Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Perfect Wisdom From Your Elders

Not only did I love this license plate the instant I saw it on Main Street here in KGH, but after I parked, I walked by the car. In the passenger seat waiting patiently for someone to come back was an elderly gentleman who looked like he was the type to say exactly this comment. It's a good attitude toward life in general, though perhaps you have to have lived through more of it to truly appreciate it.
This past week, I had a great conversation with a wise man about a number of things. (In truth, I had numerous conversations with numerous wise people about numerous things, but we'll stick to this one.) I'd sought out this person's advice for a number of reasons, most particularly that they'd be looking at the situation from the exact opposite end I would be. It was a part of life I'd yet to live through, while he was well past this stage of life; his perspective on the issue would be far different from mine.

At one point in the conversation, we discussed advice-seeking and advice-giving in general, and the man remarked to me how much easier it is (ironically) to appreciate advice as we get older. After noting what he thought of the stages and decisions in life I was looking at, he reminded me of what I thought five, six, seven years ago, and compared that to what I think now. It's fascinating to think back as to what seemed important then, and what seemed small; I look now and realize that the little things - some which I took for granted, some which I never really took - are what has mattered while the big ones are constantly changing.

It is rather interesting to note which decisions end up major impacts, in retrospect. It is often the case that I can pinpoint conversations, discussions, actions, or reactions which forever changed the course of my life... while situations which seemed so large at the time turned out to be quite small in the grand scheme of things. This rule of thumb is easily applied to friendships, to marriage, to parenting... it is more often the little things that will have the largest effect on the overall picture, while the larger ones will disappear. A fight with a spouse, a big party for a friend or child - those matter at the time, but they quickly fade from memory. They can be overcome whether for good or for bad. But sitting on the floor with your kid and just listening to their "instructions", making a friend feel unimportant, knowing when your spouse needs that short break - those are much more meaningful in the long run. Those are harder to erase.

My wise adviser said that there are often times in life where you won't have the control you want over the situations that may arise, particularly if you want to succeed or wish to work toward a certain end. But certainly, one should not just sit and wait in a simpler situation just to hold that control, just from fear of what's ahead, to look back on the past, or just to sit for the sake of sitting. He said that you have to place yourself into a situation where things can happen, and see where life takes you from there. You may find that you get what you wanted; you may find something that you'd never have thought you'd enjoy. But until you take those steps forward, you won't find anything.

After you take those steps, however, and see where life takes you... then you can look back and see about how it all worked out. Maybe life didn't look great at 17, and maybe it looked horrible at the age of 19. Maybe things were pretty bad a few years ago, and there are some rough spots even now. But those problems at 17 are gone, and the rough times at 19 have turned out to be some of the best lessons for life. And if not for what happened a few years ago, well... the present would be far, far worse, wouldn't it? And all this... this is without even mentioning all the great things that have come out of life in those times. Wow.

Thanks God, indeed.

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