While helping my ESL student compose his resume, I realized that my own is over 30 years old. That’s not a problem for future employment—I’m probably past that point in life. But that lack of current information might ripple into another area of my older adult life: Forgetting about many of the life experiences that have formed me. That train of thought got me wondering: Is it possible that we older adults gradually lose some of our self-image or self-worth simply because we don’t keep our histories fresh in our minds?
As I engage with other older adults—exercise class, church activities, volunteering—I rarely ask about the histories of these individuals. It doesn’t feel appropriate to dwell on what used to be true about us. For the most part, that’s no big deal—we value each other for what we experience right now.
There may be times, though, when a possibly rich meal of significant memories turns into thin gruel. Not wanting to brag—and thinking that our pasts aren’t all that important now—we may leave ourselves open to thinking less of ourselves than we ought. That decrease in self-esteem may open us to late-in-life depression or worse.
I’m not talking about ego-tripping here. Or endlessly repeating favorite anecdotes. More to the point: Knowing and valuing who we are right now includes knowing and valuing who we were back when. Without continually reliving dimly remembered bygone years, we can hold fiercely to the truth that God’s gifts to us throughout our lives have been put to good use. That our life stories have been instructive for others. That we have made a lasting difference in God’s world. That, in many ways, who we were continues aswho we are!
Perhaps we should reread our resumes….?
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