|My Grandfather on the Ranch|
We live and learn. We die and forget. Such a shame that all that accumulated knowledge and experience should disappear. In everything we do, we make mistakes, learn from them, and (hopefully) do better next time, but in life there is no next time. Or is there?
What if some medical breakthrough allows us a do-over, maybe places our brain inside a cultivated young body or rejuvenates the cells to youth or allows us to live forever (which, even at 100, would make us remarkably young)? What would you do differently?
I'm damn near forty as I write this. My midlife crisis is a doozy. To say the least, I took the wrong track somewhere and wound up at the wrong destination. “The years teach us much the days never knew,” says Emerson. What will you do with that knowledge, or, as another poet asked:
If you could start your life from scratch
Rewind time and still go back
What would you change in the way that you live today
And what would you leave right where it's at?
-Mase "From Scratch"
-Mase "From Scratch"
Here's what I should have done:
1. Work hardest in youth. The most damaging information parents give: "Let kids be kids." until this century, children were small adults who worked their asses off. They had chores at two, ran the farm at eight, married at twelve, and had their own little helpers by eighteen. Today, an education is far more important than feeding the chickens at the crack of dawn, so it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Take education seriously. Get into the best college you can. Win awards. Earn certificates. Put initials after your name and awards in your portfolio. Life will not provide you with so much financial and free time again.
2. Go into finance. In the old days, men hunted mastodons. They understood how mastodons think, the better to trap them. They knew where the watering holes and migration paths lay. They knew where to thrust a spear for the quickest death. Men learned the scent of mastodon droppings. They knew which hunters to bring along, what their specialties were, and where to place them in the hunt. Men who knew their prey always had meat. In a world where boolean logic supplants the spear, money is the only prey. Chase it down, learn its habits, find out where it likes to congregate. All other professions are abstract.
3. Value Family and Friends above all else. It may first appear that this contradicts the last two. It does not. Even when you're working hard, you have down time. Spend every second with people you enjoy, people who love and respect you. Time spent alone is time spent dead.
Maybe you have no regrets. Maybe you answer Mase the same way Meeno did:
If I could start life from scratch, I wouldn't change shit
Same gun, same clip, same dumb bitch
All Out, Harlem World, same old clique
Same old studio, same old shit
Shit don't change
Which may be true, but change is the only hope we have in a long (but all too short) life. Consider Strom Thurmond. Dude lived to be 101 years old, but he didn’t go into politics until he was 31 years old, after a career as a teacher, coach, and lawyer. He stayed in office as a Senator for almost 50 years.
Or my friend, Tim. He was a teacher until he was 39, at which point he decided to be a lawyer. He’s been a lawyer now for thirty years.
Looking back on the list, I'm free to start all of it right now. The moral is: don’t wait for the scientists. It’s never too late for a mulligan - until you're dead. Whatever it is you think you need to do, go do it. You’ve still got another fifty years. That’s a lifetime.