Matt Pearl

When I elected not to make myself coffee Monday morning, I followed the decision with the thought: You’ve gone more mornings of your life without coffee, than with it, anyway.

But then I got to thinking. I’m nearly 42 years old. I started drinking coffee daily when I was in college, probably 19 or 20 years old. While it’s still possibly true that I have gone without coffee more mornings than with it, the opposite is growing likelier with every passing day.

That was a wakeup call to me. Getting to your 40s means that most adults still view you as being young, but the teenagers start to really view you as a senior member of society. It’s an age where you’re playing kickball with your kids, and when you run to get under a high kick to make the out, you realize your legs didn’t get you there quite as quickly or smoothly as you had hoped.

No one prepares for that day when you stand up from picking strawberries and realize that your back is stiff. It’s a sobering reality to me.

The greater privileges that come with age are where I hang my remaining hopes. When something happens to upset the daily routine of life, I am better able to handle it calmly and thoughtfully than I was even 10 years ago.

Many of you will understand another feeling I have experienced more and more lately, the one where I care less and less about what people think about me – particularly when I feel strong convictions in my opinions or take rigid stands in my actions.

And while I have, in certain respects, become more entrenched in my own ideas and ideals. I have found with age that I have gained a little more patience for folks who express the opposite opinions. In fact, I think I gain more from sitting down across the table from someone whose political views differ from my own: when I defend my own perspectives, it sharpens my logic and rhetoric; and when I struggle to defend my views, it gives me pause to consider that I may, indeed, be wrong.

Relax, everybody. If you’re wrong once in a while – and you are, whether you ever admit it or not – nothing terrible usually happens. Your opponent might have a temporary influx of pride over having changed your mind about this point or that: is that so awful?

And more often than not, when a friend with an opposing view ‘scores a point’ against you in a heated debate, you will find that you do not need to completely abandon your perspective. Instead, you can adjust it: when you want your tea a little sweeter, you add sugar – not dump it out and start over – and when it’s too sweet you pour in a little more tea to get it right.

Your opinions can work the same way. When someone else’s contradictory idea has some merit, think about adjusting your own idea to include the best parts of your neighbor’s view. There’s no prize for always being right in this world – and if there were one, nobody would win it anyway.

Now for those of you who think I am suggesting that you surrender your territory in every little disagreement or during every little difference of opinion, I am not. You have your core values, and you have your morals, and far be it from me to suggest you abandon the views that make you, you.

What I am suggesting is that on policy, social structures, problem solving and other endeavors where differing perspectives will be converging anyway, consider the prospect of swallowing just a teaspoon or two of pride in adjusting your plan to the other guy’s interests.

As things are, we continue to prefer to be right than to do right, and it really shows in our society, doesn’t it?

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.