Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about this day. I’ve been proccupied with concerns about my projects still unfinished—the photographs I haven’t yet made, the words still unwritten and unsaid, the promises still unfulfilled. And I’ve been looking back, painfully aware of the friends who are gone and wondering if I did enough to let them know how important they were in my life; hoping I was important in theirs. I’ve thought about my mentors, the sources of the values that guide me now. I remember the mistakes I’ve made and the criticisms I’ve received—the lessons they taught me. I’ve thought about those I’ve hurt, thoughtlessly more than intentionally. Did I apologize adequately? Did we make amends?
I’ve thought about time well spent and time spent not so well. The times I talked too much when I should have been listening and the energy I wasted in anger misdirected on others when I was really feeling anger and disappointment with myself. I thought about the times I witnessed injustice and kept silent because I lacked conviction or confidence. I thought about the respect I denied to others sometimes because I was jealous of their knowledge or achievements.
In my mind, the mistakes always stand out, but I also remember the important transformational changes and when they occurred. Then I ask myself, why does it take a person so long to recognize what is right and proper? The Pennsylvania Dutch have a saying for this: “We get too soon old and too late smart.” And, at 80, I’m hoping it’s still not too late to get smarter. I’m trying to use my time as wisely as I can, to thank the people who do things for me, to make sure my family and friends know how much I love them, to do what I can to better the lives of others. To express with conviction opinions I have earned—through experience—the right to share, to continue to mentor those who can benefit from my knowledge and to constantly learn from the world around me.
There is much I cannot achieve alone. There is nothing I can achieve if I do not try. Everything can be achieved if we work on it together.