Wise Old Men

As has been the case with many greater writers than me, I have a day job. I'm lucky. My particular day job has mostly paid the bills for a couple of decades now. I joined my esoteric profession fresh out of school. I overflowed with the knowledge accumulated obtaining my array of degrees. We all wax nostalgic for our salad days, back when our bright-shiny selves were so cocksure that we didn't need any stinking help from the folks who had preceded us.

After a year or two, my confidence in all my knowledge began to wane. I was lucky enough to fall into a job working for a wise old man. At least he was sort of old and wise. Looking back, when I worked for him he wasn't much older than I am now, but he had a couple of decades of experience under his belt whereas I had a couple of years. I soon discovered that knowledge is great and all, but succeeding in this--and I suspect any--business requires a large portion of wisdom on top of all that knowledge. I guess some of the wisdom took, since I'm still here.

Yesterday I met a young person, just a couple of years into the profession. Mutual friends put her in touch with me. She sat across from me, the highly educated equivalent of a penny not quite new anymore, still shiny and optimistic under the right light, but no longer freshly minted.

I gave her the best advice I could, even if most of it wasn't what she wanted to hear. For those of us inconveniently born to families lacking independent wealth, building a career for our lives takes years and years. There's no substitute for time and experience--but by choosing wisely the time and experience don't have to be an interminable slog.

I made a couple of suggestions for places to look in her possible job hunt. I recommended a subspecialty to consider. I can give her advice, good advice even, but I can't give her wisdom or patience. Only experience brings those painful gifts.

As we went our separate ways, I felt a little sad for her. I know she faces a hard transition, harder than the classes and the degrees. I guess I made a transition myself sometime over the years since I sat on her side of the desk. How did I become the wise old man?