I was walking down the street a couple of days ago and it struck me how much happier I feel in my 50s than I did when I was in my 20s. When I was younger I hoped that I would be able to find a way through my uncertainties and arrive at a place where I was more confident and comfortable with myself. It made me glad to think that what I hoped would be true, all those years ago, is turning out to be the case.
I used to know someone who thought that your 20s were your best years, and the richest part of life was pretty much over by 30. He wasn’t a happy 29 year old. Youth is a special time of life, full of possibility. But for many people its not the carefree and easy time represented in the Coke ads.
Its only natural that your time of life will influence your priorities and concerns. We all have to face the hurdles presented by different phases of life. We are also influenced by the social context in which we find ourselves at each age. There are aspects of being 20 now that are different to being 20 three decades ago. But there are still many factors that link us across the generations.
I like to think that my peers are likeminded people who have similar values, regardless of age. Of course I feel an affinity with people of my generation, but there are plenty of people in my age group with whom I have very little in common. Age does not guarantee wisdom.
When I was younger I thought there was nothing more annoying than people giving me advice based on experience, or using the age card to trump my opinion in a discussion. I used to get very frustrated when I put a point of view that I knew was supported by intelligent thoughtful well educated adults only to be shut down because of my youth. I still stand by those feelings. Age and experience, of themselves, are not enough reason to believe what a person is telling you.
I don’t think its necessary to create barriers between the generations, or preference one time of life over another. We can change and grow and learn throughout our whole lives, if that is what we want to do, and put effort towards that goal. We can develop over time, and learn things that we didn’t understand when we were younger, and I guess thats what maturity means. Maturity is about how an individual expands into a fuller and more rounded version of themselves over time.
If I was reading this 30 years ago, what I would have wanted to hear was that I was on the right track. Despite the confusion and uncertainty that I was experiencing at the time I was right to hope that I would be able to start making sense of my life, and work out how to handle being me. I had good insights and instincts, but I lacked the skills and confidence to identify and use them. Good intentions and good teachers have gradually allowed me to mature as a person so that being me is much easier than it used to be. I feel grateful to my younger self for believing it was possible. I hope to keep ripening until I fall off the tree.