Dear Older Me

Dear Older Me

Dear Older Me,

You have just turned 35 and you have been giving some thought to the sort of person you hope to be (and not be) when you are older. You have decided that it might be a good idea to make a note of a few things that might, at some point, feel a long way off for you.

Remember when you were 17, Ben? Remember how intense you felt about everything then? How angry you were at the world and the failures and disappointments you saw in it? Whether you were right or wrong doesn't really matter. What matters is that you felt it sincerely all of the time. You were never any sort of party animal, but plenty of your peers were. They were all decent people. Mainly decent people. I'm saying this to remind you what it is to be young. Don't look down on the adolescents around you. Don't fear or distrust them.

When you were young you may also recall forming the opinion that the history of medicine was the history of people being wrong. Since then you have changed your mind about some things but I would suggest that this isn't one of them. Never forget that far brighter people than you have been spectacularly wrong about subjects in which they were considered experts. Never get so entrenched in your opinions that you forget to ask if you are wrong too.

Don't lose sight of the people on the other side of the argument. Even if you are right and they are wrong it doesn't make them bad or stupid people. Right now decisions you consider horrendous and morally repugnant are being made by a democratically elected government. You are trying very hard to believe that only some of the people responsible are bad or selfish people. Most of them, you remain sure, made what they honestly believe was the right decision. Even if you are not swayed by opposing arguments, try to treat them and their owners with respect.

One more thing before you go back to forgetting how pompous you were in your mid-thirties. You are lucky. You have had challenges in your life and I don't know what you have had to deal with since now. But you could say that of everyone. You have had the good fortunate to be born a white, male heterosexual, the least victimised minority group of all. You have good health and a loving family who took good care of you and could afford to give you a comfortable childhood. This has probably made your life easier than you will ever realise. Don't forget that many people have not had this good fortune, and that life may be harder for them as a result. And don't imagine that just because people seem to have had the same breaks as you, or even more, that life should be easy on them. It's never that simple.

Oh, and go easy on yourself. You're not that bad.



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