We are Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart



People ask me where I get the ideas for my columns and especially where I get the titles. Sometimes they just pop into my head, but this one was on a bumper sticker—or was it on a T-Shirt? More or less the same difference. Pearls of wisdom are found in the strangest “oyster shells.”

“We are too soon old and too late smart” can sum up a lifetime of experience and the lessons we learn, but if we complain we are missing the point. At about age 4, in Chicago I experienced early childhood, living with my mother and sister and my grandfather, who came to America as an immigrant at the age of 17.

I remember the first time I got dressed by myself. Usually my parents or another adult would come and dress me. One morning I got tired of waiting and just put on my clothes by myself. (I think they probably planned it that way.) I dressed myself from then on. In Kindergarten I learned my alphabet, as well as my basic numbers. Elementary school brought me through reading and arithmetic and I learned as I grew. And that’s the point of this column: We learn as we grow.

My first summer vacation between first and second grades was only about three months but it felt like a whole year. It was summer in Colorado and the weather was beautiful, and every day was play time. It seemed that childhood would last forever. Others have noted—as I have—the older you get the quicker time seems to pass.

Too soon I was in junior high school, then high school and then college. And then the Air Force, married, with a child. It goes on from there, until I am now in my late 70s and facing old age.

There came a point when I realized that we never have to stop learning and growing. I read, not as much as I used to, and I am still learning how to be a better person. I’m not perfect and that’s why I keep trying to grow.

So, my advice to all— young and old: never stop learning and growing. Time will pass and you will get older and (hopefully) wiser. But too soon we are old and much too late smart.

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

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