I used to take trumpet lessons from a wonderful, talented old professional brass player named Dick Leland. One day, he said to me, “Pete, inside every 70-year-old is a 25-year-old wondering ‘what the hell happened?’” The older I get, the more I realize how true that is. And just recently came news from a study indicating that our personalities are pretty much set by the time we reach first grade.
These two nuggets hit on something that I’ve thought about for quite a while and ask people from time to time: how old are you in your mind? I don’t mean how old you feel physically or how old you want to be — or even how old your perception of the world is. What I mean is, if you didn’t know any better, how old would you say you are mentally/psychologically/socially/emotionally, purely in your mind’s eye?
My guess is that for most people, the answer to this question lies in the starting point of their adult consciousness (i.e., the earliest period of their life that they consistently remember a lot of). Or perhaps the age that they enjoyed the most. Some watershed that crystallizes and fossilizes the psyche.
In my case, I’m somewhere in the 15-17 range. That’s not to say that my thinking process or level of maturity is exactly the same as it was then. I’d like to believe that I’ve learned a thing or two in the last 20 years. But my essence has not fundamentally changed since then; the general Peter Infrastructure was in place. Or, as I alluded to above, I can trace an unbroken string of adult consciousness all the way back to that age.
How old are you in your mind?