They say the first sixty-years of childhood are the hardest.
If you’re not familiar with the phonetic alphabet, the title above is referring to The-Big-6-0. If like me, you were born the same year that JFK was elected the thirty-fifth president of the United States, you too will reach this number in age sometime before midnight, December 31, 2020. That is if COVID-19 or more likely economic ruin, doesn’t get you. Assuming you wake up on that appointed day, your reaction may be one of thanks or perhaps another phonetic like Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot…
After so many decades I don’t really feel any different. Perhaps failing to increase in maturity since 1977 helps. Or maybe I’m having a senior moment and can’t remember how I felt yesterday, let alone forty-three-years ago. I can say that just out of the blue a few years back, well into my fifties I started needing reading glasses; using them all the time now. That is when I can remember where I left them.
I used to think of older people, that is anyone older than me as well, older. Now the odds have shifted, where just numerically, people I encounter these days are younger. Viewing myself as one of them, and owing to my arrested maturity I feel as though I have more in common with these youngsters. You know, like that couple in their mid-forties celebrating the birth of their first, maybe second grandchild. I alas have young children, still living at home. They help me feel young right up till something aches or it’s after 10pm.
Entering my seventh decade of breath I’ve come to realize, paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emmerson, that life is about the journey, not the destination. When you’re young you want to get someplace, you have goals and aspirations, and whether you realize it or not, you are on a journey.
Then one day you stop to take stock. Hopefully, you find yourself healthy and unencumbered by the things getting you to this point. Like having to work to place a roof over your head; being able to provide for yourself, and your family. If like me, you are blessed, you will have a soulmate helping to guide you. And children that are the greatest treasures one can borrow, as they too soon come into their own. Too soon.
Arriving somewhere short of where they hoped they would be, some lament about working. Hating to go to their job every-single-day. Dragging themselves in on Monday morning with nothing to look forward to except Friday afternoon. Spending their time complaining to anyone that will listen about the pay, the employer, the coworkers, or the conditions. This to me is the saddest of existence. Commuting to a place then performing tasks you dislike; working not because you want to, but because you have to.
Since working solves the condition of poverty, let it be something you enjoy. Or better yet drives you!
Since leaving Northern Michigan University in 1982 where I majored in Criminal Justice I have been blessed. I had a career that I truly enjoyed. During all my days with the Albuquerque Police Department, I looked forward to going to work. Rarely even using sick leave; keeping virtually all of my accumulated sick days from over twenty-plus-years as a rainy-day payout amounting to a year’s salary. A final reward of sorts just for showing up. Something I wanted to do every day; actually looking forward to my first day back after my normal days off or a vacation. Saving those days too, to the point that the department would force me to not come to work as I had too much leave-time on the books.
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Mark Twain
Those days, or more likely for me, the nights flew by. I was with people I cared deeply about, and who cared for me. Together we were part of something bigger than ourselves. Reveling in our collective and individual work that felt more like fun. So much so that a whole career went by in a blink of an eye.
Moving since onto other opportunities and positions, I hope I never retire. It will just mean that I have the physical and mental capacities to do the things that I love; helping to manage a ski school in the winter and writing stories in the summers. I may find other things to do as well that interest me. Not because they provide a paycheck but because they provide value in other ways, perhaps not even to myself but to fellow travelers.
While my age, at least to some may seem advanced, I don’t believe I’ve reached the age of wisdom (Many of you acquainted with me are shaking your heads up and down in agreement). But since I drink scotch and smoke cigars, I know things. Here is a couple…
If you find yourself in a position where you are doing something you dislike because you need to; make it a means to an end. A path leading you to a place where you do the things that you want to do.
We all have regrets in life. Those things left unacknowledged take you to places and times where you have no control and to that I say this: Stop looking back, you’re not going that way!