Yesterday vs. Tomorrow

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Many of us associate getting old with diminishing capacity, both physical and intellectual. Pete Gavin doesn’t see it that way.

An old friend and teacher of mine has an exhibit in Berkeley on what it means to be old, something many of us don’t think a lot about – at least not directly. Or…we think about it too much, though not in a welcoming way. Yet, there are many advantages to aging.

When interviewed on television and asked what his favorite word was, Anthony Hopkins said, “No. Because it took me a lifetime to learn to say it.”

As I age, I worry less about conforming to rules of decorum and etiquette. I have license to be true to my real self. Life is too short to do things I don’t want to do.

Another benefit of age is learning what’s really important. Things that once caused stress or anxiety sort of wash away because in the big picture, they don’t matter that much. Like my wife reminds me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”


As I start to shed my rigid self, I’m exposed to thoughts and experiences previously not possible. I am learning to be more open-minded, more accepting, and I see beauty in places I never did before. By letting go, I open up.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I think he meant younger folks take things for granted. As I age, I pause and notice beauty, humor, contentment, a warm soothing breeze, a stranger’s engaging smile, the freshness of a piece of fruit. It’s easier to laugh at myself when I do something silly or stupid because my ego is less controlling.

When I was a kid, lying awake at night imaging my future life, I always thought my 20s would be my favorite decade, but what I found was the opposite. Every decade was better than the one before. I’ve had a good life, but I wouldn’t want to relive it. I’m grateful for the memories, but I’m even more excited for what’s coming than what’s been.

With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is a retired teacher of middle school English.