Tomorrow Versus Yesterday

Posted on in On Our Radar by Pete Gavin

A Perspective on Aging


a man and a woman are sitting on a bench

An old friend and teacher of mine recently had an exhibit in Berkeley on what it means to be old, which is something many of us don’t think a lot about—at least not directly. Or we think about it too much, though not in a welcoming way. Yet there are many advantages to aging.

When asked in an interview what his favorite word was, Anthony Hopkins replied, “‘No.’ Because it took me a lifetime to learn to say it.” As I age, I worry less about conforming to rules of decorum and etiquette. I have license to be true to my real self. Life is too short to do things I don’t want to do.

Another benefit of age is learning what’s really important. Things that once caused stress or anxiety increasingly wash away because in the big picture, they don’t matter that much. As my wife reminds me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”

As I start to shed my rigid self, I’m exposed to thoughts and experiences previously not possible. I am learning to be more open-minded, more accepting, and I see beauty in places I never did before. By letting go, I open up. George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I think he meant that younger folks take things for granted. As I age, I pause and notice beauty, humor, contentment—a warm soothing breeze, a stranger’s engaging smile, the freshness of a piece of fruit. It’s easier to laugh at myself when I do something silly or stupid because my ego is less controlling. When I was a kid, lying awake at night imaging my future life, I always thought my 20s would be my favorite decade, but what I found was the opposite. Every decade has turned out to be better than the one before. I’ve had a good life, but I wouldn’t want to relive it. I’m grateful for the memories but I’m even more excited for what’s coming than for what’s been.

Pete Gavin is a retired middle school English teacher happily living in Sonoma County. His perspective aired previously on KQED-FM.

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