I’ve noticed an increasing trend as I’ve gotten older. I find that these days, more and more, I seem to take the cynical approach to pretty much everything. Every item of news, every new event, every daily occurrence usually gets briefly mentally dissected, its faults picked and finally rejected before I decide that I would much rather not bother doing/thinking about whatever it was and that instead my time would much better be spent by having a “nice cup of tea”, or some other equally stereotypical British-ism (which is another thing I seem to have developed).
But time was I used to be quite the opposite. I would consider each new proposition that was put to me on its own merit before dismissing it out of hand, I was more willing to try new things and to take new risks and I generally took the world (and myself) a lot less seriously. What changed?
Age and experience changes a person, there is no denying it. It seems pretty weird for me to be saying such things seeing as I am only now 21, which is hardly old by anybody’s standards, but I’m old enough now to be able to perceive how we change and evolve as a person as time wears on. I am not the same person I was five years ago, and I doubt I will still be the same person as I am now in another five years. This, I have come to realise, is just a fact of life and the trick is being able to use our life experiences in changing ourselves for the better.
And that’s the bit which worries me. Have I really changed for the better? I’m less willing to participate in things, have much less enthusiasm and have become extremely jaded towards a lot of things. I still try to keep an interest in politics, for example, but it is difficult when you have lost all faith in the political system.
Growing up can certainly leave you feeling embittered; no more so than graduating from university and being forced into a lengthy period of unemployment because you took a degree which was not so much career minded and because the bottom fell out of the job market. It certainly grounds you in reality and forces out a lot of that youthful optimism. To a degree, I think it is good that I have now become a lot more guarded, much more wary of things than I used to be as it means I now question everything a lot more. And since I studied History for three years, my natural opinion that questioning things is always a healthy thing to be doing.
At the same time however, I regret the fact that I am no longer willing to open myself to new experiences. I now frequently dismiss new ideas and suggestions since I believe that I now “know better”. To “know better” is in some ways a curse of age – the older you are, the more sure you become that you “know better”. But surely this just means that I have stagnated mentally. I am no longer trying to experience new things, I am no longer willing to reformulate my opinions and even subconsciously will filter out things which do not fit into place with my own current view of how things ‘should be’. This is not a good thing to be doing.
Clearly a happy balance can be reached by always allowing ourselves to open up to new experiences, but in doing so also to apply the knowledge and experience which we can only gain through age. Perhaps this is easier said than done.