AGMA’s an on again, off again fan of On Being. Of late, more off again. I need to fix that.
For those of you who don’t know, On Being is a public radio show/podcast here in the U.S. It used to be called Speaking of Faith, but they rebranded it. I guess because it sounded too “religious”. Maybe.
Their website (onbeing.org) describes their purpose… “On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”
Easy peasy right?
A link on the On Being Facebook page to a recent OB blog post caught AGMA’s attention. It’s titled The Wisdom Boom and is by a young, 30 something woman named Courtney Martin. You can read her post here if you want: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/courtney-martin-the-wisdom-boom/8422
It starts out, “Every eight seconds, another baby boomer turns 65.”
Don’t remind me. Only 1,563,520 x 60 seconds to go.
It talks about reframing the concept of aging Americans from a Silver Tsunami to a Wisdom Boom. Wisdom Boom sounds much more optimistic and not quite as frightening as Silver Tsunami. And much better than the 1970’s Gray Panthers.
I like Wisdom Boom, but with a caveat. Wait for it…
In the post, she writes about specific Wisdom Boom individuals. She describes their activities and the organizations some of them have established to enable people in the “third act” of life have an impact on the world.
Oops. I think I must have missed my “second act”. When did that happen?
At 36, Ms. Martin thinks she’s in the “messy middle”. It’s natural when you leave your 20’s to feel a bit like youth is passing you by. I remember thinking that when I was 34.
But oh, young AGMA and Ms. Martin, nothing could be further from the truth. At 34 and 36, you are still so very young… Your future is still unfolding in front of you and will for quite some time. The “messy middle” really doesn’t start until you’re well into your 40‘s. And the &hit doesn’t start hitting the fan until you are into your 50’s. You have plenty of time so don’t panic.
Just think of this. A lot of people qualify for the Olympics well their 30’s and 40’s. Just look at Meb Keflezighi (easy for me to say…) At 40, Meb just qualified for his 3th Olympic Games in the Marathon. The Marathon. He’ll be 41 when the Games start in August. Running 26.2 miles in less than 2 hours and 15 minutes. At 41.
Holy crap on a cracker.
Like all of us, Ms. Martin’s in search of wisdom. She has a very busy, crazy life with family and career. She feels like she’s building stamina, but says, “…I’m not always sure I’m absorbing wisdom. Absorption feels like it takes time. I don’t have a lot of that.”
None of us had the time at 36. Trust me, none of us did. But the wisdom comes precisely through a busy, messy, out of control life. You don’t think about the lessons that you’re learning at the time or the “absorption”. You’re just trying to get through each day without screwing things up too badly. But later on, when you do have the time (and you will), you realize that the learning, the absorption, happened anyway. It’s not dependent on you consciously doing anything. The wisdom comes from surviving. And paying just a little bit of attention along the way.
Most of the time.
Ms. Martin sounds incredibly fortunate in that she seems surrounded by mature, self actualized, truly wise older adults. I caution her not to project her experience on all older adults.
And here’s that caveat…
As you and I well know, dear AGMA readers, a blaze of candles on a birthday cake doth not wisdom guarantee. Some of the goofiest, unwise, clueless people I know are in that “third act”.
For whatever reason, they haven’t learned the important lessons from the great taskmaster called Life. They have no idea how to set healthy boundaries and in many cases, are too wounded to grow emotionally as their bodies grow more age rings. And they seem to get more clueless as time passes.
They personify the definition of insanity; doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results. They get angry and bitter because they can’t figure out what happened; what went wrong.
We all know some of these folks. They are not the people to be working on those world impact projects. They might have an impact alright, but no the kind I think Ms. Martin is writing about.
But I so appreciated her post and hope you get a chance to read it.
I really love the idea of intergenerational, intercultural, interracial, interfaith, and whatever interother there may be, friendships. Makes me always want to be in a place where I can meet people who are different from me.
AGMA resolved a long time ago never to move to a retirement community like The Villages in Florida. Too many golf carts and STD’s, and not enough diversity for my tastes. But that’s just me.
Just remember Ms. Martin and young AGMA, you are both just in your early “second act”. Enjoy where you are now and try not to overthink things too much. Keep tapping into those wise elders, but don’t diminish the power of your experiences and instincts.
As some wise person once said, don’t worry about the destination; the joy is in the journey.
They were probably over 65.