Handsome doctor man wearing medical uniform over isolated background Looking at the watch time worried, afraid of getting late
By JOE COBB CRAWFORD
What were the best years of your life?
The answer “the best is yet to come” is a nice platitude, but it dodges the question. It’s a wimpy truism, and like the words of a skilled politician, it answers nothing. So, what really were your best years, and what metric should one use to answer this question?
A member of my senior citizens’ Sunday School class emphatically told me one morning what the best years absolutely were NOT. He said, “The next time a young person tells me about how great the ‘Golden Years’ are, so help me God, I’m gonna hit him! I spend most of my time and money today just trying to keep body and soul together. Nothing ‘golden’ about that!”
Some would argue their youth was an equally bad candidate for the best years of their life. Maybe it was the “growing pains” of their youth. Maybe an unfortunate family situation made their life not measure up to their expectations. Some blame peers; others fault their parents for their disappointing youthful years.
Many never get over their perceived “worst years of my life.” Author Oscar Wilde summarized their soured perspective this way, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
What about “the middle years” of our lives? I personally don’t find the middle years to have been my best ones. Feeling so, I authored a novel that totally excluded that era from the main character’s life.
Because those years leave little time for a person to do the things they want to do. Those years were a blur for me. Very little do I remember, good or bad, about my middle years. I do remember that one morning I looked in the mirror and discovered that “all of a sudden” I looked like my dad and not at all like myself.
So, what’s going on with those foggy, forgettable and out-of-touch middle years? Here’s my theory on the situation:
We as Americans are far too busy to live. By “live” I mean, live as we did as youths and as some senior citizens do today. The average person’s middle years were much like mine. After school, you get a job; you get a spouse, a house, a car, and 2.3 children.
Your middle years blaze by. You blink, look in the mirror and realize you’re not you—not the young you nor the person you once aspired to be. You ask the person in the mirror, “Who are you and what have you done to the real me?”
He dishes out a reality check on you. He tells you that the once young guy made some tragic decisions. He spent most all his waking hours working to earn money—money to pay the mortgage, the car payment, the taxes, the church, the grocer, the dentist, the doctor, the vet and anyone else who promises to make life better for you and your spouse and 2.3 children.
You sadly accept that not much time is left to live—live as we did as youths or as a few wise senior citizens choose to live. These two eras of our life are gold standards. They’re the benchmarks for living well.
So, what’s my answer to this subjective question? I DO NOT KNOW is my answer. And “the best is yet to come?” Well, maybe. Hopefully it’s true. You see? My life is not over yet. But I strongly agree with those two Shawshank Redemption prisoners who said, “It’s time to get busy living or get busy dying.”
Please check back with me in a hundred years for my final answer. I’ll have you a definitive one then. And the fountain of youth will have been discovered, and “we’ll all be eatin’ that rainbow stew with a silver spoon underneath that sky of blue” that Merle Haggard sang about.