By: Sanderson Sims
A dear friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once told me that she felt that the purpose of life is to accumulate experiences. No experience is necessarily better than another, just different. Failure, loss, rejection, addiction, guilt, betrayal — the list goes on — all serve a purpose.
Lately, I have been thinking about the challenges that we face in making our way in this world. We were all once fledgling birds, pushed out of our comfortable nests and thrown to the wind. Magically we learned to navigate in this unpredictable adventure called life. Each journey includes ups and downs, dreams and disappointments, accomplishments and set backs.
From my vantage point today, having reached the fourth quarter in this game of life, I can reflect with a sense of satisfaction, relief and curiosity about the route my life has taken and what I’ve learned. It has certainly been a marathon.
It began with the magic of childhood and a period of education. During this time of unbridled curiosity we could try out one idea after another. We discovered much about ourselves through athletics, music, science, the outdoors, commerce, and more, all of which provided important feedback and direction. Were we outgoing or introspective? What came easily and what required effort? What skills did we innately have?
There at the starting line cheering us on were family, friends, teachers and mentors, all dedicated to guiding and protecting us. Whether we realized it or not, a safety net of love and attention allowed us to live in the present moment, while knowing that at some time in the not-too-distant future we would be on our own. I like to think of this whole pre-launch period as our “first childhood.”
Once out of the nest it was something like being at Grand Central Station. During this phase we could simply go up to the cosmic counter and grab one train or another, each ticket offering a unique destination and exciting adventure. Eventually our ticketing choices became more significant and there was a purpose and mission to each option. How to make a living, develop loving relationships, raise a potential family, create a social life, and care for one’s health. Identifying and living up to one’s full potential and grappling with life’s ethical, ecological and spiritual questions also mattered.
Finally, after what seems like an endless journey, there comes a point in time when you realize it is time to get off the train. You have done quite a lot. Everybody has. From this point of view, nobody has failed. Some have gotten to a lot more destinations than others, but all have arrived back at Grand Central Station. From this point of view, we all share an equality in our different experiences.
For most there is a natural slowing down. You are older. You are certainly wiser in many areas. You have learned the costs and rewards of your many experiences. You are successful because you are still here. You are more content. Yes there are still challenges, but you know that the currency that is most precious is time. You now have time to reflect. Physically, you can’t do what you used to, but in this slowing down you can still see with the curiosity you had in your youth.
I am celebrating the wisdom gained and perspective that comes with age. I can exhale with satisfaction and gratitude. This is something to truly take stock of. And I believe I am experiencing a sort of “second childhood.” The wonder has returned.
If we let it be, it can be a time of simple joys. There may be a moment sharing a cup of coffee with a friend. There may be projects like learning a language, a new dance, or taking up painting. There may be books, audio, films you are drawn to, travel you want to pursue. It is also a time to simply sit, reflectively or meditatively, quiet the mind and truly embrace the wonder of each and every present moment.
Years ago I was lucky enough to spend a week with Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon. He said that on the way back from the moon he had an epiphany: that the only thing that could rival his experience in space was his own inward journey. As a result he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, dedicated to this pursuit.
From this viewpoint your “second childhood” may be the most rewarding period of your life. You will have time to begin or continue taking the journey inward. Yet, there is a choice point. If one is cynical, or feels that life has been unfair, or is angry about deteriorating health or any number of things, then the joys of a second childhood can slip past. May you choose to harvest the joy of second childhood.
Written by: Sanderson Sims
Photo Credit: Burst Photos, Matthew Henry