Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forever 40+

Pop culture would have us pine for our late teens and early twenties. And why not? At that age we have few obligations, maximum potential, and we've yet to do anything to screw up the rest of our lives. Halcyon days, indeed.

Or perhaps not. We give a lot of attention to the "few obligations and maximum potential" and not nearly enough to the "do nothing to screw up the rest of our life." All told, this period offers far less upside (e.g., graduating university) than downside (e.g., DUI, drug abuse, pregnancy, etc.) Worse still, the upside from this period - high grade point average or career internships - evaporates pretty quickly once we enter the world of responsibility and career. That means success during our teens and early twenties is measured not by major achievement, but by how little baggage we accumulate.

For all the hype, what happens during this period is pedestrian, not epic. Not exactly the stuff of Homeric ballad.

We achieve our greatest accomplishments and define our legacy in the years that follow. We would do better to idolize our later years to be the culmination of some noble Opus, rather than to wax bucolic on a fleeting period of youthful circumstantial narcissism. Much better to be perpetually looking ahead to our next achievement than to be caught up in the fantasy of idyllic - and often faulty - reminisces.