Life becomes more clear as we get older

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Remember age 20? Did you think you were grown up, and knew what life was about?

Maybe, I had a swagger at that age, an air of, “I’ve got this grownup stuff handled.” How little did I know that I didn‘t realize how little I knew.

Then there was 30. Boy, 30 was old. The 20s were over and I always thought people in their 30s were middle-aged. What I didn‘t know could fill a book, but I was too busy to know I didn‘t know as much as I thought I knew.

When 40 showed up, it was a surprise. I shook my head in amazement at how quickly the 30s went by. A whisper said, “You might not know all you need to know about living.”

Boom 50, half of 100. It occurred to me I might be at or past the halfway point of living on this planet. The whisper was louder, “You have so much to learn about life.”

At 60, I looked in the mirror at my mother’s cheekbones, my father’s eyes, my grandmother’s nose. I smiled, grateful for what they contributed to making me — me, and not just the physical stuff. “You might be starting to learn something,” the voice whispered.

These thoughts about aging came to me because my youngest son is celebrating his 40th birthday this week. My three oldest children, the gifts that came to me when I was not much more than a teenager, are in their 40s.

I jokingly tell them I do not know how they can be 40 when I am only 39. They laugh politely when I say it. I had the same laugh when Daddy told me he was “around 39.”

He also told me someone 60 understands what it is like to be 20, 30, 40 or 50 because they lived those years. However, someone 20 has no idea what it is like to be 40, and a 40-year-old has no clue of the life experiences of a 60-year-old.

I understand that now, which is surely a sign that I am starting to learn something about life. Of course, my mother, who is 91, would smile at us 60-somethings thinking we know as much as we think we know about living.

While it is true I have more learning to do, there are a few things I’d say to my son on his birthday. I say them because I was 40 once.

First, slow down. Yes, a job is important. True, sometimes it may seem there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done. Still, slow down as much as you can and enjoy because it passes quickly.

Give yourself credit for the person you’ve become. The world will tell you what’s wrong, don’t listen. Trust your inner voice.

Never be completely “grown up.” Let yourself laugh like you did when you were a kid. Find some silliness in the busyness.

Finally, and this is a big one I try to remember as I get older.

Your best years are ahead. They are always ahead if you look at life from “now” and not “then.”

I know people who talk like their best days were during high school, or college or etc. They live in the “what once was.” Don’t do that.

Who says the last 40, 30, 20 or even 10 years of your life can’t be the best ones?

Sure, your body changes, but your head doesn’t have to get old unless you choose to let it. That’s something Daddy told me, and he said it as he needed oxygen to help him breathe.

Wait, something occurs to me in the midst of imparting this wisdom — I‘m 63 and what I know won’t fill a thimble.

So never mind, Tim, and have a Happy Birthday. You will figure out what you need to figure out about life exactly when you need to figure it out. (I’m just now starting to figure that out myself.)


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.