“Aging is not ‘lost youth’, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
— Betty Friedan
When I was 37, my greatest fear and dampener was the thought that soon I would be turning 40! And the very fact that I was already 35! was like Thor’s Hammer shove from which I could not recover 😁. And then comes age 47! Imagine the chill that must be going through my spine every time this thought took over my brain functioning! Recently I entered the elite 50s’ club and man! — am I surprised!? My thoughts/ fears/ anxieties/ complex/ uncertainties/ worries…all…evanesce. Let’s talk about this.
The reason why we feel what we feel at younger ages like 37 or 47 is probably because we are in the growing and developing stage of life. We have things to do, dreams to achieve, ambition to strategize. We have just entered the competitive world of cut throat competition and we are in the process of understanding the fundamentals of life. We are also trying to balance the new family duties with work responsibilities. We are, sort of, naive to the ways of life and everyday we learn, become wiser, and understand the world better. We understand the dangers of good human qualities like trust, faith, and dependency due to team work. We have been taught these qualities in the school in subjects like Moral Science etc and these idealistic social skills are the foundation on which we start building our lives.
Slowly as time passes and we start ripening (like the tomatoes in the above pic 😝), we realise that the world is not as gentle, trustworthy, and dependable as we thought or were taught. This is the stage when we understand the importance of becoming independent thinkers, problem solvers, and self-reliant. The age around 40 can be surely considered as the old age of youth and we now slowly embark upon the phase of our lives where we move towards the youth of old age — the fifties.
I have personally started enjoying this phase of mine. I am more confident and more sure of myself. I am aware of my likings and things which are on low priority for me. I have understood how beautiful and productive is my “me-time” and how much I would have been wiser had this phase of confidence and conviction come at an earlier stage. But the fact is howsoever we read other’s examples and stories, everyone has to go through this ripening process to become wise and confident. Nobody can benefit by escaping life’s experiences and there is nothing like a shortcut in life. Why shortcut, there’s nothing as valuable as experience and the satisfaction of “been there, done that” can never be substituted by any other joy.
And why should we fret over this half-century score? Trust me, its just in the mind. A few years ago, playing with children was so natural — for them. They used to invite me with full rights as if I was their friend…now they ask me if I would like to play. Honestly for me nothing has changed, except the number after by birth year. For me, I am still the same and can do all those activities I used to a decade ago. For others, we have grown, but for ourselves, unless you give up on life and start telling yourself to slow down and keep reminding yourself that you are 50+, things can remain the same. Obviously it goes without saying that we become more careful and cautious while doing certain activities because our agility and reflex may become a bit slower than those younger years, but that can be compensated by our maturity and experience.
Over the years I have realized a lot of things I used to do for the sake of it. I always hate the “have-to’s” but invariably I used to give in and do things because I had to. Now certain things have taken top priority and I now live a life where my time, my health, my peace, and my family are on the top of my priority list. Fortunately I am not a very social person or a party animal and hence skipping those things to avoid certain vices has made me feel better. Investing time with children or aged parent and just “being there” for them gives a purpose to my life. The concept of work-hard-party-harder has been changed to work smart and then relax and enjoy my “me time”.
One another thing that I have experienced is about death. Have discussed this with family and friends so many times. Earlier it was always about some friend’s uncle or grandparents or some senior family member. Now since we ourselves have become 50+, our parents have also aged, and hence now we keep getting news of their ill health or passing away. Life is so fragile and how much “taken for granted” was their presence strikes us repeatedly. Live for the moment and live life to its fullest. Appreciating the fact that we are mortals and have a fixed time in this life ensures that we live every moment and do not procrastinate or leave it for the future. As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift — that is why it is called the present.” Let’s enjoy this gift and stop worrying about the future.
Finally I would say that relationships, including marriage, also take a toll. Initially we got together for love and attraction. We built a life together with a purpose and sometimes subconsciously because we live in a structured society where lot happens on auto-pilot. Now is the time to take stock of your situation and analyse that is the relationship strong enough to last on the past glory and love. Is there still blind love prevalent between the couple to take life to the finish point? Has it been a truly compatible life or has it been full of compromises, adjustments, and acceptance? Now that the basic formalities of society like children, house, taking care of old parents, etc are done, it’s time to live for yourself. This is the time to think, analyse and introspect. On the flip side, you two have gone through the pains of life, being there with each other in moments of joy and misery, and built a strong relationship built of love, care, affection, trust, and pride..so enjoy this last phase of life with each other and be there when need arises. Your duties and responsibilities towards family and society are taken care of, now is the time to live for each other and enjoy the joys of life without having to worry about house mortgages, or children’s education, or bother about life insurances and savings.
Final words from a young 50 year old man 😁
You have lived a good life. You have understood that not everything taught is rosy and that life is worth every experience gained. Nothing is more precious than your own peace, happiness, and health. Make a bucket list of things you would want to do before the flame extinguishes. Also set your priorities right and please “taking care of old parents” should be on the top of this priority list. Be firm and learn to say No to things that do not make you primarily happy. It may sound selfish but then haven’t you lived a selfless and giving life for others already? Isn’t it a time for you now? Don’t you deserve some time for yourself and do things that make you feel fulfilled? I do and hence writing this to start your thought process too 😀