Recently, I've been thinking about how interests, beliefs and convictions change as we grow older. By growing older, I do not mean that milestone of crossing the invisible line between midlife and old age. I mean how we change during the period of old age itself, between the time we accept that reality about ourselves and whenever death arrives.
For most of us, there are a lot of years in that time, even two or three or more decades. And although the culture, government, even the medical community, frequently lump all old people into the same category, they are mistaken to do so.
There are large variations in our health, our capabilities, education, financial status and while I am not discounting how much those markers affect how we function in the world, today I am more interested in how our attitudes may have changed and continue to change.
Most people do not expect to believe the same things at 50 they did at 20. One hopes experience, reflection and learning refine one's points of view and sensibilities over time.
Even if the (incorrect) stereotype is that old people are all stuck in their ways, there is no reason the process of growth should not be lifelong. For example:
I'm surprised at how much happier I am than during my youth and middle years. I don't mean giddy or silly or even that I necessarily laugh more. Contentedness is probably a better word.
This might be related to the fact that I'm getting better at knowing the difference between what I can change and what I can't, and even when I fail at that, I don't get angry as I once did.
Having said that, however, another surprise is how my emotions have otherwise intensified. Climate change is a good example. I no longer allow myself to read past the headlines. That's enough for me to get the point.
Whatever else the article reports, I know it will only be worse for mankind and other living things than it was before and if I allow myself to pay closer attention, I fear I will never stop weeping.
It's obvious world leaders will not make the hard decisions about the only really important thing that matters anymore and so I do believe planet Earth is doomed.
I would love to be proved wrong about that but I don't believe I am and my heart breaks every day. Sometimes I cry.
Time is a weird one. I have never worked out a way to understand this: as my years on earth grow demonstrably shorter, I am willing to put “it” - whatever it is at the moment – off until tomorrow or next week or next month when something else intrudes.
That was never so when I was 20 or 30 or 40 but it is a great relief to be done with the “can't waits.” It saves a lot a disappointment.
One more: I make decisions more easily and quickly. Hardly any difficulties nowadays with wondering what if this happens or that. The greater difficulty, once a decision is made, is getting the project done but at least I decide a path forward for myself with a lot less fuss than when I was young.
Maybe I have finally learned – as I said for years but never took to heart – that aside from putting a gun to my head, there aren't many decisions that are irrevocable.
There are more instances of such kinds of change but that gives you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about and now it's your turn. What beliefs or attitudes or behaviors have changed in your life as you have gotten older, maybe because you've gotten older.