It would be nice if we could launch new stages of life, just like that
Listen to an uplifting speech, throw your hats into the air, and move on, you’re at the next stage of your life. Except that I don’t know anyone who, in hindsight, knew how much we didn’t know. Frankly, when I look at it from the perspective of my sixties, it is a bit terrifying; the innocence and arrogance. And the power of that innocence and arrogance. You’ll never have it again.
Graduations imply finely defined demarcations in a life. But the real demarcations are the ones you don’t see coming: getting fired or laid off. Children. Illness. Something like a book deal that suddenly, after years of work, validates you. Falling in love when you’re ‘happily’ married. Surviving that. These are the markers along the way. But there are bigger turning points. They’re just less obvious.
On my fortieth birthday, my father told me something that turned out to be true. He said to enjoy my forties because I would be liberated from the less appealing aspects of youthful indiscretion. In other words (more like his), from being an idiot about many things. In your twenties you can do anything, but not necessarily well. That’s ok. In your thirties you get a little more skilled but are probably still faking it a lot of the time. If you get to your forties and you’re still faking it, you probably start drinking more seriously, or have a crisis and buy a Porsche, or chase young girls (or boys). Or you find yourself growing up, whether you want to or not. You graduate.
But here’s the rub. After that burst of confidence, if you experience it, things happen. If you’re lucky, lots of things. You’re back in school and hopefully you take full advantage of it this time! Congratulations.