A few weeks ago, I talked about how I feel like I’m getting old even though I’m only 29. It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately, since I’m rapidly approaching my 30th birthday. I’d like to take this subject up again and explore it in a little deeper depth.
One thing that I’ve noticed as I get older is that the more I learn, the less I know. Let me explain. As a little kid, I realized that there were a great deal of things I didn’t know. I remember being in awe of how much my parents knew, and being convinced that they knew just about all there was to know in the whole world. But once I became a teenager, things changed. I didn’t really go through the normal “teen angst” phase where my parents were the most horribly out of date and embarrassing people I could possibly be associated with. But I wasn’t exactly eager to be seen with my parents in public either. In any case, I remember that, as a teenager, I truly believed that I knew everything that was important to know.
Now, of course, I look back at that attitude and realize how little I actually did know. The interesting thing about getting older and learning more is, the more I learn, the more I realize how more there is to know. I suspect that if I live to be 100, I’ll have a spectacular wealth of knowledge and believe that I know nothing at all. It’s also interesting to reflect on how my views of the world have changed. I grew up in a conservative family. My parents never really told me what to believe or anything, but of course people are influenced by the views of those around them. I distinctly remember, as a kid, believing that Republicans were good and Democrats were evil, end of story. As a teenager/young adult, I considered myself more of a moderate, but I still always voted for Republicans.
Nowadays I feel like my political views are more nuanced. Whenever I vote, I try to vote for the candidate who I feel will do the better job. In 2008, that meant I voted for almost all Democrats, but that wasn’t based on any kind of black-and-white, Democrats=good, Republicans=bad, kind of thinking. I looked at the track records of individual candidates and of the parties as a whole, and made my decisions that way.
Even though my political views tend to lean more toward the Democrat side of things, I don’t agree with everything they stand for and/or do. I’m pro-life. I’m opposed to homosexual marriage. I was pretty outraged when the news broke that permits for deep-sea oil drilling were still being granted even after the President’s so-called moratorium on drilling. So I still consider myself a moderate, although certainly a liberal-leaning moderate.
In any case, my point in talking about my political views was just to emphasize my fascination at a couple of things. First, I’m fascinated by how the nature of what I know and believe has changed as I’ve aged, and second, I’m fascinated by how my views of what I know and believe have changed. It really has been amazing to me how much wiser I’ve gotten over the years. (Yes I know that sounded like an astonishingly arrogant statement.) Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go back in time and meet my 17-year-old self. I think I would probably smack myself in the head and say “Get a clue, you moron!” Okay maybe not, but it would be interesting.
I don’t really regret any of the choices I’ve made, because I know that those choices have made me the person that I am today. And yet, it would be difficult for me to make some of the same choices if I were given a second chance to make them. For example, after I graduated from high school, I was thoroughly sick of school, and yet I believed that I had to go on to college after high school, so I ended up going to a small community college because a bunch of my friends were going there. It was a miserable experience, and I dropped out after one semester in which I got the worst grades I’ve ever gotten. In the long run, it’s hard to say that that was a mistake, since things ultimately turned out for the best, but if I woke up tomorrow morning on the eve of my senior year of high school, it would be hard for me not to do things differently. Like, say, go to the University of Minnesota and get a bachelor’s degree in history, and then move on to graduate school and get a Ph.D in history. But then I probably wouldn’t have met my wife and ultimately married her and had two wonderful children with her. So it’s probably best that we don’t get second chances at major life decisions.
In the end, I’m probably just rambling on about nothing. People get wiser as they get older! What a surprise! Although I do suspect that that doesn’t always hold true with everybody. But what fascinates me is not so much that I know more at the age of 29 than I did at the age of 19, it’s the fact I’m so much more willing to learn now than I was then. I’ve always loved learning stuff, but there was definitely a time when I believed that things were set in stone and that the world was the way it was and that things would never change. My viewpoint couldn’t be farther from that now. I realize now that the world is so much bigger and more diverse than I ever could have imagined in 2000. And I also realize that how I view the world now is almost certainly going to be different from how I view it in 2020, 2030, 2040, and beyond (if I’m blessed enough to live that long). And that, my friends, is exciting.