Trent Reznor may have originally recorded it, but great gravity exudes from every note and rest of Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt. At first, the quake in his voice might seem to signify deteriorating vocal chords, a weakness that comes with old age, but listen closer. Every tremor gives a sense of experience, of life-long reflection, of years upon years of rough epidermal tissue, accumulating like the bark of a tree—building girth and strength. His roots and trunk run sturdy and deep, obstinate to the changing world, while his outermost limbs have been whipped and whittled by the wind into switches, pliable enough to sting in foul weather. His face is set as a stone embankment eroded and crevassed by centuries of lunar-driven tides.

I often wonder what I’ll look back upon when I’m older: what I’ll have learned, what I’ll wish I could have changed, if only I knew now, or better yet, last week or last year. That’s one reason why I didn’t mind having to sit in on Board of Directors meetings.

From my silent seat in the corner, I frantically absorbed the experience that taught these elders how to handle life’s situations, as if I could siphon a few drops of their hard-earned sagacity to mix into my puddle of youth. I hoped they’d let slip the recipe to a tonic that would sooth and enrich the whirlwind of years between rocking-the-night-away and rocking-on-the-porch. I saw their care-worn faces as they churned information intently before finally speaking their minds.

I want depth in my eyes, great gravity in my joy as well as sorrow and the ability to appreciate long pauses in conversations while the participants ponder, while I mull it over—savoring every morsel, carefully choosing every consonant and vowel, caressing them, preparing them to slide ever so melodically from my lips. I want to start absorbing these abilities now, drawing from the surrounding wells of knowledge with which I have been blessed. I don’t want to look back at “what if” or “if only.” It’s like an Italian expression a friend of mine once told me that translates to something like: “If the young knew and the old could.” I could use some pruning and thicker bark for the winter. I’m finally ready for the growing pains, finally open to learning. I want to know while I can.