Ah, youth. That golden time of life when we’re at our physical and intellectual peak. The time when we think we can take on the world — and often do, with winning results.
And yet, there’s something to be said for aging as well. With age sometimes comes, if not wisdom, at least a more mature, complex worldview.
Think of it in terms of food. Some things just taste better with a little time to season. Cheese. Wine. Good Kentucky bourbon. It takes a little while to knock off some sharpness, to mellow the disparate ingredients together into something more enjoyable.
Such is the case with people too. While there are certainly exceptions, most people in their teens and early 20s simply lack the life experience to process life events and prioritize them.
We had a coworker here at Walrus Widget Industries a couple of years ago who was fresh out of college, and of course, that meant he had all the answers. He knew the latest techniques, the newest methods, and of course, knew many things we oldtimers couldn’t possibly know.
He was happy to tell our entire four-person department how badly certain things were designed, and that he couldn’t understand why they were done that way — as he sat next to the person who designed them.
He had no self-doubt, no modesty, false or otherwise. He knew best, and expected to be treated as the special person he knew he was. In other words, he was annoying as hell.
He reminded me of someone — me.
I was exactly the same way when I was his age. I was arrogant, I was outspoken, I knew best. In other words, I was every bit as annoying as he was.
It takes a while, and a few hard knocks from life to learn that your place in the universe isn’t quite as exalted as you think it is. It takes a little time to season. You learn to get along with coworkers, to temper what you say, to get along with folks you have to be around 8 hours a day or more.
And you learn that not everything is a crisis or a tragedy.
Said coworker came in one morning quite irate. Seems he had received a speeding ticket on the way to work. From the moment he entered the office, he was complaining bitterly about the injustice of it. Continuously. For more than a half hour.
When I gently suggested that all of us had been there, done that, and that he shouldn’t let it ruin his whole day, he responded that I had just ruined his whole day. In fact, he didn’t speak to me from that point until he left eight hours later.
I’ve noticed something similar in social media and blogs lately. From my vantage point, best described as comfortably middle-aged, I’ve noticed some of the younger folks do a lot of what I’d call whining. They seem to be of the opinion that everything that happens to them is of epic proportions.
Case in point. I recently read a blog post written by a woman who was having a bad day. She had a minor fender bender. She had a minor problem with her bank. Her computer broke — under warranty.
She called it her WORST DAY EVER.
OK, I understand where she’s coming from. I was once a college student too. A costly breakdown of my ancient VW was catastrophic at the time. This was the Dark Ages, BPC (Before Personal Computers). But I still had typewriter malfunctions to deal with. Money was tight, time was tighter and there was always too much to do.
At that time, maybe I would have described the day the battery fell out of my VW — on the Interstate, at 65 mph — as my Worst Day Ever.
But here’s the thing — with a little time, that event became something to laugh about. And life quickly teaches us the difference between things that seem big and things that ARE big.
Fender bender? Not a big deal
Broken computer? Not a big deal.
The day my Mom died while my wife was a thousand miles away getting ready to go into the hospital for a life-threatening procedure? THAT was a big bleeping deal.
I’d probably call that my Worst Day Ever.
It’s all a matter of gaining perspective. And with that perspective comes a new appreciation for the good things in life as well. That’s the trick. When you’re forced to confront some of the truly bad things in life, you discover the sheer volume of good things — and good people — all around you. Things are seldom as bleak as they first appear.
And my young blogging friend, I truly hope that day you described IS your worst day ever. For if it is, you will enjoy a truly blessed life.