University of Minnesota

“It Isn’t Always Fun.” – A Certain Age

Prose Poem

I wanted to say something special for the 75th birthday of an admired colleague in Finland, Martti Karvonen, and so composed some thoughts I was having at the time about reaching a certain age:

At a certain age, one would like to know that he or she has matured in judgment and behavior, yet remains playful as in childhood, idealistic as in youth, sound as in his prime.

One would like to know that he has done one thing well, a few other things useful, and, after all, has done little harm.

One wants to feel satisfaction rather than pride in what he has done.

One wants to have been actively involved, the more the better, with the central issues of his time, not just an observer from the fringes.

At a certain age, one wants to be understood and accepted as he is; perceived neither as much smaller nor much larger than he truly is.

One wants to forget if not forgive his enemies and accept if not embrace his adversaries, but lose not another night’s sleep over any of them.

And one wants to acknowledge gratefully, before it’s too late, those who made his way smoother or his voyage richer.

At a certain age one wants to say what needs to be said and no longer worry whether all the world agrees.

One wants on occasion, however, to say or do things that make people smile.

At a certain age, one needs to do mainly what one loves to do rather than mainly what others want him to do.

At a certain age, one wants to hold and admire and amuse and inspire his grandchildren and see them light up at his presence.

Finally, at a certain age, one should allow a little pleasure in hearing nice things said about him, but neither need nor seek to hear them.

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