By J. Hogan
There’s an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. Maybe… but when you’re young and full of recklessness and fiery bravado, most of us made a bunch of dumb, but fun, funny, and foolhardy choices that fill up our memories with tales we’ll tell until they push us into the back of a hearse, so who is to say if that’s actually a waste or just equipping?
I turned – assuming that this I make a few more days after I write this – 55 recently, and that seems crazy. How am I in my mid-50s? Wasn’t I 28 last week?
I don’t feel like I’ve lived longer than Elvis, John Lennon and Jerry Garcia. In my head, I feel like I’m still a kid, ready to run around the ring like Sweet Pea Whitaker.
Of course, my body isn’t on board with that. Chavez would catch me in a step or two and KO my old, slowed body with one of his straight rights. It’s the legs. They’ve gone. I never thought I’d have to think as I amble about how to approach the gentle slope down the churchyard and be intentional lest I end up in an ambulance, but here I am.
Getting older does teach strong lessons though, and really bring things into focus.
I cherish my wife more. I relish my daughter’s season of being 15 more than I did my sons, not because their time wasn’t special, but because this is the last 15-year-old in the house. And I enjoy the boys more, too. I don’t want to miss a thing, to quote Steven Tyler.
I don’t waste time fighting unimportant battles, because there are only so many battles left in the years ahead and I’ve learned that a lot of things that seemed so important, well, mister, they just vanished right into the air, to quote another old rocker. (Apparently, I quit gathering new lyrical quotes a good while back, too.)
I do waste time, but now I cherish the time I waste, too. Not every moment needs to be filled with go-go-go. I have some purposes left, but not every purpose is mine to chase down anymore.
I think it’s a perspective thing. Like the sanded-over world conqueror of yore whose long-forgotten exploits were predicted to never be forgotten, I realize that honing in on why God has me here and doing what I can matters… yet, the world will one day soldier on without me. That thought, juxtaposed against the notion that I once thought I had to “make my mark” has
been distilled down into a new spirit.
That spirit is more mellow, barrel-aged and smooth, knowing that God does indeed have His uses for me and His blessings for me and I’m to be available with all I can muster for both, and not get tripped up much by those things that fall outside of these things.
Things like living in the moment and really listening when folks I love are talking have taken on more meaning. Things like needing to show my face at every place folks wish I would have less meaning. (It’s not that I don’t care about the people, but that I can’t run my motor at that speed anymore and had to come to terms with it.)
I like the focusing power that has come with aging, and lament my inability to focus with the intensity I once had all at the same time.
I’m better in the overview and weaker in the details.
More than anything, I don’t believe the world is a better place than it was in my youth, but that it is still incumbent upon me to do my part to make it better just the same.
One of my friends suggested that in a few years, we’ll just both be complaining all the time, and I hope that doesn’t prove prophetic. However, if it becomes my defining characteristic, I hope I find a way to enjoy it.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.