[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I'm still in Maine, Frank Paynter of listics continues his exclusive TGB guest series on The Three Ages. Today - Coming of Age. Be sure to stop by his blog; there is always something there you probably didn't know before.]
Here is another reflection on the three ages we experience if we live that long...
I'm a late bloomer. I cling to that idea because it excuses a lot. If I wasn't a late bloomer I would have been some kind of success as a young man: a gifted academic perhaps, or a business leader, or a noted author. Since none of these things have yet come true and I am passing, I may have already passed from the second age to the third age, I really must be a late bloomer, a really late bloomer, a late bloomer for real!
As a child all things were possible. I didn't hear the rustic accent and the speech patterns that distinguished me from the upper classes. My flat feet and poor vision were simple accidents of birth. I played in the high school band and if I wasn't very accomplished, I always had faith that with a little more practice I could do a lot better.
The shift from adolescence to adulthood was gradual. It involved more than a few graduations. It also involved taking a job, supporting myself and finding a path to walk. Walking that path is what the second age is about I think. As a flat footed person, my gait is neither beautiful nor fast, but at least it is distinctive.
The shift from mature adulthood to older age has also been gradual. And here I am confused by the late bloomer quality of my life, because what other people seem to have grasped quite young, has only come to me in the last few years. I have reached a place where I'm confident, and that includes the confidence that it's okay to make some mistakes. I am much more accepting than I was as a younger person. I am generally able to acknowledge my lack of control of a situation, and to work through the situation anyway.
As a young man, sitting with other young men of my age group, a recurring topic of conversation was "if we had known then what we know now." This usually applied to success with girls, but it had a broader applicability too. We looked back across the gap from the second age to the first age, and we regretted our innocence, our ignorance of the ways of the world.
Today, if I look back to the first age from the third, I mostly enjoy the memories with none of those regrets. But looking back a shorter distance, toward the beginning of that second age, I still do have a few of those "if only I knew then" kind of thoughts. I believe that those regrets will fade with distance as I progress flat footedly down the path ever deeper into the terra incognita of this third age.