Too be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid
…reads the logo on one of my favourite T-shirts. At 50, I would hope that I am becoming ‘old and wise’. However, becoming ‘old and wise’ is far more challenging than I could have imagined as an adolescent. For those of us who have made it through our teenage years and our 20s, perhaps even our 30s and 40s, we are still learning to be ‘old and wise’.
Perhaps that’s why this is one of my favourite T-shirts – it’s because of the irony and truth of the message. We are all expected to make mistakes and learn when we are young. Yet when we are older, we are expected to know better, we’re expected to be wise. In reality we should be learning to be ‘old and wise’ throughout our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid of being ‘young and stupid’ as this is when learning occurs. This is the time in our lives when we grow and when we learn.
Recently, I decided, perhaps in a foolhardy manner, that I would attempt an Evel Knievel-style jump on my mountain bike. Take-off was relatively straightforward, landing was a completely different matter. Many of you probably felt the small seismic tremor as I somewhat ungraciously re-connected with the earth. Hobbling around the School with a walking stick has certainly provided me with a learning experience. By being ‘young and stupid’, I am certainly a little wiser and I definitely feel a lot older!
Reflecting on my learning experience, I asked a Year 12 group I was dining with about what things in their life they would rewind if they could. Relating to my own experience, I would rewind the few seconds of madness in which I took the decision to attempt the jump. The response of one student was outstanding and reflected their emotional intelligence. At just 17, this young student shared with the group as we ate together that they would not rewind anything in their life - every experience they have had, positive or negative, has made them who they are and made themself very happy with who they are. They were quite prepared to go on making mistakes and learning from them as, by doing this, they thought it would help them grow and become, in time, ‘old and wise’.
Of course, growing ‘old and wise’ by once being ‘young and stupid’ does have its own caveat. The size of any mistake and risk taking behaviours involved have to always be considered and sometimes, by being young, this isn’t so obvious. As parents, hindsight and the voice of experience are invaluable and definitely worth sharing, even if not always sought. It’s still our responsibility and rite of passage to educate the younger generations as we grow, and I might add not always gracefully, ’old and wise’.