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variable as a function

December 14, 2011

Second to last paper of the term! OHMIGOODNESS.

Golden Years

Each person approaches their life in a different way, which creates endless possibilities for an individual path to old age and the second half of one’s lifespan. In this paper I will share the beautiful and striking similarities between my grandfather’s viewpoint of his second half and my vision for my own. My grandfather, Forrest, will be turning seventy four years old in March and is constantly surprising himself and others with this fact. Although I admit that I have no clear opinion on what seventy four should look and act like and I have been spoiled by his wit and energy my entire life, I can easily see that he is an exception to many rules about old age and aging. He continues almost stubbornly to improve with age, and his progress through his life is an inspiration to my plan for my own future.
When I ask him what he considers to be the most engaging facet of his experience within the second half of his life, he answers without hesitation, ‘the lack of ego.’ As he ages, he explains, he just doesn’t care as much. It’s not as important to him what other people think, and because of this the limits of other people’s perspectives and the constraints of societal norms have less and less hold on him. He finds that he becomes more and more his own man as he ages, and that everything gets easier and easier as far as attitude and dealing with people are concerned. He tells me that the ‘second half’ used to be referred to as the ‘golden years,’ and that he discovers they are golden indeed. He is more himself and happier with life than he has ever been before.
For my grandpa, a clear transition period into the second half of his life is illusive. He wonders if we will believe him when he says that most often he simply forgets that the second half has even started. For him, aging has been a slow, gentle and consistent flow; little situations of change occasionally arise, but the overall journey has been a continuous process largely unmarked by any critical event or moment of realization. He remembers going through some difficult periods in his forties, and remarks that it can take twenty years to get over the problems you realize you have in your twenties…but after his forties everything just got easier and easier. His later years are just another period of his life, one in which he is still learning and growing all the time. He says that the only real difference is that he’s not in quite so much a hurry for the future, and there’s a good reason for that!
The bit of living that brings him the absolute most satisfaction is waking up in the morning. He thinks to himself, another day above ground, it’s got to be good. He has a wonderful family, a wife that he loves and continues to share his life with, and overall his later years are better than he could ever have anticipated. He remains active and engaged, and is brimming with goals and plans for the future. He’s still out in the world creating new business ventures even though he has a long established company of his own to run, and he feels that although he is older there is still a world of opportunity for him to pursue. In the second half of his life, he doesn’t get stressed out and he has learned to take wisdom from every experience, whether it first presents itself as a blessing or a calamity.

I have been planning for the second half of my life since I reached the first quarter mark. When I turned twenty five for some reason a little switch of some sort was thrown in my brain and I began to contemplate for the first time in my life the possibility of old age one day finding me. As I was nine years into a career in healthcare and a self admitted lifelong science brain, I was unable to escape the face of aging in all its reality. I say reality, but in fact I mean Consequence. Since the moment I was first able to comprehend for myself a future that extended beyond my mid and beautiful twenties, living fast and dying young having been my previous expectation, I have been faced with a constant barrage of hard choices and far flung decisions. I realize that from the early twenties onward, perhaps even sooner, the body enters a consistent state of gradual breakdown. No one is more aware of and happier than I that the body continuously repairs itself and that good health can be enjoyed well into a ripe old age; but I am also aware that the longer a body exists, the more occasion it encounters to undergo trauma and damage and, ultimately, errors in cell duplication. Therefore, in my mind the body will begin to go no matter what you think or do. For a madcap month or so of moments, this resulted in a teenage display of self destructiveness and rage against the machine. I smoked like a furnace, drank like a fish, and ate like an unsupervised three year old. I was suddenly faced with the concept of old age as applicable to my very own self, and the idea of it was offensive and terrifying.


As soon as my pre-mid-life crisis had finished, I gathered up the scattered scraps of my personal intelligence and determination and I began to take the matter of living rather seriously. Not in general, mind you, as I feel that serious living is one of the more fatal deadly sins, but in regard to my health and wellness. I began to really, truly try to eat, sleep, drink and breathe well. I paid attention to nutrition instead of fat content, worked hard on developing a preference for wine over Jagermeister, continued to sleep like a rock every night but made more time in which to do so, and embarked upon my thus far lifelong battle to give up the most passionate love/hate relationship of them all, the cigarette.
For these and many other reasons, which I add to on at least a weekly basis, I expect to be granted a fairly decent second half of life. There are always natural disasters such as cancer and traffic accidents, and if any of those befall me then I suppose I will remember that the gods laugh at those who make plans and I will deal with it as it comes. But barring such extreme tragedies, I anticipate an active, happy life up to and after fifty. Most of the time I am working very hard to lay a foundation of solid health for myself in later years, and in all honesty, all I really require for happiness is health. You give me my health, and I will do whatever it takes in any other regard to have what I want or want something else.

And I am

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