Believe it. I've been there, and I can tell you just about no one knows what they're doing. This applies to everyone. Doctors, lawyers, IRS auditors, sanitation workers, foreign ambassadors, politicians, game show hosts. I promise you. Nearly everyone is faking it or phoning it in. That's good to know -- not just so you don't get malpracticed on or hit with an incorrect tax penalty -- but for your own sanity. You're not as good as anyone, but odds are high you're right in there with 97 percent of the world. And if for some reason, you want to take the time to do things right, well then good for you. You'll be in rarified air.
You Live to See Your Enemies Fail and/or Die
The longer you live, the greater the odds you will get to see the teacher who wrongly deprived you of that scholarship grade you desperately needed have a massive cardiac event, falling down a flight of stairs, and kicking and twitching in a tremendous amount of pain until she dies. See? Getting older can be fun. Especially, if you try not to be too aware that you and your loved ones are also getting closer to that fate. But hey, let's stay positive here. You get to see bad people die.
Actually, I don't mean for this entry to seem as small and petty as I'm pretending (because it's fun, and because I'm a terrible person). Let's take a step back. What I'm really talking about is living long enough to see some residuals on karmic justice.
For example, perhaps, you once lost out to a competitor who cheated. And then you spent the next five years growing increasingly bitter about your loss. How great would it be to see your foe disgraced for continuing in his cheating ways? Sure, there is a certain delight in your enemy's misery. The Germans call it Schadenfreude, because making up words is one of the two things Germans are known for and the other one they don't like to talk about. But the best part about your enemy's downfall is its ability to restore your faith in justice. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. All that.
Life will challenge you to keep growing without being consumed by cynicism. And one of the biggest obstacles to meeting that challenge is seeing small terrible people reap the rewards of their bad behavior. If you live long enough, however, sometimes you get to see their wickedness catch up and bite them in the ass. A small reward, but one that will help keep your idealism alive into the decade that follows.
You Learn Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Grade school Gladstone thought he was good at everything. After all, I did well in grade school and I was a pretty decent second baseman. By junior high school, however, I started to realize I was more of an English/history guy as opposed to math/science whiz, and that the Mets weren't scouting me. And as I grew older and gained additional schooling and work experience, I was eventually able to boil down my greatest strengths and weaknesses -- meaning I could finally answer that miserable interview question I've never been asked. And here they are: I'm very good at seeing the analytical connection or logical breakdown in data, but, unfortunately, I can't proofread for shit.
Why is that so great? Well knowing your weaknesses is good because you can take corrective action. For example, each week I threaten my colleague Seanbaby with an ass-beating unless he proofs my column. OK, not the best idea since Sean's like a gold belt in Space Judo or something*, but the point is, at least I can try to do something about my shortcomings. (Also, I think I have a 50/50 chance of taking Christina H. in a fight so all I have to do is tweak my plan slightly and all will be well.)