duaa asks: Why does life become more difficult with age, or with the passage of time?
Hi duaa –
Thanks for your question about life becoming more difficult over time.
I’m not sure, though, whether I really agree with it. Sure, some things definitely get more difficult (When I was younger I could jump all day, hoping to catch birds in our tree; today, that gets pretty tiring!). But overall, I think we just forget how hard it is to be a kid!
Lots of experts in development say that the hardest thing humans ever learn to do is to walk. That walking involves so many muscles, and such an incredible amount of learning about balance and motion, that nothing else really comes close. As an older kid, or a teen, or an adult, you might get incredibly frustrated that it takes, for example, twenty or thirty tries to get some concept in math learned, or parallel parking, or manage to sell your quota for the month. But compared to what that baby does, thirty tries is nothing! That baby had to try and fail hundreds, maybe even thousands of times before managing to walk from their bedroom into their mother’s (hopefully) proud and adoring arms!
Then I think of how hard life is emotionally for the young. If a person tells an adult they’re a stupid-head, it hurts for a moment. But tell that to a child, and watch them break down in tears. Are you scared to go to the grocery store? Lots of the kids I see are. With all these giants running around and the noise and confusion, and their parents sternly scolding them any time they grab an interesting-looking box!
What I think really happens over time, duaa, is that some things get easier, so people forget how hard they once were. You walk every day – but now it’s second-nature; while you’re also having problems you couldn’t even conceive of when you were younger, so it seems that you’re having a harder time now than you were before!
Again, think of math class. Perhaps it was really hard for you to understand fractions. But once you grasped the concept, then you had to move up to Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, maybe even Calculus. Now that kid who was struggling with fractions, of course, couldn’t begin to conceive of the concepts in Calculus. But that doesn’t mean the Calculus student is having to work harder to grasp those concepts.
Then there’re the actual changes in the world! If you lived a hundred years ago, you’d be struggling with a new thing called a telephone, which required you talking to an Operator every time you wanted to make a call, and having to yell into the receiver. Fifty years later, it was a lot easier – but now you had to remember phone numbers, or at least where your phone book was, and when to call someone so they might be home. Thirty years after that, you had to worry about checking your answering machine to make sure you hadn’t missed any calls. Ten years after that, you needed to remember to bring your pager with you everywhere. And today?! It’s so complicated – you need to remember your phone, and to charge it, and to turn it off in classes and movie theaters, and know when it’s okay to text and when it’s not, and watch out for drivers who are texting when they should be looking where they’re going, and…
Now which is easier? Today or 1912? Well, it’s a lot easier to reach people by phone today, but it means people have to remember a zillion times as much. Is one really more difficult than the other? I truly don’t know!
So that’s not exactly an answer to your question, so here’s my real answer: Things are more difficult as you get older, because you have to remember so much more. But things are also easier, because you’ve mastered so much more than you realize.
And so my solution to the problem remains what it always is: Enjoy today for what it is, and work to make tomorrow even better. Though it’s okay to occasionally think back on the best things about yesterday, and shed a tear for them along the way too.