Older and Wiser in Albania

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Age is the ultimate filter through which perspective comes. Places like Albania, it’s doubly true.

“The older I get, the wiser I am.”

It’s funny. I was always told when young how I was an “old soul”. Naturally, I thought I was pretty with it and plugged in. Life had no secrets it could hide from my brilliantly wise old soul.

But age came along and cured me of those delusions. Month after month, I learned something new about adversity and struggle, faith and fear. The lessons never stopped.

An old man chuckles as young girls walk by, loudly excited about their day.

You tell a wise 20-something that they don’t know shit and they’ll take offense. They’ve travelled, they’ve been schooled, they’ve been around, man. They KNOW.

I remember talking to friends who were 28 when I was 41, and chuckling at their concept of wisdom and knowledge. I’ve given up trying to explain to people younger than me that life turns on mere moments. It takes one bad minute to change your life forever, like the time I crashed into a friend while riding my scooter and had a traumatic brain injury that demolished me for years. I was 31 then. The life I’ve had since, oof… you can’t buy that wisdom. It ain’t in no book.

Those 13 years are 6,800,000 minutes. It’s 408,000,000 seconds for making mistakes, learning lessons, saying the wrong thing, taking the wrong turn.

Truth in Film

It’s that Robin Williams teachable moment in Good Will Hunting, sitting on that bench, “Sean” explaining to “Will” all the things he simply can’t know. Not yet. Not from books and library savvy.

Sean: Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me… fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven’t thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?

Will: No.

Sean: You’re just a kid, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talkin’ about.

Will: Why thank you.

Sean: It’s all right. You’ve never been out of Boston.

Will: Nope.

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

Three generations of women walking in Albania. Each will have a completely different worldview on where the country is at.

The Gift of Age

Naturally, now I realize the older I get, the more I understand all the things I can’t possibly know, and how much more my elders have lived than me.

An hour ago, I spoke with a 23-year-old girl – I’d say woman but she seems so young and lost – about the passage of time and how far Tirana has come. To her, there’s been no change. But, when she was a toddler, the country had lost all the private savings, war erupted, and around 4,000 Albanians died in civil war. The country was bankrupt.

So, for her, there’s desolation over where the country is at today. Me, I see from whence the country has come and how far that possibility extends into the future.

The older I get, the more I realize what a gift age can be. I wish these young Albanians could understand.

These old guys, they’ve been through so much in this country and I suspect life is as good or better than it has ever been.

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