Thoughts about getting older

For quite a long time I have been telling everyone that I actually still feel the same as I did when I was 16. By "everyone" I mean at least all the people in my circle of friends and acquaintances. And at least also all "other people", above all family members. And what I really meant was that the feeling is the same. So that the time between 16 and now possibly sounds much bigger than it feels.

Fortunately, of course, that's nonsense. I don't make the same decisions as I used to. If I did, I'd probably have a pierced face, a blue, green and red mohawk, Pennywise or the Sex Pistols playing loudly in the background and a joint in my hand instead of a keyboard. Yes, of course: I still listen to Pennywise and Sex Pistols - but I'm happy to do without the rest. Some contemporaries may think that I have become more conservative. But I don't let myself be lured into the trap of these former JU members (JU = "Junge Union", the youth organisation of the germany conservative Party CDU), who were born as 60-year-old pensioners. 

But what exactly has changed since then? Besides hair and piercings, certainly the way of making decisions. But also the horizon to think about things. As an almost 40-year-old you are already sure that there is such a thing as "30 years". But if you're 16 and only know such time spans from the Internet or the wrinkled faces of your relatives, you simply don't know what to make of such lengths. And anyone who has not felt something like this is probably not much good as an expert in such questions of time.

The question remains to be clarified whether time spans play a role at all with regard to decisions. I think it does, and here's my "why." We have learned to make decisions objectively throughout our lives. While children are still quick to follow their impulses and prefer to choose the short-term small reward instead of the big long-term one, over time we understand that it can be worth waiting. For example, when we invest money, we assume that we will have more of it after a few years. The effort we put into our studies pays off over time, and even waiting for a new kitchen is usually worthwhile. So we learn that many things can turn to our advantage if we just have the patience.

So my decisions as a 16 year old were usually pretty short term. Bad!

But thinking one step further: Would I still want to be like a 16 year old today? Knowing what I know today, sure: I might do things differently then and would have bought Bitcoins for sure. With all that thinking about it, one thing becomes clear: again, these are decisions that would take me back in time to my 16-year-old self. So the thing is only exciting when I think about wanting to travel back in time. The thought of being 16 again without time travel, so to speak in the here and now, just by turning back my age, doesn't appeal to me.

So how do I actually feel today? I'll soon be 39, will turn 40 next year. I feel grown up, yes. But not in the way I used to imagine what it was like to be an adult. My earlier idea of adulthood was a much more detached, confident one. It was more the conviction of definitely doing everything right. The fact that this is not the case surprised me. I think that's why you wait all the time to be an "adult", because you're actually waiting all the time for the feeling that you imagined of adulthood as a child or teenager. But if I ignore this feeling, then I am an adult. I make decisions for my children - if that's not adult, then what is?



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