Never Say Never

As I get older, I find myself much less likely to take an absolutist position on things. I look back on the days when I did take absolutist positions—all those late night arguments in the college dorm—with mild embarrassment. When my kids say, “I would never…” I caution them with the cliché, “Never say never.” But they are young, and in my experience, the need for absolutes atrophies with age.

Even here on the blog, there are things absolutist positions I’ve taken, which, when I come across those posts today, embarrass me. I stated, quite firmly, for instance, that I could never listen to an audiobook. Five years later, I wrote about my 4th anniversary on Audible, and of the 143 audiobooks I’ve listened to during that time.

In the mid-1990s, I recall my utter disdain for pagers and mobile phones. “I’d never have anything to do with those,” I said to whoever happened to be nearby. Then, work provided me with a pager, and not long after, a mobile phone. I’ve been with one ever since, and my hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by friends and family.

When I decided to experiment with going paperless, what I had I mind was cutting out paper entirely. I went immediately to one extreme to see if it was possible. I was chasing that elusive paperless office that I’d been hearing about since the mid-1990s. Eventually, I found that while I might be going paperless, the rest of the world was not, and I needed to be able to deal with the paper that the world pressed upon me. These days, I found a happy medium. I try to minimize the paper I use, but I still find it more useful to jot things down in a Field Notes notebook than to try to capture them in an app on my phone. There are practical limits to everything.

Even my opinions on taste moved away from absolutist. I have several friends (to say nothing of a mother) who are huge Beatles fans. I’ve never been particularly fond of the Beatles, and there was a time when I’d rant about my dislike of the band whenever the topic came up. These days, if someone likes the Beatles, good for them! It makes them happy, and why should that bother me?

Perhaps more than anything, I’ve found myself more open to ideas. If I can be convinced of something, then I will gladly change my opinion of it. When I was younger, I think I felt that changing my opinion was a sign of weakness, that I was a flip-flopper. I don’t believe that today. There is something like 6,200 posts on this blog, and if you go through some of the early ones, you will almost certainly find absolutist opinions I held that I no longer hold today.

I’m kind of proud of that. It makes me feel like a grownup, even if I don’t always act like one.