In our twenties, idealism and hubris rule. We don’t yet know what we don’t know. It’s a magical time when we believe we can do anything, and God help those that try to stop us. We’re still allowed to fail, even miserably. The rest of the world, especially that demographic that has survived that pivotal decade, looks at us sympathetically, perhaps even blithely, and recognizes that life hasn’t yet kicked us in the collective ass.
Our thirties bring on a significantly less idealistic view of our world. The shiny hubris that gave us that unfounded, but entertaining “I can change the world” attitude begins to dull when you realize that it takes a village to raise a barn. You begin to understand that team effort is far more effective than all the idealism in the world. And then secretly, when you’re not looking, your tribes begin to form around you.
If you’re lucky enough to make it into your forties healthy, devoid of the ailments that catch us no matter how fast we run, you finally see a glimmer of self-awareness.
It becomes easier to admit when we’re wrong and that we have limitations. We start to own those limits, helping us discern which endeavors truly deserve our best efforts. It certainly doesn’t mean we actually achieve those best efforts, but the field narrows in our favor.
I was 48 before I realized that I’d forced myself into a box that was designed for someone else. A box that left no room for the creative person I feel that I am. I didn’t know what I needed to do for myself until then, and this realization was the result of some painful soul-searching.
Man’s struggle to survive is a distant memory for most of us in the western world. We find ourselves whining and complaining about “first world” problems as though individually, we are the only victims of the crisis du jour. We whine about triggers instead of empowering ourselves to transcend our experiences. We want the world to change around us instead of developing the fortitude to adapt and solve the problems that plague us.
The best part of facing fifty, for me, is figuring out that we are amazing, adaptable creatures capable of much more than life may or may not have handed us. It has caused me to shed limits I thought I had and do FINALLY what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval or encouragement. If I can give you twenty-something’s any advice, it is to start that process earlier. Realize that people with more experience ARE smarter than you are and most earned respect before your tiny lungs took their first breath. Pay attention. The younger you figure it all out, the longer you’ll have to live it. And living it is the best revenge to anything life hurls at you.