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Are You Old Enough to Know Better?

By Mary Lou Harris September 09, 2021 Mindset

A friend who is 10 years younger than me and I have a running joke. Her mother sometimes disapproves of our joint outdoor adventures, so she will frequently say, “Mary Lou is old enough to know better,” all in a joking way.

Recently, I arrived at a rural venue for an ‘adventure run’. While running the trail through a pasture, a man I guessed to be about my age ran by and asked, “Aren’t we old enough to know better?” We laughed, and I replied, “Yes, but we are doing it anyway.”

As Older Siblings

It’s been many years since I first heard the phrase “old enough to know better” and I’m sure I have used it once or twice myself.

Probably beginning around age five, older siblings are asked to set a good example, to behave, because they are “old enough to know better.” Through our lives the phrase repeats, sometimes as we reproach ourselves for a poor decision.

A Movie Reminder

I thought of this phrase as well when I happened across the film Night Train to Lisbon starring the wonderful actor Jeremy Irons.

After an unexpected situation of saving a woman’s life, Irons’ character Raimund leaves behind his safe solitary life as a teacher in Bern, Switzerland, and boards a train to Lisbon, Portugal.

There he follows clues from a book to unravel the history of a resistance movement and in doing so transforms his own life. In late middle age, he was certainly old enough to know better than to behave so impetuously. But he did, and leaving behind a dull solitary life, he built a new one for himself.

So, Answer Honestly…

  • Are we old enough to know better than take a journey that we seemed destined to take, to say “no” to our heart’s longing?
  • Are we old enough to know better than to walk away from a safe but stultifying position?
  • Are we old enough to know better than to move across the country, or to another country? What if we find we don’t really like the climate, or feel at home in the new location?
  • Are we old enough to know better than to walk into a new romance, a new friendship, a new career? What if we are hurt, rejected or if we fail?

What’s Hiding Behind the Phrase

The phrase “old enough to know better” says to me that we know better than to take a chance, know better than to put our hearts out there (again), know better than to follow our longing for the life that could be ours.

We don’t need to be Raimund. After all, he seemed to be financially secure in a profession that is easily transferable to a new location and didn’t appear to have others dependent on him. Not all of us have such a situation.

Still, we can forget about fear and open ourselves to curiosity and exploration of this great big world, even if we just start with what is around our block.

My experience at the adventure run ended with a cut to my knee requiring a stop at the urgent care clinic for a few stitches. An unpleasant experience for sure, but I would not trade it for all the miles of trail running and hiking that I have enjoyed.

Yes, perhaps I’m old enough to know better, but curious enough about what is around that bend in the trail to keep moving.

Have you made decisions or faced situations where you were told “You’re old enough to know better”? If so, what was the outcome? Have you used the phrase “old enough to know better” when speaking with your children, your friends or a significant other? Let’s share a few laughs and stories that can inspire us to keep on doing it anyway.

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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