Do we get harder as we get older?
I mean, do we grow a tougher skin, do we become more uncompromising, more.... for want of a better word, ruthless?
Think back to teenage years, when everything matters, where every sense, every sensation is magnified by our unfamiliarity with it; where everything we feel, from the unutterable joy of a favourite song to the intense disorientation of the afterglow of a romance, is just so damn big. Does that magnification fade, dwindle, as we grow into adulthood or do we simply develop better ways to deal with it?
I suppose what I mean is how we as humans, both young and old, deal with stresses in our lives. From the shock of realising that we are entering "The World" after the cotton-wool basket of infancy and childhood, to the vast untested horizon of independence and responsibility, these are massive stresses that we face as children and teenagers and even into our twenties.
Later, as fully paid-up adults, we face essentially the same dilemmas but because we have told ourselves there is more at stake, or because in fact there *is* more at stake, we feel that the potential costs are so much greater.
Do we find our strength and resilience in simply growing tougher and more ruthless in handling our errors, our choices, or do we try to absorb them, feel them to their fullest potential and absorb the lessons so that next time we will confront them with the same optimism but just make the right decision first time?
It's an often-repeated piece of conventional wisdom that the three most stressful events we face in our lives are marriage/divorce, moving home and changing work. These are all adult events, but just rearrange those events into a teenage context and the stress is just the same.
So it's how we handle these events that must change. In our youth we dive in head-first, experience everything to its fullest and emerge on the other side bruised but still whole.
It's as adults that we are more prone to breaking rather than bending, I think. We are more set in our ways, less willing to make the adjustments, the compromises that we once believed were the better approach.
"As a child touching age, we think that it's so:/That life, love and everything is easy to know./The old, they can't reach us/Their ways are not ours/Though they furrowed our futures/Our freedom they bore."
I'm not sure how to wrap this up, except to say that when we take the luxurious moment to stop the clock and look backwards in generous spirit, I think it's important that we try to remember how much more *life* we can experience if we open ourselves to the possibility that imperfect is the natural state of things, and that stress and disappointment is normal. To allow ourselves to dry out, to stiffen and to be prone to breaking rather than bending is to remove ourselves from this world.