Not too long ago Seth Godin posted on the difference between patina and shine as it relates to marketing. I’ve been twiddling with those words ever since.
I remember college days when we dreamed of what we’d become and how we’d change the world. I sensed even back then that I would need grey hair before I was ready to make my unique contribution. Seasoning – enduring many seasons – would develop my gift.
The potent influence of mature mentors like Madeline L’Engle, Annie Dillard and my beloved professors proved the point – life plus time brought wisdom. Exposure to life experience was only the beginning – deep development happened in the dark where the picture grew in clarity and color over time as the image submitted to the process. The richness these men and women gave me was the kind of treasure I hoped to bestow on others someday.
My idyllic dream meant offering something with depth, truth and enduring wisdom. Such things take time (insert your favorite cliché here). What I knew is that I was not in a hurry.
While others made plans for more immediate gains, I took a long view. The back nine would be my true strength. This took off pressure in the aftermath of college graduation because I knew my time had not come, not even close.
I never wanted the shine. Bright bling wasn’t worthwhile in my estimation. ‘Flash over substance’ comes to mind – and I was never about flash. Any shine would eventually smudge. Why work so hard for something so prone to fade and loose luster?
Patina is what I was after. The slow exposure to the elements over time would shape me and forge a worthy contribution. I wanted a life weathered by experiences and cultures and conversations. I craved a luster built layer by layer, an irrevocable polish.
That mindset helped me move forward at a turtle’s pace without too much discouragement. As my friends began to shine I could celebrate with them and not be too jealous, it was their time. But as the years wore on, all the shiny-happy-people began to make me wonder if I was fooling myself. Did I miss the boat? This turtle had moments of doubting the race strategy.
Can I tell you how many times this summer I was amid a group of friends and realized that I was the elder of the group? Did I mention that in the past year I was referred to as ‘mentor’ and ‘mother’ and ‘seasoned’ multiple times and in various settings? Does it surprise you to learn that I have grey hair?
This summer I looked in the mirror and noticed a patina. It was time for me to be brave and share some weathered wisdom. I was walking onto the back nine and needed to start swinging like it mattered – because now I am ready to give.
And so I write.