Retorts: What I’ve learned over that hill

HIGH SCHOOL graduates have a lot of adventures ahead of them.

I am at a stage in my life where I spend a fair amount of time asking myself, “What have I learned?’ When I have lunch with old pals, I raise the same question: we’ve been around for a few (actually, more than a few) decades, so what truths have emerged from the smoky cauldron of our experience?

With high school graduations right around the corner, it seems like a good time to dust off the cranium and give some thought to the theory that with age comes wisdom. So what does that mean to the Class of 2017? Here are a few wizened thoughts.

  • You are who you are. Sure, you will change and develop a bit over the next 60 to 70 years of your lives, but for the most part what you’ve got is nearly baked. If you’ve got some bad habits now – drinking, thoughtlessness, driving 40 miles over the speed limit, borrowing money you have no intention of paying back – you’d better jettison them before football season starts, cause otherwise they will follow you around like herpes. As Paul Simon wrote, “After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.”
  • Don’t expect things to be perfect. More to the point, don’t expect people or relationships to be perfect. I mean you’re not, so why should he or she be? All situations, jobs and especially romances have their fair share of inherent trouble and grief. The trick, in the latter case, is to find someone who is the kind of trouble you won’t mind dealing with.
  • Your opinions will probably change. A lot is made of how technology continues to transform our world, but not much attention is paid to how the passing of the years changes your world. As your situation evolves, your notions about politics, parenting, God, money and controlled substances may well do a few cartwheels. Conservatives become liberals. Liberals become conservatives. “Wild” kids become strict parents. The pious become skeptics and the reverse and on and on. When young and bullet-proof, we snickered at the health complaints of our elders. But once you cross that invisible line into middle-age (and beyond), the creaky struggle to get yourself out of the driver’s seat is no longer a laughing matter. Oh, and the music. Today’s music is always awful when they’re not the tunes of your youth.
  • You may have peaked. The skills that make you Big Man on Campus or Queen Bee may not be what it takes to make it in the world out there. Pity.
  • You probably haven’t peaked. The acne will clear up. You’ll find a haircut that makes you look great. You’ll get a lot more dates. You won’t have to drive a hand-me-down 1997 Toyota Corolla. You’ll be in charge of somebody instead of always taking orders.
  • There are as many more pleasures ahead of you than what you’ve left behind, and some grief. Take them both with as much courage, wisdom and kindness as you can. But it’s OK to scream into your pillow from time to time. It’s a wild ride ahead of you, but you’ll be glad you took it.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts began in 1969 and continues each Wednesday, in spite of popular demand.

Categories: Opinion

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