I am about to turn 25. Depending on how old you are you may think that is old or younger or somewhere in-between.
Ageing is strange. The prospect of eventually turning 30 is kinda frightening but I guess when it comes to that point I might, and hopefully will, feel like “deserving” that number, rather than seeing it as “ageing”, which for some reason has a negative connotation in our society. I am trying to think of it in this way now, too. Your age shouldn’t represent whether you have a job, are still studying, about to be a parent, or how many wrinkles you’ve got. What it really stands for is experiences! So, sometimes I actually find myself feeling older than 25. Compared to peers, I seem to have more life experience; I’ve travelled to many places, seen poverty and crime, experienced sickness and loss, etc. Interestingly, I am mostly listing negative things here. Even most Quotes are based on what we get out of negative experiences…
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ― Dr. Seuss
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” ― Oprah Winfrey
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ― Truman Capote
Do negative experiences shape us more than positive ones?
Who hasn’t heard: You learn from your mistakes. And that’s what it is: negative experiences (“mistakes”) leave little scars, so that we will be reminded of them and can learn from them. Experiencing pain isn’t just helpful for our own sake, but it allows us to better empathise with other people who suffer.
It all comes back to our survival instinct: using memory to quickly assess threats. If you get bitten by a snake (negative memory) your brain will make sure you remember well so that this won’t happen to you again. (AEON, Huffington Post)
There are lots of memories I am very fond of, that I like to go back to in my head because they make me feel good. They make me want to do the things again that made me feel good because it is likely that they will make me feel good again. Positive experiences, however, are more for my own happiness and well-being. They don’t really teach me how to become a better person, a better member within my society, a better friend etc.
Taking the good and the bad from experiences: The featured image depicts a hike-a-bike on my cycle trip: It was brutally hot, steep and narrow and thus difficult to get the bikes up a 300m climb – I would not want to do this one hike again (with a bike). At the same time it was challenging and rewarding when we were done with it, so we continued doing hike-a-bikes.
So, as much as they can hurt, negative experiences are invaluable. They teach us how to survive – not just “physically”, but importantly, also mentally as individual and as part of a community. When someone breaks your heart you recover and develop coping mechanisms that can help you overcome trauma in the future. Of course positive experiences are indispensable too. They can motivate you and push you, to get better at things and to feel good (about yourself).
Now, how do I have more life experience than some other people my age who’ve lived the same amount of time? We define life experience as having experienced a variety of situations that taught us a bunch of different lessons. For example, if you never travel and experience being a stranger abroad, you will find it difficult to empathise with foreigners in your country. If you never try to ride a bike, you will never know whether it might bring you immense joy… So I recommend everyone, don’t spend your money on stuff, spend it on life experiences! (fastcoexist) (especially if you feel younger than you are 😉 )