62: Aging Compounds Change #LifeWideLearning16

I’d like to think that every year I have been alive has been better than the last. While that is not strictly true, it is a wonderful piece of fiction that I tell myself often. Aging, as this theory goes, is the process of getting better, year by year.

I think that is why I despise both the fetishization of youth and the rush to define yourself as one thing by the time you are 25. The 30 under 30 lists are one of the worst example of how we make being young feel like an achievement. It is like we are celebrating the relative lack of experience as something to be both proud of and something to seek out. I hope that this isn’t just sour grapes that I no longer qualify for such a list. Rather, I believe that our emphasis on achievement rather than growth continues to perpetuate the same myth in schools and the workplace.

I am better than the me from high school or college. I am a better father than I was when my first child was born. I am able to create things that I couldn’t have dreamed of in my early twenties. This growth is not an abstract concept for me. It is something that affects my life daily. And it is up to me to tell this story rather than continuing to make references to an award I received in 2007. By sharing the ways in which I have changed, even insignificantly, I am changing the narrative about aging.

While I believe in the power of young people to be agents of change and to use their passion to create the future, I do not believe that this stops at 25 or 30 (or 40 or 55 or 70). In fact, I believe that we get better at this over time. At least, we get better at creating enduring change. We improve throughout our lives because we can better see more of the picture and because see how time can both sustain and erode our passions.

And it is time itself that seems to be in favor of the longview. Given enough time, my (current) daily struggles with your 7 year old for not yelling at his sister do not seem that important. Over the years of marriage to my wife, a single forgotten errand does not seem consequential. It does not define our relationship. And no single change, whether it is buying a new house or getting a new job feels like it will define my life either. This is how aging and time work together: they make it so only the sum total of your contributions are important.

And that is how I deal with aging, by looking at it both as a process of improvement and as a way of building a massive amount of learning and love. I do not lament my teens or twenties. I do not long for the days of knowing or being less than I am. And when I grow older still, I hope I do not look back with too much rose colored fondness for this time. That wouldn’t help me to tell my story, and in the end, that is really all that I would like to do.

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