Friday, January 4, 2013

I have a 95-year-old uncle...

...whom I still see at family gatherings from time to time. When I look at him, I often wonder what, exactly, is going through his mind as he gazes at the crowd.

To a teenager: You really think you're cool, don't you? You have no idea how silly you look.

To a couple of newlyweds: Just wait; marriage is a lot harder than it looks.

To the parents of a newborn: Come on; you think you're the first people to ever have kids? I got news for you: he ain't the Christ child.

I don't mean to sound so negative; maybe my uncle Chuck just looks at everyone and thinks: Yeah, I wish I was that age again. The point is, he's seen it all.

In today's Times, there's an article, "You Won't Stay the Same, Study Finds," which says (my emphasis):

When we remember our past selves, they seem quite different. We know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years. But when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same, a team of psychologists said Thursday, describing research they conducted of people's self-perceptions. 

They called this phenomenon the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.” According to their research, which involved more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68, the illusion persists from teenage years into retirement. 

“Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin,” said one of the authors, Daniel T. Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard. “What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.” 

And, boy, does that ever ring true. I often look back at various times in my life and think: If I only knew THEN what I know NOW. Or: I can't believe I SAID that. Or DID that. I really feel like I've come a long way. 

But after reading this article, I wonder what I'll think of me at this age when I'm 95 (if I live that long): I can't believe I SAID that. I can't believe I DID that. I can't believe I spent so much time on that stupid blog.

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