Sooner or later, more often later, we ask: was it worth it? Those that have pictures of themselves aged 7 or so and after some very quick decades and many years, turn 70, sometimes also wonder how it all went. How did they fare? Did expectations get fulfilled or are there areas that are now pushing themselves into our conscience as having been somewhat lukewarm, unfulfilled? How come I became seventy so quickly, is often asked by those perplexed by the suddenness of it all?
Did my own delving in expectations so many years ago throw up anything that could have been done a bit better or has it all pretty well been done to a level of reasonable satisfaction? I suppose it depends on the individual and what they set out to do. If, at the first stage one wanted to become a rocket scientist but became a bus driver instead, one could surmise that it all turned out a bit insipid indeed. Strangely enough or luckily enough, most boys and girls want to be bus drivers or secretaries rather than scientists.
My expectations or ambitions were never along those lines. When very young I just wanted to play and have fun. To become a rocket scientists or an accomplished pianist was never on my horizon. In fact, even today, I can’t remember ever having had burning ambitions to become anything. I left it far too late now to join the police force or become a timpani player for Sydney’s Symphony Orchestra.
Of course at 7 years of age one really doesn’t easily have a need to become a rocket scientist nor a bus driver. I read yesterday though that a young genius had already finished a university course at seven years and another could play the complete works of all Mozart’s piano concertos at eight and half years. So, where does that come from? What could one possibly have gleaned from a photograph taken at age three or so indicating a future rocket scientist or a Mozart pianist?
I was taken by a photo of a very young girl looking out into the world. Her arms hanging down parallel to her body and looking at the camera with her face slightly askew as if she expected something to come out of the camera. At such young age everything is new and full of surprises. There hasn’t been time yet for things to have repeated themselves. All is exciting and nothing is repetitive or boring. The forest are still full of mystery, oceans full of lurking monsters, mountains to be scaled, smells to be inhaled, foods to be tasted, music and art to be discovered and friends and people to be met and made. All is virgin-fresh experience and all is new. The girl looking at the camera might well have expected something to leap out of the camera.
When that same girl reaches old age and we scan a recent photo, one still recognizes that same face, that same girl, but something has changed. The face has filled up with what that life offered her, gave her, and often also what has been ‘endured.’ The photo reveals the journey of life not unlike a car that has traveled a long distance. There is grime and dust, ‘wear and tear’; doors are squeaking and the steering somewhat unsure or wobbly, the tyres are worn and rust in the mudguard. We have become a product of life and for many; life has now turned into a merry go round of oft repeated experiences. There, for many, a truth is starting to emerge every time they glance at a mirror. It’s called ageing, but not just of body.
While there are still undiscovered areas of experiences, it is sometimes a lacking of energy to go out and discover and delight in ‘the new’. Fatigue has set in and the realization that one edges closer to an extinction of some kind. If anything still needs doing, time has become of the essence. For the frantically energetic and fanatically ambitious, this can be a trying time indeed.
But with that ageing, a wisdom or insight might also finally got born (to the inclined to wisdom) that what has not been achieved is not all that important anymore. It has come about that there is now so much more past and what is behind, rather than what still might lie ahead. With advancing years we gain the dubious but free ‘luxury’ of reflections rather than worry about what might still have to be achieved or done. We have become experts at creating the experience of wallowing in life’s final rewards of ‘pleasure’. We can sit and relax, look at the ducks or ride a bike around the park. It’s rather refreshing not having to achieve anything anymore, except those things that make the day a pleasure to have gone through. At the end of the day there is the reward of having ‘had a nice day’. That’s all that’s required now.
Perhaps, it was Edith Piaf who understood all when she sang; je ne regrette rien.