This is not something anyone can tell you or if they do, you probably won’t believe them, but I am going to atempt to tell you just the same. I am stubborn that way. In my 20’s, I thought I knew everything, and I did from my perspective as a twenty year old. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I lived abroad, and I held a management position in Corporate America. Then in my 30’s I started climbing the corporate ladder at a fast track pace. My primary focus and measurement of success was how often I received a promotion. I lacked any true personal identity. My nickname in the neighborhood was Mr. IBM.
During my 40’s I started to ask the important questions concerning the quality of my life. What is important to me? Am I doing the work I want to do? Am I happy? I did not view this self examination as a “crisis.” No, it was an opportunity to switch gears in midstream if I so desired. I left the corporate world and stripped myself naked of the material abundance to which I had become accustomed. I sold the car, gave away the television, suits, skis, tennis rackets, and everything else which had become a symbol of the person who no longer existed. I decided to add back only those things which were necessary for my existence in the world. I traveled lightly without all the encumbrances which at one time seemed important and/or necessary. I sought a different way of being in the world.
As a result of the lessons learned during my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, I was now free to live my life any way I chose. Each segment of my life when examined individually has merit, but when explored in the totality of seventy years, it has purpose. I am supposed to be here. There is no doubt in my mind. I only know this due to having lived the life I have lived. I understand the value of life and I am grateful for the time I am allotted. I listen to the echoes of my own life and I am comfortable with my body. It is this body that endured the most changes over the years and I am grateful for its endurance, strength and good health. It, my body, survived a heart attack two years back giving additional years to love and reflect upon this life.
There was a time during my youth when the future was all I thought about. Today, in truth, I give it very little thought. For me, life gets better as I grow older because the innocent wonder of the child returns with age and blends with the wisdom gained through the experience of being alive. In the words of Ursula K Le Guin:
I’d like a poster showing two old people with stooped backs and arthritic hands and time-worn faces sitting talking, deep, deep in conversation. And the slogan would be “Old Age Is Not for the Young.”
It is true that youth is wasted on the young but we do not realize that truth until we get old enough to reflect back into our own life.