A common conversation that Julia and I share is one in which we discuss how we should have, or should not have, reacted to a particular situation. Sometimes it’s hypothetical. Sometimes it is something someone posted online that churned one or both of us up. And sometimes it is the result of an interaction with a friend or acquaintance. Not necessarily one of conflict either; when people’s lives intersect, we are often party to those moments when choices are about to be made that are important, and the closer one is to the person making the choice the harder it can be to keep one’s mouth shut. We are lucky to have a broad range of friends, but, for the most part, the majority of people we are interacting with are mostly 15-20 years younger than us, if not more.
With age comes wisdom, supposedly, and knowing when to take the high road and just keep silent is usually the best tactic in situations where emotions are running hot, or someone is on the brink of a bad decision you know they are going to make and won’t learn from unless they do make it. And when you’re in your twenties or even thirties, looking down that long road to people who are on the threshold of, or even through the door of, the fifties seems unfathomable.
The thing is, just as there really isn’t any reliable road map for how to act in situations as a twenty-something — because you haven’t experienced it yet — there’s equally no outline for those of us of middle years either. I am nothing like what I thought a forty-something should be. Hell, I’m hoping to know how to act forty before I hit fifty! And fifty?! Christ, I doubt I’ll be ready for that before I’m sixty-five.
I’m grateful for that. I’m glad I recognize I’m still finding my way, still evolving as a person. There is a quote attributed to Muhammad Ali that says:
“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
I like that. The last thing I want to do is come off as some old know-it-all who thinks it’s all figured out. Because it isn’t. And I don’t ever want it to be.