There are some things our younger selves just don’t “get.” I am not talking about the typical “responsible adult” stuff that we all (or most of us) have to accept as age creeps upon our shore, like mortgage payments and 401Ks. Rather, I am talking about things that require a certain perspective that is gained over time to truly appreciate.
Recently, I read a post by another blogger on the topic of things she doesn’t get. And that got me thinking about things that I appreciate now that I missed when I was younger.
Risk. Perhaps some people take more risks when they are young and become more conservative as they age. For me, I think the opposite is true. As a young person, I only took risks when I had no idea what I was doing was risky. I may have had big and different ideas, but I frequently wavered when I needed to stand up for the choices I wanted to make, and I ended up doing a lot of things simply because it was the safer option. Did I go for that philosophy or English major instead of selecting a field of study that provided more defined career options? No, I graduated with degree that would help me get a job. Did I take that job teaching English in Japan when the appeal of “broadening my horizons” was so strong? No, I chickened out when they told me I would be living in a closet without a phone. Did a follow up with a major rock music promoter after he was impressed with an event I put on for a charity and asked me to call his office to schedule a time to talk about working for his company? No, I figured he was just being nice.
Granted, it’s easy to assume the outcome of rejected paths would be much better than it might have turned out in reality. But I am glad that I have loosened up a bit in my midlife and have begun to act on my instincts more and conventional wisdom less. I hope I have the guts to keep going.
Bob Seger. Where I grew up in Northeast Indiana, Bob Seger was an artist who earned single-name status, and at group functions of all kinds, people shook it to his back-to-the-basics anthem, “Old Time Rock-n-Roll.” I knew he had other songs, but at the time I was very into newer acts and very frustrated with my hometown radio’s resistence to the artists I was seeing on MTV, so I took a bit of offense to a certain extent when I heard someone encouraging people to reject the new. His music irked me, and I refused to enjoy anything he recorded.
But, a couple of years back, I found my finger hovering over the preprogrammed station buttons on my car stereo when a Bob Seger song came on the radio. I dismissed it as a guilty pleasure, but then I stopped changing the stations more often when I heard his music. Eventually I began to admit, “Yeah, I like a few Bob Seger songs.” This past summer, I found myself responding to a post on Facebook stating that, “I woke last night to the sound of thunder… how far off, I sat and wondered,” was one of my favorite lines from a song. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a fan, but I do appreciate his music now that I’ve actually really listened. I’m a writer, and even if I don’t relate to everything he covers in his songs, I enjoy hearing how he tells a story.
I think this is a universal thing, opening up to an artist you’ve refused in the past. Several years back I forced my husband to come along with me to see Depeche Mode — a band not guitar-driven enough for his tastes — and he had a great time. He ended up really liking their music and the performance. I can probably name a handful of other artists I now appreciate, but Bob Seger is the one that really surprises me.
LMAO. It’s not that I didn’t laugh as a young person. I laughed hard. I laughed so hard that my stomach muscles hurt. But, I was under the impression that laughing was a given… that I was entitled to that kind of entertainment all of the time. I took it for granted, even thought it was one of my favorite things in the world.
When I grew up, I realized that laughter does not come with a guarantee. People don’t just automatically laugh at things when they are older. There is a lot of serious business to attend to, and some grown-ups get so caught up in these things that they no longer pursue laughter. And they sometimes block it out entirely.
There is a lot about getting older than can bring you down, certainly. That is why I appreciate having things to laugh at. A couple of months ago, I was at a small gathering when one of my friends said something that touched just the right nerve. I responded with much heartier laughter than the comment deserved. For whatever reason, I was receptive to that break in reality brought on by unchecked laughter. This exists in all of us when we truly — even momentarily — let go of our troubles for the sake of just enjoying ourselves. It feels even better now to laugh than it did all those decades ago.
Anything you now appreciate that you didn’t before? Comments welcome!