I turned 59 last month; not a milestone birthday, I know. But I realize 60 is just up the bend, so it has me thinking. Am I getting old? Worse; am I already there?
If you had asked me 40 years ago whether 60 was old, I would have told you (if I were being honest and there were no 60-year-olds in sight) that it very well is. But, what did I know?
We baby boomers have come up with all sorts of phrases to convince us that 60 is not old: “60 is the new 50”; “You are only as old as you feel”; “yada, yada, yada”. That is all fine, but I can’t deny that I am on the backside of life. I have always been a dreamer and time has been my canvas for painting new dreams. So, am I running out of canvas?
According to life expectancy tables, the average 59 year-old male lives another 24 years. Well, as a dreamer, I automatically grant myself a 50% upgrade, so I am giving myself at least 36 more years. But, that’s still less than 59; so maybe I am getting old.
In truth, if I could wave a magic wand and be any age at this moment, I would choose… (drumroll please)… 59.
Why, in the face of all I have said would I wish to have so much of my life in the rearview window? Am I just whistling in the graveyard? Maybe, but I don’t think so. There is, I am told, an old Native American saying that no wise old person would wish himself (or herself) to be younger. I think I am beginning to understand why that is true.
First, this is a time where most of my true dreams can best be lived. The biggest dream I ever had was to have a family that I love. I have come to realize, more than ever during these past few years, that I have a family that is beyond my dreams. I have a wife and three grown children that bring me immeasurable joy every day. And I have other family members and friends who are always there for me.
I have also had the good fortune to live my dreams in the workplace. And, while I am always dreaming of ways to make it better, it has already exceeded anything I could imagine.
More importantly, in recent years, I have finally discovered a basic principle that virtually has the ability to make time stand still; an awareness of the present moment.
I confess that I spent much of my first 50 years either planning for the next moment or thinking about the past; getting lost in worry or fear and missing what was right in front of my face. I cannot say that I have fully cured myself of that disease. However, for the most part, I now recognize that the present moment is the most powerful tool we have; and one hour of real presence today can bring me more satisfaction than I sometimes experienced in a year, (back in my younger days).
My mother who, at 92 is one of the youngest people I know, always says that you are not old until your dreams become regrets. By Mom’s standard, I am still quite young.
This is my time to be 59. I had my time to be 19. Nothing wrong with being 19; but I have been there and I want to go someplace new. It’s what keeps me dreaming.