Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been. When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day. What follows is one piece of that advice. I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
Too soon old, too late smart.
—Old Pennsylvania Dutch saying
This is not a complicated concept, but it’s deep, and most people never wake up to it until late in life.
The great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Truer words were never spoken. Life speeds by in the blink of an eye, and the older you get, the faster it seems to go.
In what will seem like two weeks, you’re going to be old. I don’t mean two weeks older than you are now; I mean old. Even as you read the words on this page, you are hurtling inescapably toward old age. Short of dying early, there’s nothing you can do to stop the process.
Most young people don’t really understand that today’s old fuddy-duddies are yesterday’s young punks. The reverse, of course, is that you are tomorrow’s old fuddy-duddy. Between now and then, you’ll probably have a series of jobs and eventually retire; possibly marry and have children and grandchildren of your own; make a fortune and probably spend most of it; and experience great excitement, great boredom, great joy, and great anguish.
In short, what happens between now and old age is the great adventure of life. Relish it, savor it, enjoy every moment. Imagine the things you’ll learn, the wisdom you’ll gain, the lives you’ll touch with each passing day and year. And the process doesn’t stop once you reach old age; the adventure continues until your final breath.
But there’s another secret here that you shouldn’t miss. The process of growing old is the process of living, which is to say that it is a wonderful and glorious process. It follows, then, that being old is not a thing to dread, but a badge of honor for a life well spent. It also follows that those who are old now have a lot to teach you.
You know that time flies. You know that it seems to go faster with each passing year. Each moment is precious; use it well. As Gandalf said in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that’s given to us.”