Garrison Keillor once said, “Even in times of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.” It’s easy to see elephantine vanity and greed since you only have to turn on a television whereas it is much more difficult to focus on the campfires of gentle people. Seeing people as they really are is a learned ability that comes with time and experience. Facades are necessary for survival, i.e., being nice to people when you would rather kick their lower extremity. The trick is to maintain that facade without losing one’s inner self. Shakespeare said it best, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst be false to any man.” (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)
Youth can be forgiven their vanities for that’s the very definition of the teens and early twenties, but there comes a time when we all must grow up and become, nay, glory in the beauty that age brings. (Sorry about the nay, been reading too much Shakespeare). There comes a place for us to be the mentors and guides for those younger than us using experience gained to provide paths for those younger. Our responsibility to the youth is unending; we must set the example as it was set for us.
I see the lines that faintly mark my face and the whiteness of my hair can be blinding in the sun; however, each line is earned as are the white hairs on my head. They say that I have withstood the years, surviving all turmoil and that I have a lot to give because to whom much is given, much is expected. (paraphrased portion of Luke 12:48) So, why would I want to deny what is my own heritage which I have rightfully earned. To thine own self be true….. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the glory days of youth and packed as much as possible into those days, but time passed and I changed. Becoming a parent was a HUGE adjustment and I grew up. I. Just. Grew. Up. It required me to change my inner thinking and attitude. It required me to stop acting, well, almost, on impulse. It required me to become responsible, to become an adult. Becoming older required another large adjustment. The world views me differently now and, at first, I hated it. It broke my heart to be viewed as uselessly old as though my mind simply crumpled from the weight of all the years. It hurt to be taken less seriously and amusing others with my supposed anachronisms. But I adjusted since I knew that no matter what the outside said, the inside was still that vibrant, headstrong thirty something that could provide so much to the world at large.
Aging can be a beautiful thing even when life isn’t. When vanity and greed become the norm, being yourself is always a good thing.