When you’re in high school or college, most of your time is spent around people your age. We become absorbed in the humor, language, and habits of those in our age group. Even when seeking advice, peers are often times the first ones we turn to for a sense of understanding. Our common ground is our shared space in time, and there is something very comforting and familiar about that.
However, there are two untapped pools of wisdom that we are missing out on when we stay age-centric. While we are trekking through the first quarter of our lives, we need to learn as much as we can from the two groups of people that flank the spectrum of life: children and the elderly.
So, what exactly can they teach us? Well for starters, we all need to stop worrying about everything. Karl Pillemer, a Ph.D in gerontology at Cornell University, interviewed over a thousand elderly Americans and asked them for some good old (pun intended) life advice. Over and over again in 30 Lessons for Living, the interviewees talked about how they regret having spent so much time mindlessly worrying about things out of their control. Rather than letting moments pass by in constant anxiety, they talked about the importance to “take time to craft the story of your life” instead. It’s more about investing in your legacy, and less about the things that can get in your way. Even the young ones of the world have similar sentiments.
“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “All the Things That Could Go Wrong.”
– Marianne Williamson
For budding adults, that file in our minds just seems to get larger and larger with each decision we make. If we want a bit of childish ease to rub off on us, it’s best to keep observing how they choose to live. In a Ted Talk with internationally renowned speaker and author Caroline McHugh, childhood is discussed as a place in our lives in which people are most authentic. McHugh says that “when you’re a kid, you’re fantastic at being yourself because you don’t know how to disguise your differentness.” Kids are not afraid to show up in the world as themselves. They may be unaware, but they are also unaffected by the judgment of others. There’s a beauty in that sort of freedom of thought, that no matter what kind of millennial dilemma we may be going through, we can choose to hide less of ourselves and be proud of who we are.
Those with just a few years under their belt and those with only a few years left, these are the people that have a lot to share. Lighten up a little, feel self-assured, and enjoy what is right in front of you: today.