The Personal Evolution
During the first decade of life, children want, more than anything else, to feel loved, safe, and protected by their families; and when those needs have been met or sufficiently satisfied, children want freedom to play. Friendships, generally entered into with little reservation, are primarily in situ, with not much interaction amongst the young friends continuing beyond the venue that brings them together. Sugar is their equivalent of the sex (and sometimes, drugs) they will so crave in their subsequent decades.
During the teenage, pubescent years of the second decade of life, children begin seeking emotional independence from their families, opting instead for acceptance, emotional support, alliance, approval, and recognition from their peers. There is very little selection process in their choice of friends; practically anyone within their age range is a potential companion. There is a preoccupation with thoughts of sex. Thoughts of the future—goals, higher education, careers, status, etc.—begin to emerge. Opinions are frequently voiced as their newfound sense of independence seeks expression.
In their late teenage years and the first years of their third decade—in their early 20s—young people get the urge to redefine themselves, oftentimes moving away, sometimes ostensibly for college or for work, in order to shed one identity and develop another. Many of the friendships of the second decade that are incompatible with the new self that emerges fade into childhood memories, and the process of engaging new friendships becomes significantly more efficient and discriminating: Only friendships that complement the new self are nurtured. As the young adult in his 20s makes his way in the world, his major support network—emotionally, socially, and sometimes financially—is his cadre of close friends. Some of the friendships forged during this period endure a lifetime. The first profound experiences of sexual and emotional intimacy typically occur in this decade, oftentimes with lifelong effects. The 20s is arguably the most liberating, creative decade of a person’s life: He is emancipated from his parents and their expectations; he is surrounded and supported by his emancipated contemporaries and their oftentimes-liberal outlooks on life as he takes his first steps into life as a young adult; and he has not yet committed himself to starting his own family. A person in his 20s is as inclined towards taking risks as he will ever be in life. People in their 20s regard themselves as special and endeavor to change the world. Career choices are generally exploratory and eliminatory
People in their 30s begin settling into their work-choices, the vocation-exploration phase of the previous decade having created and eliminated certain opportunities. Emotionally and socially, people become more nuclear as their circle of close friendships, which was almost all-encompassing during their 20s, is drastically reshaped as friends move away for work-opportunities and others marry or commit themselves emotionally and intimately to partners. Many people stop believing that they are special and abandon their dreams of changing the world or achieving great things. Much time and energy are spent on building family and intimacy. People become more introspective and Existential, realizing that their lives will be primarily determined by their decisions.
People in their 40s begin resigning themselves to the people they have become; they begin coming to terms with themselves—good, bad, or otherwise. The opportunities to form new, profound friendships are significantly diminished, with most new relationships being the result of professional interaction. For “forty-somethings,” anyone invited to enter their lives must take them as they come or leave them as they are. New friends must meet certain tried-and-tested criteria. People become more emotionally efficient, having learned over the years how to deal with triumphs and failures, losses and gains.
People in their 50s, recognizing that they have entered the second half of their physical existence, begin a process of self-assessment, focusing on whatever they determine to be the most important things in life. Much time is spent pondering legacy.
Many people die in their 70s, so people in their 60s begin concerning themselves with health and longevity. Eating healthily, minimizing stress, and focusing on the well-being of family and community become exceedingly important. Sexagenarians begin “giving back” to the societies and institutions that nurtured them. And as their friends begin dying of natural causes, they become very mindful of their own vulnerability to time. People in their 60s begin a process of mending salvageable relationships and correcting wrongs. Many of them return to religion; rebuild relationships with their siblings as their offspring begin focusing on their own lives; and rekindle old friendships. People in their 60s conscientiously begin the spiritual journey.
People in their 70s, because death of their contemporaries seems to surround them, begin readying themselves for death—as untimely as it may be. Society and its views become less significant. Like children in their “terrible twos,” septuagenarians begin reasserting themselves as free individuals, unrestricted by expectations, rules, and other people’s opinions. Their physical, mental, and spiritual selves are as much in equilibrium as they will ever be in Earthly existence.
People who live into their 80s realize that they have been specially blessed with longevity. But they also realize that each day is a gift. For every day of physical exertion, two days of recuperation are now required. So octogenarians become more selective in their social outings and activities. Rest and peace of mind are prized above all. Days are structured, with particular activities being scheduled for particular periods in the day. Long conversations are cherished. Intimate knowledge of family history, as well as accounts of life’s experiences, is shared with loved ones.
Though there are some examples of professionally and socially active nonagenarians and centenarians, for most of the few people who live into their 90s and beyond, life is on “automatic pilot.” The daily routines established during their 80s are adhered to, but simplified. Appetite is diminished. Interest in worldly things wanes. Few things surprise the elderly, for they have seen much. Their major regrets are the things they had the opportunity to do but did not do. As with children, who have just come from the spirit world, the elderly, en route back to the spirit world, become acutely aware of the spiritual realm. Thus, they sit and ready themselves for the moment of physical death.