With age, comes wisdom and increasing doubt

By Drew Edwards, The Record

While most manifestations of my tumble into middle age are entirely predictable — mysterious aches and pains, the inability to digest delicious deep-fried foods, a preponderance of nose hair — there is one that I simply did not anticipate.

Doubt.

From my late-teens onward, I possessed an irrational confidence that bordered on arrogance. Presented with any physical challenge, job opportunity or exercise in mental acuity, I was convinced I could conquer it with little trouble.

I didn't necessarily believe I was the fastest, strongest, smartest or most eloquent guy in the room — I wasn't fully delusional — but I had an unshakable belief that I would somehow Find A Way to accomplish my goal.

While I never received the full comeuppance I likely deserved, results were often uneven and sometimes downright comedic. I took a job I was woefully underqualified for, then nearly had a full-blown panic attack my first day at work. I agreed to ride my bike 40 kilometres as part of a relay team, despite the fact that I was about 20 kilograms overweight and hadn't ridden a bike in five years. I made it, but just.

I was also constantly right about everything. It was amazing how many arguments I thought I won just by stating my sometimes asinine opinions over and over with greater volume and vehemence. I don't think I ever resorted to sticking my fingers in my ears and saying "nah nah nah, I can't hear you," but I may as well have.

Around the time I turned 30, things began to change. As I made the transition into married life, then fatherhood, I was faced with a series of decisions that didn't seem to have a right answer, as well as a debate opponent — my wife — who carved through my unjustifiable justifications with a meat cleaver of well-articulated common sense. And kids call bull crap before they are even old enough to pronounce the word or understand the concept.

Failure plays a role, too. Time makes setbacks inevitable and retrospect allows for the re-evaluation of decisions long since gone. I like to think I've learned from my mistakes, but that requires acknowledging they've been made in the first place. Turns out, there are limits to my ability, intelligence and capacity to eat Doritos.

I'm losing more arguments, too. While many of my core beliefs have galvanized themselves, I also find myself encountering new information and well-thought-out opinions that force me to re-evaluate my thinking. Apparently, my ideas aren't the only ones, or even the best ones. At least I've taken my fingers out of my ears (they've been pushed out by all the new hair).

These days, I find myself less supremely confident than ever. I believe I have ability — my mom likes my writing and my 14-year-old daughter says it doesn't suck — but I'm aware there are people better, smarter and more hard-working than I am. Sometimes that's inspiring, other times it makes we want to stay home and drink wine all day (leading to another middle age gift, the truly diabolical hangover).

But all this doubt is liberating, too. The possibilities may not be limitless, but within those limitations is a clear understanding of what I know, what I can do and who I am.

The potential for growth and even adventure is still formidable. I still have faith in myself, it's just tempered with experience and, if I'm really lucky, maybe the first tiny signs of wisdom, too.

That much I know for sure.

Read the article: Edwards, D. (2015, Mar. 28). With age, comes wisdom and increasing doubt. The Record.



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