I’m Not Who I Was

Youth is wasted on the young.
~ George Bernard Shaw

I kept a journal in the eighties. Wait, let me rephrase that, I kept a journal for a few months in the eighties. I still have it. The other night I took it down from the top shelf in my closet, dusted it off and opened it to page one. My first thought is…fascinating.

We’ll get back to that.

My birthday is tomorrow. I didn’t think I would enjoy getting older; I do. Life has been a wonderful teacher and in recent years, I have become a more attentive student. I’ll gladly take the grey whiskers and wrinkles – sorry, “laugh lines,” along with the gained wisdom and discernment.

A comprehensive Stanford Children’s Health study concludes that no matter how well young people score on the SAT or ACT, good judgment isn’t something they can excel in — at least not yet. The rational part of a teenager’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is twenty-five-years-old or so. Insert jokes about boys here. Yes, it often takes us longer. Maybe that explains why one night, my friends and I decided to sneak out and throw rocks at cars driving right in front of my house, including a police officer. We were detained at gun point. Maybe that explains why I asked a girl to “go with me” in the morning, then “dropped” her a few hours later when my friends teased me. Maybe that’s why, instead of simply studying for a test, I broke into a teacher’s desk and stole the answers.

I was good kid with ZERO judgment.

Now in my fifties, I’m reading my own words from the eighties, and I’m frustrated. I want to shake that stupid kid. I complain throughout my journal about how boring my life is. I whine about being lonely with no girlfriend while I hung out at a bowling alley playing video games. I had a free place to live (home with my parents) and I desperately wanted to be on the radio, but I sold office products, never showed up for my radio station internship (I was eventually fired) and I talk endlessly about being tired and depressed.

I was a young adult. ZERO judgment.

It’s not that I don’t make mistakes today. Of course I do. I made two before lunch. But I learn from them and try to never repeat them. I say I’m sorry when I’m wrong. I listen more, speak less, and I understand that it takes faith, hard work, and the help of others to win.

Okay, so it’s not easy being a year older. The body hurts more when I play sports, mow the lawn…hell, even get out of bed. But I’m wide awake to the wisdom. I’m energized by purpose. I now have something I lacked in the eighties: judgment.

Go easy on the young. They’re in progress. They’re not who they’ll be.

I’m not who I was.

Thank God.

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