If you were given the opportunity to return to your 15-year old self, would you?
Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two
Most of us wouldn’t, even if we would love to replay certain choices or experiences with what we now know. Because growing older teaches us about all the opportunities we wasted, the loves we casually threw away, the sheer amount of time we squandered with being petty, with busying ourselves with temporary feel-good activities, or with numbing out with alcohol, drugs or a variety of mindless activities.
At 20 we could do endless amounts of the wrong things, and miss or ignore what the right things were. But we survived, because there would be many more opportunities to get it right, to learn from our mistakes, to acquire an education about how life really works, and to find new loves and more meaningful outlets for our skills, abilities and talents.
50 years ago, things that were thought to be science fiction have become commonplace. A Dick Tracy watch? Pure fantasy. A man on the moon? Amazing. Computers that fit in your pocket and that are a hundred thousand times more powerful than the computers that took up a whole room? Impossible. Gay marriage? Astonishing. The break-up of the Soviet Union? Stunning. A black US President? Remarkable. Cars that drive themselves? Impossible.
Most of what you wished for at 20 you have experienced or accomplished by 50, or your priorities changed so it became less important to you. Most of what you were interested in at 20 you have left behind or discarded by 50. Most of what you feared at 20 didn’t happen, or was less important than you had imagined. What really concerns you at 40, 50, 60 or 70—you had likely not even thought of. This is summarized by a quote, the author of which remains anonymous: “At twenty we worry about what others think of us; at forty we don’t care about what others think of us; at sixty we discover they haven’t been thinking about us at all.”
So what lessons has life taught you? I will offer some of the most important ones I have learned in next weeks column, but I would also like to invite readers to write in to me by email ([email protected]) and tell me the important lessons life has taught you. I will print the most interesting ones I receive in a future column.
“You can get old pretty young if you don’t take care of yourself.” —Yogi Berra
“By the time I reach the end of my life, I hope I’m ready to settle down.” —Ashleigh Brilliant
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