Monday, 11 January 2016

Changing

Some people believe that as we get older we're incapable of change and we cling to the opinions and habits formed when we were young. "You can't teach an old dog new tricks", as the saying goes.

I think that's defeatist rubbish, trotted out by people who don't want to change, who cling to some supposed idyllic past and don't want to adjust to new demands and expectations.

They often justify this head-in-the-sand attitude by saying we're all "hard-wired" to think and behave in certain ways and that's that. Any attempts to think differently are doomed from the start.

I couldn't agree less. I know my thoughts and emotions have changed in numerous ways since I was young, and even since ten years ago. I couldn't be more different from the naive, submissive, muddled, careless schoolboy I once used to be. If the eight-year-old me met the 68-year-old me, we simply wouldn't recognise each other. We would seem like complete strangers.

As a youngster I was emotionally illiterate - barely aware of my emotions, let alone able to express them clearly. My opinions were sternly conservative, heavily influenced by my solidly conservative family. I was utterly naive about relationships, politics, sex, and the often desperate lives of those who didn't share my middle-class upbringing.

At what is now approaching a ripe old age, I'm all too informed about those things I used to be blithely ignorant of. Almost too well informed, to the point of weary cynicism. I'm more and more conscious of my emotions, and the depths of pain and suffering and joy and enthusiasm they involve. I don't have so many of the glib, know-it-all opinions about other people's relationships or behaviour or personal crises.

I think a person's readiness to change is boundless. All that's needed is an open mind and flexibility. Hard-wired, my arse.

30 comments:

tammy j said...

first
the picture you've chosen.
I absolutely LOVE that happy little face on the skateboard.
god. what is not to love about dogs!
all my life I've called what I go through every few years...
a sea change.
it's from the very depths of my being and sometimes it really shakes up how I view the world and myself. it can be exciting.
so far I seem to welcome those times.
and being a gemini... I LOVE any change and even crave it.
if I couldn't change anything else ... I used to change around the furniture. bob wasn't that pleased always at first.
then he would say...
"i think it feels more open this way. I like it." :)

Bijoux said...

The young claim to be open-minded, when actually, they are close-minded about the older generations. I've found that it's much easier to be understanding of differences now that I'm older and have seen and experienced more.

Rose Blackthorn said...

I've seen older people change, some of whom surprised me. I didn't think they could.

When I think about how much I've changed in the past four years...it's a shame people limit themselves.

Nick said...

Tammy: A sea change every few years? That does sound exciting. My changes are more gradual, more incremental. I suddenly realise that my thinking about something is quite different from what it was before.

I get really uneasy when Jenny starts on one of her furniture-changing sessions!

Nick said...

Bijoux: I must say I don't know many youngsters so I don't really know what they think about anything. But it seems to me that understanding differences is more of a personal thing than an age thing. Whatever their age, some people are tolerant of difference, others try to stamp it out.

Nick said...

Rose: It's a bit of a myth that older people can't change. There are plenty of oldies who're quite at home with computers and smartphones, for example. You're right that people limit themselves too much, and imagine they're incapable of things they could probably get to grips with if they tried.

Anonymous said...

I've changed over the years and will,no doubt,continue to change...but if you are brain dead to start with then you have difficulties. And our current education system doesn't help matters.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm changing all the time, but mostly it's smooth and gradual. I think of myself as a garden, and I'm always gently pulling the weeds and nurturing the flowers. We can't help but change as life goes on, and I like having a bit of say in the matter when I can.

Nick said...

Anon: Too true about our schools. The government puts more and more emphasis on passing tests and exams rather than intelligent and critical thinking.

Jean: Pulling the weeds and nurturing the flowers is a nice image. I think in my case it's more like changing my gardening habits to accommodate the changing seasons.

Dave Martin said...

My father is now eighty, and he's still stuck firmly in 1958 with a determined resolve to never deviate from his established way of thinking. He's completely closed off to anyone elses opinions or ideas, and has steadfastly refused to change with the times.
As far as he's concerned, homosexuality is unnatural and deviant, mixed race relationships are an appalling taboo, climate change is a lie, and the internet is dismissed as a worthless joke.
If you try to explain an idea that differs from his own set of presets, it's like talking to a brick wall.
I remember when I was still living with my parents and we got our first microwave oven - he refused to eat anything from it because he honestly believed the food had been made radioactive.
The only good thing to come from his example is that it has taught me exactly how NOT to be.

Nick said...

Dave: Sounds a bit like my own father (who died in 1988, thank goodness). He was always fiercely conservative and resistant to any "new-fangled" ideas, and we had endless quarrels. I shudder to think what he would have been like at the age of 97.

I think my mother still believes microwaves are radioactive, even though I point out that I've used them hundreds of times and I haven't yet withered into oblivion.

A Heron's View said...

I think some people get stuck in a rut and that the rut becomes comfortable.
Myself, I have always been of a flexible nature willing to make changes where necessary to my lifestyle. Starting with clothing - I like bright colours and fabrics that are soft. I don't though follow fashion but I do know what suits me; same with hats, for instance I look good in a beret and a broad brimmed hat but not in a cap.
When 50 I gave up putting sugar into my drinks because I figured that it was spoiling the flavour, at 60 I decided to restrict my alcohol intake and now to drink is a rarity. At 67 I decided to join a political party and become actively involved and what did I find? I was bashing my head against a bunch of younger fuddy duddies in the local cumman. Having been a solo activist for a number of years, I returned to that which kept my mind focussed and fully engaged.
Am now 73 and looking forward to making changes where I can and in finding new novelties.

Nick said...

Heron: I think you're right, for a lot of people the familiar rut becomes so comfortable they don't want to leave it. You certainly seem to be ready to change if you feel the need. Me likewise. At 53, my partner and I moved from London to Belfast. At 56 I took up hill-walking. At 60, I started this blog. At 63, I started a completely new type of job for a voluntary organisation. Who knows what I might try in the next few years?

Helen Devries said...

I enjoy being adaptable...who knows what opportunities lie ahead?

Nick said...

Helen: Absolutely. It was being adaptable and ready to try something new that got me my present job.

Wisewebwoman said...

I think your premise is false in comparing an 8 year old to a 68 year old self.

I'd much rather you compared, say, your 58 year old self to your now self. What changes in opinion, outlook, hobbies, etc.

I like to look back every 5 years and add new explorations, either inner or outer to my bag of tricks.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: That's certainly a useful comparison. In 2006 I hadn't yet started my present job, which has involved a lot of adaptation and ingenuity. So big changes there. I've also changed my reading habits - I'm increasingly reading American and foreign novels instead of British, as they're more eye-opening. I know many of my opinions have changed but I couldn't list them all!

kylie said...

I went from being a die hard and superior pro-vaccine person to being quite a skeptic. It's a big change.

Nick said...

Kylie: I haven't given much thought to vaccines, probably because we don't have kids (though I do have a flu jab every year). But I see there are increasing doubts about the usefulness of screening, especially cancer screening.

Wisewebwoman said...

Nick, to add to above, I think opinion changing is one of the more powerful demonstrations of flexibility in old age. I know I have 180'd some of mine in the last few years by becoming more educated and delving deeper into issues.

XO
WWW

kylie said...

my kids are an indirect influence on the re-think. I've just become a lot more aware of how we are manipulated and how scientific data is falsified and where the money trails lead.
And yes, cancer screening is not always helpful. Again, it's a business

Nick said...

www: Me too. I've also done big u-turns on some of my existing opinions. I don't understand people who're so convinced of their correctness they absolutely refuse to consider alternative facts or opinions.

Kylie: Yes, I imagine kids have a big influence on their parents' opinions, as they come to everything with a fresh mind and ask awkward questions non-stop! I'm also increasingly aware of how much research is falsified and skewed to serve someone's private agenda.

Rummuser said...

I endorse your view completely. I am older than you are and have been changing in my attitudes and sensibilities after retirement more than I changed during my working years. I also know that you CAN teach old dogs new tricks.

Nick said...

Ramana: In that case it will be interesting to see what happens when I finally retire!

Grannymar said...

I change everyday... my clothes and the way I brush my hair! ;) * runs to hide behind the laptop!)

Nick said...

Grannymar: You're incorrigible!

Keith Smith said...

I believe in moving with the times. My father was a Radio Amateur like me and his transmitters and receivers all used valves (he built his own kit). Even until he died (2003) he would never consider using PC boards, transistors, or "interrogated circuits" as he called them, "Son, they will never catch on, valves will be with us until the end of time" he said, as he tapped away on his Morse key! I'm glad I moved on to modern electronics. Dah-dit-dit-dah!

Nick said...

Keith: Valves will always be with us, ha ha! My father died in the pre-internet era and never had a chance to condemn this new-fangled innovation. My mother, who is 93, has never shown any interest in the internet, mobile phones, Skype or anything related. She sticks to her telly and landline, however inconvenient for the rest of the family.

Jenny Woolf said...

I agree. However, I also think it is important to keep up with modern ideas, which many elderly people don't - I think the reason is that it's hard to keep up with (or be bothered to keep up with) how things are constantly changing. And sometimes technology makes it hard to keep up. But having said that, one of the most memorable was open minded and very old and happy to be of a different era - what she said was still so interesting and her different perspective was fascinating.

Nick said...

Jenny: Old people are very variable - some are bang up to date with everything, while others stubbornly cling to what they're familiar with. My mother's resistance to the internet makes it very hard to keep in touch with her. She often doesn't hear the landline because she's a bit deaf, but I can't email her or text her instead. Grrrr!