Well, it is quite possible that I am only trying to console myself, but there is plenty truth in what I say. It is good to grow older. Of course you have to trade your sharp, angular features for more rounded ones, but it’s a reasonably fair trade. There are much better treasures to be scooped up from the deeper end of life than when you are in relatively shallow waters.
I’m going to write about a few things to substantiate my argument. When you get older, there are certain good things that happen. I define “older” as above 29.
(Now I’d like to add a disclaimer that I do not intend to sound preachy or condescending, this post is not supposed to be about personal development or how to live life. These are merely my observations. Things that have happened to me and changed me for the better, only because of Time. )
Hothead turns cool
The temper that can so be easily sparked off in youth is replaced by a calm mellowness. Temper can be your undoing. I think that anger can be quite addictive. It gives you a rush, I don’t know how many other people feel it, but I often have. The sudden rush of blood to your face, the heightened senses, tensing of mental and physical muscles for a fight – all these are somehow appealing in a way, though they do come with their own destructive outcomes. I used to imagine Anger as my faithful stallion – with a blazing red mane, flared nostrils and relentless hoofing that unsettles the dust. I would write about how “Anger, my faithful steed, makes me feel alive.”
It is not to say that I don’t get angry now. I still do, and it can still blind me to the objectivity of the situation and consequences of my actions. But I am able to control it more, and funnily enough, when I do, it only makes me feel better and more alive, not worse off and dead.
You’re more forgiving
What is ironic about your expansive forgiveness when you grow older is that had you been more forgiving just a few years back, you would have been able to avoid many sorrowful situations in your life. Aristotle said that it is impossible to teach ethics to the young. What he meant was not that the young cannot intellectually grasp the principles, but that they just lack the necessary life experience that puts several concepts into perspective.
It is such a joy to forgive. And to be able to truly forgive instead of trading pardons is almost surreal in the happiness and peace it gives you. Life is such that people will hurt you. They betray, they leave, they prove themselves unworthy, they make you suffer. There is no escaping it. But like Bob Marley says, you just got to find the ones worth suffering for. And you realize that there indeed are people worth suffering for. You forgive their transgressions and accept their follies more easily, because they are worth it. You let go of deep hurts, or at least make significant progress, because you actually see the futility of hanging onto it all. It harms no one but you. And that is the truth. Most of the things that we are unable to forgive are seriously not worth it.
Clarity – about life, relationships
This is possibly an offshoot of what I said earlier, you gain more clarity – about life and relationships. Since labels can easily elucidate, I am going to say that there are two types of young people – idealistic and opportunistic. The idealists will enter into a relationship all guns blazing, both ends of the candle burning and with complete and utter devotion to the divine notion of love. They inevitably get hurt. The opportunists use. And throw. And use again. They get caught up in the need to be in a relationship, with anybody, because they end up closely associating their own worth with their ability to overpower, control and dominate another individual. And there definitely is a third kind, the meek and docile ones, the ones who will not flinch even if a truck runs them over. I have no respect for this kind, they are just the living dead, so I am not going there.
It is rare to find a young person who is not idealistic or opportunistic. Clarity about life and relationships come only from the experiences of youth. The idealists gain better clarity on whom and what in life are worth submitting themselves to. The opportunists realize that it really is not good to serially use people and that controlling others only prove how desperately low in the rung of humanity they are on. Of course, people are quite capable of holding onto their fanatic idealism and opportunism well into their old age, but most of us do grow up. Hopefully!
Fearlessness is an unexpected side benefit of growing older. This is quite different from the recklessness of the youth. You really do not fear, or rather you can easily control your fears and still do what needs to be done. Perhaps this is because of what I call “The Gift of Rock Bottom” – which I have to blog about one of these days – but Time makes you understand that there is nothing to fear, except morons, fanatics and terrorists.
Self assurance, no more rebellion or explanations
Young people are rebellious by nature. They cannot, will not listen. Now, I don’t mean to say that as you get older, you just die inside and go meek (or get ‘tamed’). Far from it. Just as I could not, would not listen to anybody when I was younger, I still cannot, will not listen. But with a key difference. Now, if I don’t listen, it is not to prove a point, it is merely because I do not agree to the proposed point of view or course of action. And if somebody tells me something that is good for me, I do listen, and easily execute what he or she proposed. Like an obedient little child. There is no need to tell myself that “I’m the shit” just because I am capable of pooh-poohing all well-intended advice.
You also develop a sort of self-assurance that will let you fearlessly do what needs to be done, without having the need to explain anything to anybody or even rebel against anybody. You don’t have to explain anything even to yourself, because your sense of self-worth does not depend on what anybody else or even you yourself think about you. I think this is one of the greatest gifts Time gives you. Self-assuredness.
You love deeper
I often wonder why people are pressured to enter into serious relationships like marriage during their twenties. That is so not the right time. As far as relationships are concerned, twenties is like the Perfect Storm. It will attempt to destroy and decimate and more often than not, succeed. People who are able to get past this rocky phase develop an appreciation for each other. They do love deeper, they love the beginnings of crow’s feet and the softness of the flesh. Their love loses the edge of arrogance, it becomes more fulfilling and they wonder why and how they could not do it before.
You may also lose your significant other to the perverseness of youth. But if you are lucky, you find someone else you can love deeper, without making the same mistakes again.
I think only a near-death experience can otherwise bring such clarity and appreciation of important people in your life. There is this song of Tim McGraw called “Live like you’re dying.” It talks about what a man did when he learnt he had only a few weeks to live. He went sky diving, rocky mountain climbing, and did 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And he loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness he’s been denying. Beautiful beautiful song.
Better appreciation of Time
Ironically, it is only when you waste about half your life making mistakes you realize that you do have time to live a good life. What you do with your time is entirely your choosing. You may choose to brood, hold grudges against everyone, rue the lost time, unrealized talent, missed opportunities or trampled heart. Or you may choose to enjoy Time better. There is plenty of time. Plenty. And what you choose to do each moment is completely under your control. Your mind creates whatever feelings you desire. Getting older teaches you to use your time better.
I am again reminded of another song – If Tomorrow Never Comes by Ronan Keating.
“If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I love her
Did I try in every way
To show how much I care
That she’s my only one…”
And getting older, makes you tell her (or him). Because if you ignore this moment’s urge to tell her, you are losing the precious gift of time. Precious Time that lets you create a moment of beauty.