Viewed as a gift, time is rewarding when not treated like yesterday’s left overs.
At 62 I am at that point that some people kindly refer to as “the autumn of our lives”. My health for the most part is still sound, at least that’s what my physician said at my recent check up. I do have a high cholesterol count that I’m treating with a prescription mix of Zetia and Niaspan.(Stetin drugs like Lipitor and Zocor induced symptoms of fibromyalgia with me). Other than that though my blood pressure remains stable and my weight, though heavier than I want it to be, is controllable.
I walk at least 30 minutes everyday, even in most weather that others wouldn’t. I am so religious with this routine that a much younger neighbor who sees me out walking frequently commented what “an animal” I was as she saw me on her way to work as I was trudging through some of the frigid snowy weather we’ve had recently.
I was forced into retirement back in October 2009 but had a healthy 401k to fall back on. So, at my age, instead of dealing with the futility of job searching I cleared all my debt, rolled the rest over into an IRA and generated a monthly allotment that contributed to our income along with my wife’s RN paycheck from the school district here. I consider myself fortunate than most people who have found themselves out of work at this time with no savings to fall back on and no access to “reasonably” priced health insurance. Knock on wood that my wife doesn’t get laid off too with all the state budget cuts that are being threatened.
So I now I use my time doing something I have had an itch to do for years – write. Writing comes easier for older folks I think who now see time as friend rather than a competitor as many young people seem to. Most of us have accepted where we are at and are comfortable with the reality that we never acquired great wealth or fame. But I got here after wasting too much time in my young adult life because, like many kids today, I didn’t have a plan, thinking I would figure it all out before it was too late. For the most part I succeeded, albeit much later than I would have it; but many like me didn’t.
I dropped out of high school to join the military. My stint in the Marine Corps fulfilled my desire to travel, seeing the lush environmental jungles of Southeast Asia with a short R&R visit to Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian getaway allowed me to satisfied my curiosity about other cultures while satisfying my need for the company of young women. Hey! I was nineteen at the time with testosterone levels that were peaking.
I had the good fortune to live during the socially transitional period of the 1960’s and 1970’s with pretty much all that it had to offer. Too much of it I think was associated with drugs, with a few occasions while under its influence could have proven dangerous. One in particular that now seems funny (having survived it) occurred on a weekend when I accompanied my brother and friend to a remote country area south of Dallas in Ellis county.
The friend had a home there that was literally isolated from most of his neighbors. There was a large crowd there and after a night of beer drinking and a couple of doobies I popped a quaalude tab to bring me down from the pot high. As a result of the combination of drugs I had taken I soon found myself in a field with a herd of cows nearby. I plunked myself down a short distance away from them and was sure I was hearing the grass grow and the insects chattering to each other. It’s a whole ‘nother world when you’re stoned. And though it was late evening, there was a full moon that illuminated the entire area so I could see quite clearly.
I was having this enlightened conversation discussing the wonders of the universe with the female bovines until the herd’s bull appeared and made it clear that I was not welcome. I stumbled out of there as fast as I could manage, becoming lost at first (you think?) but I had the good fortune of finding my way back to the party. I crashed in the back seat of someone’s automobile where I found myself the next morning, amazed at how I had survived the previous night’s lunacy.
This was but one of too many days I wasted time in a world created by mind-expanding drugs. Like many young adults today, I was missing the point that there’s more to life than seeing how many social rules you can break, associated with violating the chemical limits of your body. To any young adults who might listen to what older people like me have to say who have survived, I’d offer this – get it behind you quickly and as cautiously as you can, then move on. I would tell you not to do it at all but you wouldn’t listen and would always probably feel like you really missed out on something.
I am not a professional counselor and what I’ve been through personally is not the measure by which one can judge what’s best for others. But if I was able to do it, here’s what I’d really offer to the latest generation.
It’s not important that you be the world’s best or first at things. Competition is a good thing to a point but too much of anything becomes unhealthy. Savoring each and every moment may not seem like much when you’re young but take it from someone who has been there – there are no re-do’s.
Search yourself and try to determine what one thing – only one – is most important to you. Then spend the next few years achieving it. Once you’re satisfied that you have gone as far as you can, start over with something new. Don’t stay stuck to that one thing if it’s fulfilled everything you expected it to. It’s the quality of life you experience and engage in when doing one thing that has lasting value. The multiple experiences you encounter as you explore a single passion will fill the senses and memories that will stay with you forever.
Don’t wander aimlessly into a field of false illusions. Having dreams and fantasies are okay provided you are grounded in reality and are able to distinguish between fact and fiction. Learn to know the difference between hyperbole and honest assessments. Ultimately you have to be true to yourself, not others; not even those close to you. This however is not a license to totally disregard the emotional needs of the significant others in your life.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your past if you feel the urge and the need. Losing this connection to some degree doesn’t always entail ignoring the good things about it. Don’t try and bring it all with you because it can become an anchor. You’ll find yourself doing mundane things that revolve around being a loyal consumer of junk just to distract you from the weight of that past.
Time is a gift that we often forget is finite, especially when you’re twenty-something. It’s not something you can store away and pull back out at will. When you’re young you think you have plenty of time but it’s only when it’s too late that you realize that there is never enough of it.
I’ve had a pretty good life overall. I have only myself to blame for the time I lost foolishly. I think myself fortunate though, despite my lapses, that I can approach life’s end time feeling that I have gained more than I have lost. I’m not sure everyone can say that, especially if they waste what little time they have.