I was listening to Chris Hardwick speak to Neil Degrasse Tyson on The Nerdist. In their conversation, Tyson mentioned that when we become older, we forget about learning because we’re so engulfed in essentially what we all call the “real-world.” We’re required to focus on a boatload of other things in our lives, so much so that actually sitting down and learning something new is almost impossible for us.
Now, I understand as you become older, you’ve got bills to pay, mortgages, and potentially a family to worry about. It won’t be an easy ride, that’s for sure.
However, when we get older, I think we allow ourselves to become less and less inclined to want to learn. As we’re going through school, we’re learning, but as soon as we graduate, it’s as if we tell ourselves that enough is enough. We’ve learned everything we’re going to need and have no reason to learn any more.
For those of us in our first year, graduating, in high school, or wherever you are, we’re facing a problem: we’re aging ourselves faster than we think we are. Not physically, mentally. We like to remind ourselves of how old we’re getting, and all these responsibilities that we have to deal with and in doing so, we become less and less curious, and we just don’t want to learn anymore.
We become comfortable and we’re okay with it because it means we’re safe. “Do we care about learning more?” “…Sometimes.” “Do we want to learn more?” “I mean, if we ‘have time.’” “Should I be trying new things?” “Eh, no. I’m older now. That’s something meant for when I was young.”
That’s where I start to get slightly annoyed. Why is it that as we get older we tell ourselves that we can’t do things anymore because it was meant for our younger self?
We’re only supposed to educate ourselves and have the time of our lives when we’re young, right? When we’re older, it’s all about knowing exactly what you’re doing, taking on our responsibilities, and fulfilling our role as adults?
This is the problem. We leave all of our risk-taking and open-mindedness to our younger selves, and later on, we attempt to fulfill this role of being the adult who knows exactly what they’re doing all the time. Gone are the days where we are able to go out and try something new or even learn something new. We’re conditioned to believe that it’s time to grow up, time be a real adult. We’re too old and have no time to do things anymore. But why does growing up have to be this dark scary realm of responsibility and bills?
As I’ve grown older, the more I’ve realized that those adults who limit themselves to the environment around them and lose the motivation to keep learning and improve themselves are the ones who will boast about how knowledgeable they are. How “wise” they are.
Here’s the truth, though. None of us will ever know enough about this world for us to actually say that we know everything.
I think we live in a world where it has become necessary for us to constantly remind ourselves that we’re “too old” to do anything. We’re beginning to do it right now in school. We’re getting used to the fact that it’s time to face this so called “real world.”
If there’s any advice that I can give you, even if you’ve already graduated, or even if you’re 50: stop telling yourself you can’t do something merely because of your age.
Physically, you may look older than you did before, your health may not be as perfect as it was when you were young, but mentally, you’re ready to take on anything and everything.
If you don’t already know this, your brain loves to play tricks on you. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, your brain will accept it as the truth and you’ll never accomplish what you want to accomplish. If you tell yourself that you can do it, then watch the difference it can make. It’s a subtle little trick, but it goes a long way.
It’s the same as when we tell ourselves that we’re getting “old.” Being “old” today means that you don’t need to learn anymore, you can’t have fun. You’re an adult and you have to accept your fate.
I think that allowing yourself to accept that role does more harm than good. Information can be accessed easier than it ever has been, yet we never take advantage of that and use it to better ourselves. We need to remember that as we grow older, it just gives us more of an opportunity to learn. We should never stop ourselves from learning, or stop being ourselves for the purpose of being “an adult.” There is no rule book that lays out exactly how life as an adult is meant to be lived. You are the master of what it is you want to do in the time you have here, so why not use it to learn? Why not use life as the ultimate opportunity to take risks, to make a change somewhere, to become a better person, or to just do something that you haven’t done before?
I truly do believe that age is nothing but a number. There are multiple people in this world who don’t care how old they are. They care about their experiences here and what impact they can make. As many times as you may have heard it, just because you’re older, that doesn’t mean that you’re smarter or wiser. If we all open our minds a little more, take our ego out of the equation, and realize that we all have something to offer while we’re here, we can truly be happy. There is not one way of becoming an adult, you yourself decide what kind of adult you want to be.
So don’t be afraid to go to Disney world at 55, or play video games at 62, or read Shakespeare for fun at 16. Hell, do what you want for yourself. Just remember, you’re not old; you’re still learning.