The human mind is an over-confident machine which gives itself credit for things it really didn’t do. For instance, 90% of drivers actually believe they are above average. They are probably included in 75% of the accidents which “weren’t their fault.”
In the teaching and medical professions, college professors and doctors think they are above average, and it follows that most college students overestimate their chances of getting a high-paying job, even though in today’s job market, they may be holding down two or more jobs just to make ends meet.
When shopping for clothes, middle-aged people buy too-tight clothes—thinking they will take a few pounds off, though the majority of people gain a few each year. You are a different person from who you were twenty years ago. I wouldn’t recognize myself if I met me today. I’m not sure if that is good or bad.
As they grow older, many people, me included, feel less sure of what they were sure of twenty years or more ago. Have the rules changed, or is it us? We take on new interests, which take the place of the old ones. Suddenly, an activity which was once so important is replaced and the brain willingly lets the old one go. Rather like cleaning out the junk drawer.
Aging is inevitable, but it is not consistent. There are plateaus of time stretching over years when the faces of friends look unchanged. Then Time accelerates and the metamorphosis takes place. Time has an apparent power to move at different speeds. Of course our own faces remain forever young and unlined, and we are surprised when a forgotten friend doesn’t recognize us.
There is the inevitable blunting of the mind’s keen edge. The connectors of our brain become less efficient. You may find yourself looking at the ocean or into a cheerfully burning fireplace, and longing for something, but you don’t know what. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind, a creative and enchanted place, where most of the brain’s work gets done.
We are capable of change even into our 80’s and 90’s. With a little judicious pruning, we can rewire ourselves and regain the self-confidence of our youth.
We all want to belong; to be assured of our own self-worth. To be selected from the crowd is always gratifying to self-esteem. One feels the need to make some return, a fact which accounts for a number of otherwise surprising marriages. It’s like mistaking beef stew for prime filet.
Growing older is not a roller-coaster ride into oblivion. It can be a grand new adventure because the heart grows smarter.