I suppose the biggest myth of aging is that you somehow become better with age. Like a fine wine or a masterpiece of art, you are at once beauty and grace after years of refinement and it is smooth sailing from here on in. The truth is the challenge of making a better life is constant, from cradle to grave.
This myth is fueled with such delusional visions of “golden years” and “aging gracefully” as if it just happened, a rite of passage. An expectation of perfection once you reached a magical age. A reward for years of struggling through lousy jobs, squeezing every dollar, moisturizing, exercising, eating healthy, raising kids, sacrificing, educating and surviving.
Truth is, all of those moments are preparing us for what is the real test of time. The extraordinary living that occurs once you crack the senior ceiling. Old age is another country, another level of being. Unfortunately it is far from being perfect and often there is an ill wind blowing taking us off our original course heading.
I have had the great pleasure of watching several of my friends embark on new beginnings as they move into their fifties and sixties. It is not a graceful or golden moment of revelation that they had arrived but more of a determination to break out of a cycle of going nowhere in a hurry. Opportunities presented themselves but they had the wisdom of their years to know it was the right time and the right place.
This new country is not necessarily one of their creation. It has flaws, some risk and certainly not perfect. The downside of outliving friends and family comes with a huge pricetag. The shifting economy, loss of a job or retirement and rising health issues create an unfamiliar landscape. And then there is a moment when you realize, I am still young enough to make changes, alter course and perhaps sail into the sunset albeit in a dinghy rather than a yacht.
The expectation of perfection now gone but in its place is the fire of hope for something new, something unexpected. That is what aging is really about. The myth of smooth sailing now gone, we use lifetime of recipes to make some great lemonade. The shift from quantity to quality of life is liberating and gives us license to be creative, even risk takers.
As we become mythbusters, we give rise to the hope of all that is old is new again. New jobs, new digs, new friends, new expectations. It may not be perfect but it will never be dull. And isn’t that what life and aging is really all about?