In a conversation last Friday with a friend about growing older, I said something that surprised myself.
“I believe that the ideal age is the age one is at right now (i.e. in the present).”
As the words came out, a warmth spread through my body as I realized the significance of this realization for myself.
When I was very young, I didn’t like being a child. I looked forward to growing up, becoming an adult so that I could do all those things that I was told I could do only “when you are older”. I looked forward to making decisions for myself, getting to choose what to eat, what to wear, when to go out, and being able to steer my own ship.
Then, as I grew older, I kept encountering older people who told me to ‘cherish your youth…it will be the best time of your life’. I’m now 27, still very young by the world’s standards, but I have lived long enough to see why those people have said that to me. The relatively carefree years of youth…before the responsibilities of work, family and life in general fall squarely on one’s shoulders…become the envy of many “older” people.
At this moment, I believe that the best time to be is in the present. Yesterday’s lessons prepared me for today’s, and today’s lessons prepare me for tomorrow’s. The power of life’s lessons, with all their pain and beauty, can only be learned in the present. Old lessons may be revisited but they become less relevant when we have moved on. Future lessons are irrelevant because they belong to a future reality that is not yet.
When a lesson has been attended to faithfully, the reward is wisdom. And the wisdom received is so illuminating that I would gladly look forward to life’s next lesson, no matter how difficult or painful it might be, in the hope of receiving more such light.
A purposeful life is one that grows brighter with the illumination of wisdom and love every day. A purposeful life is unafraid of all the burdens of growing older. It does not envy or lament the past. Neither does it fear the unknown future. It learns to “be” and not just “do”. That, I believe, is a life worth living.