Be open to the insights that come with aging

My grand-nephew Wyatt celebrated his graduation from pre-kindergarten (pre-K) last week.

According to my niece, it was an adorable commemoration. Children were seated in front of the parents and the teacher had them perform songs they had rehearsed together. Then everyone watched a slide show with pictures of the class each month and during special occasions. Lastly, each student was called up to sit next to the teacher and receive their pre-K certificate. 

In the future, if all goes as planned, Wyatt will celebrate graduations from kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school, and maybe even college or technical school, with ceremonies marking each milestone.

Graduation ceremonies are held to commemorate the culmination of an academic journey and it marks the beginning of a new chapter in a person’s life. It’s a day of celebration and reflection that hopefully graduates will cherish for years to come.

While the tradition of honoring formal educational milestones is an important one, our journey for knowledge and wisdom doesn’t stop there.

Once out of school, we all take different paths to our next chapters of learning. For most of us we don’t stop gaining knowledge, discovering new things and realizing fresh insights as we live our lives.

Even in our sixties, seventies or eighties, there is still much to learn. It may no longer be learning the words to a song, or how to work on a team, or how to build and maintain a relationship, but if we are open, we are learning every day.

Right now, many of us are learning how to be caregivers. Caregiving is a life-changing experience and brings with it so much wisdom. We learn how to expect the unexpected, to adapt to our loved one’s changing needs, and to how to handle the emotional distress as our loved one declines.

Many are navigating the wide-open experience of retirement. For some who weren’t planning on it, it may mean learning to manage the strain on savings and dealing with the emotional loss of one’s work identity and sense of purpose. For others it may mean an opportunity to rekindle old passions, travel to new locations or just find a new rhythm in a less stressful life.

Many are likely trying to make sense of the world as it is today, learning how to cope with political differences in our relationships or determining what is real and what is misleading in a time of information overload.

And some may be learning to live their lives without their partner, facing a change of identity from one of a couple to a single person, taking on new responsibilities and finding ways to care for yourself.

Learning doesn’t stop as we get older. As a matter of fact, because we have an accumulation of life experiences, we can often turn new insights into wisdom by using our knowledge, experience, understanding, and common sense to grow.

Next time you come out on the other end of a significant learning experience, consider it your own personal graduation and celebrate it.

Some of our greatest insights come as we age and see life through a lens of experience, empathy and reflection

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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