Now that I am almost midway in my 70’s I realize once again my thinking has changed. This, I have found, is perfectly normal, just as I have changed my way of thinking through other stages of my life. Circumstances change. It may be the environment in which you live, the relationships you have, the career path you’ve embarked on—all kinds of things that affect your daily life can cause change in the way you think. It simply depends upon when and where you are in your journey. And it is a journey, make no mistake about it.
You have no doubt heard, or been told about, finding oneself. Early on, I did not understand the concept. “Hell,” I’d say, “I’m not lost.” Subsequently, I actually remember when I was first aware, seriously aware, of where I was in life and what I had to do. I realized that adjustments had to made. I guess I had found myself. I was in tenth grade and, lucky me, I realized then that I better start applying myself to my school work if I were to survive the rest of my life in a way I envisioned. I did not know at the time what I wanted to be when I grew up. I did know that I did not want to stock groceries on a shelf or hustle up pancakes for hungry customers. Nope, I knew then that studying, reading and doing my homework were important. I actually began looking forward to report card day instead of dreading it. Oh, I still went to summer school every year because I always needed “extra” time to figure out algebra. But the rest of my grades kept me afloat enough to be accepted by a college when the time came.
When I was 18, I met a girl. My thinking from that point forward took a dramatic change in direction. There were course adjustments along the way for things like marriage and children, career maneuvers, living in different cities and houses and a gazillion other things that many of us experience along our journey. Consequently, your thinking is forever changing. Your attitude adjusts, your taste changes, former dislikes become likes and, overall, you are always looking ahead to your future, filled with ambition and a compulsion to get there.
And then, there is still more change when you reach the so-called senior years. But the change this time, at least for me, is like none I’ve experienced. Peers begin dying. Not surprisingly, you cannot help but think about your own mortality. It becomes evident at this stage of life that the end has come into range, enough so that it has now become your future. You will find this to be the most daunting influence you’ve ever felt. Dreams and aspirations occupied your mind up until this time. Now, when you look to the future, you think about things like insurance coverage, getting your personal affairs in order and making sure your will is up to date. You can choose to ignore all this, grit your teeth and face it head-on, or set your switch to “denial” But remember this, these days you could, after all, survive another 20 to 30 years.
I remember an incident when Rosemarie and I were just married and we had very little money. Setting up our household was a slow process. Acquiring furniture was a piece-by-piece procedure. We would save up money and when we had enough to purchase the next chair or table, off we’d go to the store. We wanted everything to be very contemporary—that was our thinking at the time. So, the couch we bought was very sleek and unusual…and, as we learned later, very uncomfortable. Upon seeing it as we proudly displayed it to my mother for the first time, I remember her reaction. She was politely complimentary about it, but she did make a comment to the effect that “you will be surprised how different your taste in furniture will change over the years.” She was spot on and, indeed, our couch today is quite traditional and a lot more conservative…just as our thinking has become.
You will find that your mind is exceptionally reactive. As you go through life, the way you process things it is exposed to will change, sometimes drastically or sometimes subtly. So, if you would like to monitor your thinking as you proceed along your journey, it’s really quite easy. Simply stand in your living room and take a look around.