Wisdom On The Wall
Written by Tom Lamb
One of my favorite songs as an adult is “One of These Days” by Neil Young. The lyrics speak to me so strongly.
One of these days
I’m gonna sit down and write a long letter
To all the good friends I’ve known
And I’m gonna try
And thank them all for the good times together
Though so apart we’ve grown
Every time I hear or think of it, or hum the song, memories of my life flash through my mind in images. In fact, I recently started a project to organize, frame, digitize, and use all the printed pictures that I have acquired over a lifetime onto a wall. Funny enough, that ‘lifetime’ of photos end around 2006, when imagery went almost exclusively digital… (but that’s another story for another day).
Still, there was life before the digital age and it resulted in boxes and books filled with pictures of people: living and dead, the family I have loved and still love, friends I have known—some still know well and others sadly lost to time, lost to changes in direction, or simply just faded away.
Yet, the process of looking at these pictures is a delight. It is filled with joy, fond recollections, love, heartbreak, and melancholy. Of course, the memories and stories contained in these pictures are great, but today, what is most interesting is the sum of the wisdom acquired in a lifetime’s worth of pictures.
“The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.”
This quote is not from Plato. It is not from Thoreau or Oprah either. It is from a K-Pop group, Bangtan Sonyeondan, or BTS.
Wisdom can come from anywhere.
Wherever the insight comes from, it is appreciated, because these words are exactly what struck me as my family and I started looking through our photos: How far we’ve come; how lucky we are to have the artifacts of our history; memories of all the love and support we’ve received along the way.
While the vast majority of the memories are happy ones, the photographs do rekindle some moments of sadness and failures too. Sadness of people who have passed on. Remorse of lost relationships. Failures of ventures not accomplished. But, taken together, they weave a story of completeness: a story of a life well-lived.
And that brings us to now.
The decision that sits before many of us as we hit our midlife: Do we sit and simply live on those remembrances? Or do we continue to build on that well-lived life? What’s next?
Start a New Chapter
Continue building great relationships. Meet the next group of great new friends. Build the next round of experiences, memories, and sweet successes and fond failures.
Who among us is going to start that new business? Who is going to learn that new skill? Or pursue that lifelong dream of learning to play the guitar, learn to speak a foreign language, or the difference between Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns?
Maybe most importantly, who among us is planning on sharing their Wisdom—either paying it forward or paying it back?
The world needs you now more than ever.
There is a well-reported shortage of talent in the United States. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the shortage of skilled teachers is very real. Never before, it seems, has there been a need for the sharing of wisdom that exists today.
And the good news is that Modern Midlifers are more supported today than ever before:
We are living longer. We are living healthier. We are benefiting from groups like Encore.Org, Whats’s Next, Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy, Aging 2.0. We are getting insight from researchers and think tanks like The MIT Age Lab and the Stanford Center on Longevity.
We are able to travel and have ever greater experiences through packages that are built exclusively for us in mind: whether riding motorcycles across the country, skiing, hiking, eco-travel, educational opportunities, and more.
We are being recognized and written about in new books, articles, essays every day. Everywhere from bookstore and library shelves to Amazon is filled with new books written for us, by us.
It’s a damned exciting time to be where we are.
Back to the Wall
I look at the wall almost every day; sometimes multiple times a day as I climb the stairs to the office and bedroom. Often, I stop, look, and smile at the memories of the people, the stories that those pictures represent. And although that wall is now filled, I think about the future, the next act, and what the new wall will look like—and the wisdom that is captured- when the time comes to fill it.