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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Modern Maturity

If you're under 50 years old, my blog today may not resonate with you. Then again, it may be wisdom for you. Maybe I can give you a glimpse of what to expect as you age yourself.

I'm talking about getting older. When I was a young man, I thought 30's were old. People in their thirties were mature. When I got into my thirties, I didn't really feel any different. Perhaps the only exception was I began to see the foolishness of my twenties.

Then I moved into my forties. That was a milestone. I had viewed my parents in their forties as I was in my teens. They were old! People in their forties always seemed so sorted out, so together. What else could they have to learn?

But I found myself in my forties. Again, I didn't really feel any different. But I began to realize that I'd been wrong about my forties. I realized I still had much to learn. As it turns out, I didn't know it all. And my friends in their forties? They really weren't any more clever than me!

So I decided the 50's were the place where it all happened. People that old had to have it all together. Surely they would be grown up, know it all, and have no problems. Now mind you, I had always thought of old age as some evil threat to be feared.

But you might detect a pattern of thinking here. It is that the people whom I admired and respected tended to be older than me. Somehow I equated their chronological maturity with wisdom - and perhaps even with value in some perverted sense. This is quite ironic, because it is clear that the apparent consequences of maturity were things I viewed very negatively, as if apart from the people who exhibited them.

I remember in my twenties imagining the prospect of going bald. I remember thinking that must be the most horrible thing a man could experience! Maturing was something I really didn't relish thinking about. Quite honestly, I so no virtue in maturity. I remember my mother used to say that "youth is wasted on the young." I didn't understand her perspective. I just figured she was silly 'cause she was old!

So here I am in my (early) 50's. Some of my friends have cancer. Some of my friends are bald. Most of my contemporaries are graying. Some of my school mates are dead now. The odd thing is I don't really feel any different. I feel like the same guy I was when I was 20. Somehow I thought I would feel different.

I'm not happy about the gray hairs that keep showing up on my head. But I'm grateful that they're still on my head! I'm not happy with the wrinkles I see on my face, and I remember seeing crows feet on guys when I was in my twenties --- and thinking those looked distinguished. Why don't they look so distinguished on me now?

Now here's the thing that I find most surprising about being in my fifties. Actually my wife and I are both experiencing it. It is our perspective on youth. A whole paradigm is shifting here for us. I admire a young man at my church. He is well put together, has his head screwed on straight, is a good husband, a good father and a good leader. And I'm old enough to be his father!

How did this happen? When did the people I look up to stop being older than I am? Somewhere along the line, some of them must have slipped into my age group at least. But then we missed it and they slipped into the next generation down. Now we work with people who are well educated, capable, and strong. They're admirable. They're impressive. And I'm old enough to be their father!

I have a daughter who turns 30 this year. It doesn't seem to resonate much for me, because I still have children in grade school too. But there it is, I'm the clear parent of adults. And they're capable, respectable people. Is this what it looks like for the torch to be passed from one generation to another? Aren't those who do the torch passing supposed to recognize it when it's coming at them? Or is it okay if we're surprised by the torch passing that occurs?

I've said before that I am hopeful about our country's future when I look at the young men and women I get to work with. They're good people. They're strong people. Frankly, they're probably more together than I ever was at their age. Perhaps it's an upgrade across the generations? To put it bluntly, they don't seem near as screwed up as we were at their age!

Whatever it is, I find that maturing isn't nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. In fact, growing older seems to work for me. I find peace here. And when I look at the next generation that's taking over, I am confident about our future. Maybe I'm more confident than I was when I was young.

And so it is, modern maturity arrives at my door step. And somehow it was packaged in the fact that people whom I admire and respect are suddenly young enough to be my children!

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