and logic? If this then that? Has to do with probability, etc.) It doesn’t matter. Perception is everything. (I’ll get to that in a moment.) In any given moment we perceive only a few choices, and from those we make our decision on how to proceed, right or wrong—planned result or what the fuck. That decision is heavily weighted, again, by perception, experience and circumstance. Rather like we’re being propelled down a tunnel at lightning speed, and asked to make snap decisions on which track we’ll take, praying to whoever that it doesn’t abruptly end. Sometimes it does and we crash and burn. Sometimes we find ourselves on a track we never intended to take. Free will? No such thing when your choices are limited by any degree.
So about perception. Perception truly is everything. How we see the world is how we will react and act in it. There are those who see the world against them, and those who see the world as a playground. It doesn’t always take a load of money to see things in a fine light. Many good people who remain happy all their lives are dirt fucking poor and wouldn’t ask for anything more. They feel deeply blessed as is. That is so beautiful. To be able to perceive of the world in such a way-sigh. I think it’s much less stressful and enjoyable to go through life like that. For those of us who see things either shaded or darkly, it is a much harder path to hoe. I’ve learned to temper chagrin (that angst I mentioned before) with embracing the good I can claim. I may seem to piss all over the idea of positive thinking above, but the positive thinking part of manifesting the life you want is very real. Change your perception and just about everything changes in the world.
For instance, my world is rosey. I have Sadie Sue. I’m proud as hell of my education and my accomplishments in writing. I may not yet own my home, or have a child or husband, but things change on a dime. I am pursuing having a child on my own, and I will accomplish that goal. As for a husband, there is no sense in relying on another human being to make you happy. No one can live up to that requirement. I think it’s a bit cruel to enter into a partnership with that in mind. Certainly, I could think in other ways, ways I use to think in and go back to feeling like shit all the time. Nope. I learned that much I can control.
I have learned to see relationships as mutual alliances of kindred spirits. What does that mean? When I accept a man into my life, I am seeking to be his partner, to love and be loved in return. My idyllic self at twenty was very romantic, very fiery. I saw relationships in a different light, where you rely on the other person and they rely on you for something—whatever it is you’re seeking to take or of which you seek feed off. Perhaps that latter attitude is what allows us to find such bad partnerships and even abuse. I’m still seeking answers on how I wound up being the doormat at twenty. I said I would never let a man treat me like that, and there I was…his doormat. Uhg!
Regrets aren’t nearly as debilitating as some would have you believe. I said at twenty that I would never have regrets. At forty, I regret saying yes to an ex at twenty, but I see how much that awful experience made me grow, how much it taught me. I regret not jumping in with both feet to seek a career doing special effects make up, but I realize in hindsight, that I needed to travel the route I did in order to become the writer that I really wanted to be. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen. I was getting sidetracked with my desire to break into film in some other capacity, instead of training as a novelist and screenwriter. So, in many ways, I regret nothing, as everything that happened shaped me into who I am today, and I wouldn’t change her for anything.
Predominantly, the person I was at twenty is the person I am now at forty. I’m just the wiser model. The fellas that pulled wool over my eyes in the past are the ones that I just smile and nod at now and usher along their merry way. I am the dedicated version who sat for long hours penning and re-penning her work, striving for the right string of words that would send an editor swooning. It comes immensely more easy to me after all that apprenticeship. This girl still looks toward breaking into film, and in many ways I have: as an extra, as represented writer, as filmmaker (book trailers). The twenty years between then and now have made me stronger, wiser and a hell of a lot funnier. There’s so much more to me, now. I was called interesting then, and fascinating today.
There is so much to look forward to. I regard life like a film, unfolding before me with all the emotions of a great drama, all the humor of a comedy and even some action to keep things moving. I want to see how things progress. I’m engaged, where I had once been detached.
In the end, respect experience and age, but don’t put down the young people who are learning and have so much to offer even in their fewer years. Ultimately, it is the experience in the years that we have had that make us so interesting, so vital. The young should not get upset when an older person suggests they might know more. Give them a listen. Can it really hurt? If they are offering you their wisdom, at least listen and hang onto their words to see if they can be useful to you. It won’t hurt. Trust me.
Things aren’t nearly so foggy as they used to be. Forty has given me quite a bit of clarity. I hope that it will be of use, not only to myself, but others who will take the time to listen.
Stevie Turner says
Great post. What I find frustrating is that you accumulate knowledge about life as you age, but the young don’t want to know!