Where Do We Go From Here?

March 8, 2012 by Celia Young Leave a reply »

I am going to be 62 this Wednesday. My personal trainer’s computer program that calculates my Body Mass Index says my body age is actually 43. I like her computer’s answer.

The government and my driver license say I am a senior. The movie theater sells me senior tickets. I am also qualified to get the “blue plate specials” for seniors at the restaurants. But I feel like a middle-aged woman who should have another half a life to live. But how would I live? Up to the age of 50, I was so busy pushing forward my life chasing the American dream and never gave the rest of my life a second thought. Now I find myself in a swirl of thoughts.

What is the American dream? Mostly it is about the freedom to start something new. Then it gets translated into having a good job, owning a home with a white picket fence and having a big enough nest egg to retire comfortably on.

Talking about our work, many of us spent the first half of our lives climbing the career ladder. We have learned to define ourselves by “what we do.” We often greet each other by asking first “what do you do?” What happens when we don’t have a “doing” part of ourselves anymore? Often not too long after their retirement, many men will die. Many couples end up having nothing to say to each other after they have retired. My girlfriend retired last year. Her husband, although at the retiring age, chose to keep working not because they needed the money. If he were to retire too, they could have travelled together and spent more time together. Perhaps this is one way for them to maintain harmony in their married life.

Talking about our home with the white picket fence, most of us don’t really own our house. The bank does. We buy into a house hoping that someday its value will appreciate to the point we can cash in or we will be free of the mortgage. The reality is that most of us in this generation and younger will probably never own our properties out right. We will end up making mortgage payments until we die. This is one American dream on credit we cannot cash in.

In the same American dream, we have learned to measure our life’s achievement according the material possessions we accumulate. As a matter of fact, these worldly possessions and others still in the store have helped create a false identity for us. Then the economy went into the toilette and the real estate market crashed. The mortgage we owe is bigger than the value of our house. For those of us middle-aged and seniors, the nest egg we have been building is shrinking. The retired life is quickly becoming a bad dream. All of a sudden those things that used to define us are not dependable any more. There is a tremendous amount of sadness and regret when one watches his or her livelihood disappearing.

How do we recover from this?

Local coffee houses are full of middle-aged men in Dockers pants carrying laptops. They are there to network for new business and career opportunities. How do we keep putting one foot in front of the other? How do we keep getting up from a night of bad storms and go out into the world to make our dreams come true again?

Many people in my generation either cannot retire or do not want to retire. We still have obligations and better yet, dreams. The question is: What kind of dreams should we pursue now?

At mid-life, we think we should have already made it and do not have to struggle any more. But every day is like a rookie day that we have to go out and prove ourselves one more time.

Perhaps this time, we can learn to find a different kind of measurement for our happiness and sense of achievement. Maybe it is always there in the rich blessings we already have, such as health, friendship, love, family, and the ability to make a difference in the world one corner at the time?

How do we re-compose the next phase of our lives? We will need inspiration, meaning, courage and determination. Mostly we need to find our hearts in a different kind of dream.

When a person died in the Ancient Greek time, people would usually include answers to these two questions on their tombstone: Did this man have passion? Did he die as a fool for love? To translate into modern terms, I think they meant to challenge us to see if we have been true to our hearts and souls.

In many corridors of corporate America, there is a whole bunch of walking dead’s who have trekked so far away from home and lost themselves. In order to come home to ourselves, we need to get back our passion. One way to do it is to get into an internal dialogue with ourselves which is much more important than getting our clues from the external world. The question is: Are we quiet enough inside so that we can hear ourselves? When one door closes, hopefully it means other doors will open. But do we have eyes to see where the opening is?

Many years ago, I traveled to Bora Bora, one of the main islands of Tahiti. I noticed that the local people lived in houses with thatched roofs. Children ran around bare-footed. They raised chickens and grew coconuts to supplement their daily diet. You could hear the mixture of chickens crowing and children laughing every afternoon. They relied on the French satellite to get their TV channels. Life was simple. They did not seem to be impacted by what went on in the world.

Like many people, I fantasize about moving to an island and living a simple life. But here I am still chasing my American dreams. I still measure my success by my income and my worldly possessions. As a practicing Buddhist, I have to do better at “letting go of my attachment.”

At 50-60 years old, how do we rediscover ourselves and reclaim our lives? Some people still want the next pay day. I want more time. Somehow, as we get older, time seems to fly by faster.

Once in a while, I have this panic feeling as if I am running out of time. I do not want to kick the bucket and still have unfinished dreams. Like they say, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is promised to no one. All we have is today. My Zen teacher always says, “Don’t waste time.”

This down economy had all of us running out of breath. We need to find a way to slow down the time and give us a bit of breathing room so that we can regroup and start the next chapter of our lives.

Watching a singing competition show on TV called “The Voice” a few nights ago, I was so moved by the artists who put all their hearts and souls into the music for that one chance to move one step closer to their dreams. The coaches’ advice has been consistently “Be true to yourself.” Most of them would be eliminated at the end of the show. But tomorrow morning they would get up and start again.

When I die, on my tombstone, I want them to say, “She gave it all she got.”

 

Celia Young helps her clients rediscover their passion and help them reach their full potential at work and in life.

 

 

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9 Responses

  1. David J Dunworth says:

    Happy Birthday sounds like it is in order, so Happy Birthday! I am right there with you Celia, having burned the candle on both ends for so long, that I now sit and ponder what happens next. I too am getting “senior attention” but not really enjoying the status. I feel like 30, look like 50, but have a body well used and hitting 80. All we can do is the best we can do, and leave what we can’t get done to the next in line. Amen!

  2. Bill Imada says:

    Happy Birthday! I love being middle aged and can’t imagine for a moment being younger. With the experience I have today, it would be very difficult to go backwards. Life is always a beginning for me and we should always look at ways to inspire others. I am not motivated by the material things in life; nor do I care about owning a home (even though I do). My interests lie in finding some meaning in life and purpose. We live only for a short time in life. While I have worked and worked most of my adult life, I have no regrets at all. Life is an adventure. People who are 50-60 and act that age is fine by me, but those who feel younger and fit should do whatever their heart desires. I plan to remain as active as possible when I am 80 and look forward to that day.

  3. Yolanda Yoesoep says:

    Celia, what a great blog! Im in my mid-30′s now wondering “whats next” and trying to figure out what do I really want out of life….and reading your blog was great insight from a more mature perspective. In awww of the footprint you are leaving on the earth Celia….thanks for sharing yourself with us.

    Yolanda

  4. Felicia Byrd says:

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your insightful comments! You have given me such a gift as 5-0 is just a few months away for me. I have been thinking about some of these same questions.
    Thank You! Namaste.

  5. Celia, First of all, happy birthday. I am glad you took the time to write this blog post as it will resonate with many of us. I don’t have any answers to your questions but i too am asking myself the same. I know others are too. All that i have decided is to have fun more than i did 20 years ago when i was working 80 hours a week (now it is only 40) and also i spend more time with my friends and husband. Life is about connections and i am making sure i have them “live” before i die which i hope is not for 20 more years at least. !

  6. Chris says:

    Celia,
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
    Everything we need, we have.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.
    Miss you,
    Chris

  7. Ann says:

    Happy belated birthday, Celia. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I resonated with you! Thanks for putting your musings into words.

  8. Lisa says:

    Thank you Celia for a wonderful view and inspiration to my reflections on my upcoming 50th bday. Having left the corporate world and shifted my expectations significantly about retirement and worldly things, I am heartened by your words – I feel like I’m on the right path – I’m living with passion.
    Namaste.
    Lisa Macdonald, DPD

  9. Wayne Wormley says:

    Happy Birthday Celia,

    I think we are all struggling with this phenomenon. I continue to reinvent myself, or at least do something different that I’ve done in the past. As long as we can afford to live comfortably in quasi-retirement, although I’m not sure when I will get to that stage, and as long as we are in decent health, then I’m fine with whatever comes my way.

    All the best,
    WMW

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