Some of you weren’t out of diapers 20 years ago. For those of you who were adults in 1995, what were you then? Are your views different now? Do you think you’re a better person? Hint: It’s okay if 20 years of living hasn’t produced an improved version of yourself.
A friend recently asked his Facebook universe whether our life views had changed over the last 20 years and in what ways. My mind immediately went to ways that I may have grown and somehow be better than I used to be. And the responses my friend received (numbering well into the hundreds) were along the lines that I was thinking. They all recited the life views that had become more accepting, less stark, more understanding, less judgmental, more thoughtful, less knee-jerky. In other words, “better.”
We are supposed to gain great insights, enlightenment or whatever as we age, right? Huh. Yes, most of my views on politics, religion, friendship, marriage, career and parenting have changed over time. How could they not? But am I somehow better here at 47 than I was at 27?
Twenty-seven was a time where the glow of youthful ignorance and exuberance haloed everything around me. I was certain in the rightness of my views. I was comfortable in the knowledge I believed to be true. I was ignorant of the ways that life’s river water would tumble my hard, this-is-the-right-answer, edges away allowing the flow of life around me to be a bit less frothy.
Twenty-seven: married a few years, working my buns off as an associate attorney at a large firm. No kids, but my student loan debt and a mortgage made me feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to keep up. My horizon was pretty limited. I couldn’t see past the hours upon hours and days upon days of grueling work. The blinders were beginning to come off, though. For the first time I experienced the raw reality of gender inequality. I felt growing demands with less support and I watched myself become someone I didn’t much like. Short with my assistant, grumbling, exhausted.
My thoughts on the world around me then were fairly simple. I believed hard work was a sign of strength. I thought people generally wanted the best for each other and society. I was quick to be critical of others’ shortcomings or apparent small-mindedness (in my own estimation, and evaluated based on my own skewed perspective). In truth, my world was small: working, eating, sleeping and some play. I was still enjoying the luxury of an acceptably selfish existence.
Here at 47, my world is again fairly small. The large career I chased has been shelved. I am focused on home and family, perhaps to a fault. My thoughts on the external world, the politically charged issues of the week, tend to be more based on a personal perspective than a political platform someone somewhere else dreamed up in an attempt to get somebody elected. I recognize that very few things in life are simple or straightforward.
At 47 I am more accepting. I am more aware of other people’s situations. I’m less aggressive about being right. But I’m also still trying to find my way. For example, I now recognize that I regularly beat myself up. At 27, I regularly beat myself up but I was not conscious of it. So I’ve got that going for me.
Am I “better” now? In some ways, maybe. Still, part of me misses the simplicity of 27. And my less-creaky joints.
How about you? Unless you have been in deep freeze in outer space (yes, I recently watched Interstellar) you are not the same person that you were 20 years ago. Is that a good thing?