“Experience is a good teacher,
but she beats her students.”
In our prime we jumped into each new day like paratroopers. No chute? No problem. We leapt anyway; confident we’d find one on the way down. The terrain below didn’t matter; we dropped into new schools, relationships, careers, communities, businesses and churches with aplomb (1. imperturbable self-possession, poise. 2. the perpendicular, or vertical, position.).
Back in the day we could focus like Cyclopes and multitask like Hydras. We were resilient, healing quickly when we turned an ankle or broke a leg. We bonded easily but could release the familiar to embrace the unknown.
But gravity takes its toll over time. Youth dissipates, injuries accumulate and vitality shrinks along with our telomeres. We lose friends and loved ones along the way. We’re not as quick to answer the Jumpmaster’s bark as we inevitably transition from active duty, to reserves, to retired.
Painful experience and personal loss temper us as we age; the challenge is to not become brittle. To finish well requires a different caliber of courage that’s more obstinate than audacious, more cerebral than adrenal. It’s seen in the daily choice to show up instead of check out, to stay in the game and play through the pain for as long as possible.
Few acts are more heroic—or difficult.