Accepting each stage of life as it comes and living it to the full is also part of time or life management and adds immeasurably to contentment in life. Human life has several and distinct phases of growth and development , each with its own specific characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. The wise person makes the best of each stage without being impatient for the onset of the next stage , without an unhealthy nostalgia for a passed stage and without dread or anxiety about the next stage. . That’s why we have the saying, “Growing old gracefully” This can be complemented by another maxim, “Growing up serenely”, without fretting and hurrying.
Many have a fear and dread of old age. They loathe the bald head, the dentures, the walking stick, thick glasses , hearing aids and consider them as nightmare phantoms of old age. Some dislike the grey hair and spend tons of money for dyeing themselves black or wearing a wig to hide their bald pate. All the time they are conscious that the rest of the body does not match their improved parts providing an subconscious mismatch between their natural self and the artificial self.
Features like baldness, grey hair. are usually dependent on heredity. No one is likely to change these things in his generation by worrying about them. Perhaps worry can add some more grey hair but diminish them.
Teenagers are usually in a hurry to become adults. The independence and coveted privileges of adults beckon them. But they forget adults have many responsibilities and little of the freedom of adolescence. They will not be given the allowances society makes to teenagers.
Some teenagers mistakenly equate adulthood with freedom to smoke, drink, engage in sex, sporting a moustache etc. and they think they become adults by indulging in reckless habits and orgies. So they gather together for wild parties, get into trouble with the law, or are rushed to hospitals due to accidents and generally shock their elders. These are the hallmarks of rebellious teenagers. Street children are often thrown into this situation through force of circumstances. Adulthood is thrust on them early in life. They miss out on their teenage and graduate directly to adulthood.
Teenage is a time of uncertainty and of uneasy ambivalence between childhood and adulthood. So it is understandable that teenagers long for the adult stage. But it is unwise to rush into the adult stage because the adult world is not only just privileges but also of responsibilities like job, marriage, children, care of parents etc. Teenage is still a time for adventure, learning skills, freedom, study. Adult life will not usually offer leisure and opportunities for the same. .
There is a beautiful poem of Robert Frost on this theme known as “Birches”. In it he says that boys climb strong and tall birch trees and bend them almost to the ground but the trees have the resilience to bounce back to their original position as soon as the climbers dismount. They suffer no damage or harm in the process. But if one bends the birches too early to the ground when they are still very young and tender one might damage them for life and stunt and cripple their growth. As the Bible says there is a time for everything under the sun…a time to be born, a time to die, a time to love, a time to withhold love, a time to speak, a time to be silent, a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing, a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to grow and a time to decline. Everything is right and proper in its own time. When you drive a high-speed car you do not shift gear straight from neutral or first to the top gear. You pass through the gears one by one. If you shift from the first gear to the top gear directly bypassing the intervening gears you will ruin the vehicle.
Every stage has its advantages and purposes. In childhood one enjoys innocence, freedom from cares, attention, and affection of parents, one has the sense of wonder and natural curiosity, the readiness to easily forgive and make up. Play is the most enjoyable activity of childhood. Once childhood is passed one will never again be able to play in a perfectly carefree, relaxed manner.
Though many people do not like old age it has its merits and good points, too. In Eastern cultures old people are looked up to for their experience of life and mellow wisdom. They are given places of honour at family and social gatherings Having seen life in its various colours, moods and phases one has a more comprehensive idea of man and the universe in mellow ripe age. Free from the impetuousness of youth one can face problems calmly and with equanimity. People often seek the opinions of wise elders on important matters in life. The blessing of patriarchs and matriarchs is much valued on occasions like christening, wedding etc. Man is believed to become wiser as his grey hairs increase or as his hairline recedes.
For personal reflection
1. Am I living in the present or lingering in the past or impatient for the future?
2. How best can I profit from my present stage of development?
3. What’s my concept of adult life? Do I think I can live as I please?