Every day I hear middle-aged people bemoaning the fact that they were not given advantages or did not seize the opportunities for an education in early youth.
They believe that their lives would be happier, better and more useful had an education been obtained.
Scarcely one of these people realizes that middle life is the schooltime for old age, and that just as important an opportunity is being missed or ignored day by day for the storing up of valuable knowledge which will be of great importance in rendering old age endurable.
Youth is the season to acquire knowledge, middle life is the time to acquire wisdom.
Old age is the season to enjoy both, but wisdom is far the more important of the two.
By wisdom I mean the philosophy which enables us to control our tempers, curb our tendency to severe criticism, and cultivate our sympathies.
The majority of people after thirty-five consider themselves privileged to be cross, irritable, critical and severe, because they have lived longer than the young, because they have had more trials and disappointments, and because they believe they understand the world better.
Those are excellent reasons why they should be patient, kind, broad and sympathetic.
The longer we live the more we should realize the folly and vulgarity of ill-temper, the cruelty of severe criticism and the necessity for a broad-minded view of life, manners, morals and customs.
Unless we adapt ourselves to the changing habits of the world, unless we adopt some of the new ideas that are constantly coming to the front, we will find ourselves carping, disagreeable and lonely old people as the years go by.
The world will not stand still for us. Society will not wear the same clothes or follow the same pleasures, or think the same thoughts when we are eighty that were prevalent when we were thirty. We must keep moving with the world or stand still and solitary.
After thirty we must seize every hour and educate ourselves to grow into agreeable old age.
It requires at least twenty years to become well educated in book and college lore. If we begin to study at seven we are rarely through with all our common schools, seminaries, high schools and colleges have to offer under a score of years.
The education for old age needs fully as many years. We need to begin at thirty to be tolerant, patient, serene, trustful, sympathetic and liberal. Then, at fifty, we may hope to have "graduated with honors" from life's school of wisdom, and to be prepared for another score or two of years of usefulness and enjoyment in the practice of these qualities.
Instead of wasting our time in bemoaning the loss of early opportunities for obtaining an education, let us devote ourselves to the cultivation of wisdom, since that is free to all who possess self-control, will power, faith and perseverance.
Begin today, at home. Be more tolerant of the faults of the other members of your household. Restrain your criticisms on the conduct of your neighbors.
Try and realize the causes which led some people who have gone wrong to err. Look for the admirable qualities in every one you meet. Sympathize with the world. Be interested in progress, be interested in the young. Keep in touch with each new generation, and do not allow yourself to grow old in thought or feeling.
Educate yourself for a charming old age. There is no time to lose.
More Articles by This Author Ella Wheeler Wilcox
- Author and poet
- Born November 5th, 1850 in Johnstown, Wisconsin and died October 30th, 1919
- Famous line in poetry: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone."