Monday, April 16, 2007

NPR - Confronting yourself

I wrote a post about being over 50. Well, now I want to continue the thought with the simple idea that at sometime in your life you have to face yourself, to confront your past, present and what may be your future. And in your 50's is the most logical time it happens as you leave one career, or most of us do - a few continue throughout their life in one career - and enter a new life and maybe a new career. I did this in 2005 at the age of 56 and haven't regretted the decision or the new life and building a new career.

So why the question? As I noted in your 50's is when you body is past the point of no return, at best you can maintain a good level of fitness and health into your 70's. You learn to adjust as you simply can't do what you did five or ten years ago. It's all you have to live with from now on, and with some hard work, be good for a long time. And as noted, you're at your peak of wisdom, maturity and experience to be more creative than you've ever been, and it's all in front of you. Where the body may slowly decline, your mind won't for most of us.

But as not noted, it's the time you face the reality of your life, the time you reflect, to sit in your home and wonder about all the experiences. I don't worry about whether it was good or bad, it's was, that's all, just was. I cherish some of the experiences as memories few people ever get the chance to experience and to just do what I enjoyed and believed in. What more can one ask in life? It's amazing to me that through the times before my career with the USGS I couldn't have imagined the opportunity that awaited me coming from an interview to start a 28 year career.

And working in the USGS was amazing. To see work done as much as a hundred years before me, and all the work in between sitting in files in file cabinets as my predecessors did, doing a job they enjoyed. I doubt they wondered what their work would lead to, and I did the same doing 13 years of field work and 15 years of management. I still prefer the former but loved the latter. And now through all that, now I'm just one of those names in those on original documents in files in file cabinets.

And now to have the opportunity to learn photography and produce images I enjoy. What can one ask, to find a new passion in life that has no end? But as life would have it, the body has to be there. While I'm generally ok, it's the saying I use, "I'm never as bad as I feel and never I good as I think I am." It's the reality of your genetics and life at a time you need them the most, and the choices you have to make to accomplish what you can to accommodate what you want.

The other thing you have to do is deal with the baggage, not just the mental baggage of your experiences, but the simple task of all that stuff you've hauled around with you. Every move takes a bigger truck, and every space get fuller. It's the way of our society, and the choice to break that to be free. You have to decide to settle in or clear the stuff out to be free, and decide how much you want to keep to pass on.

It's the time, if you haven't done it already, to assess what happens after you go. You face the reality of death, and where your life goes before that. You never know the final answer, you can only try and leave the rest to what happens. As the adage goes, "Nothing seems to happen but everything seems to pass." In no time, the next 20 years will be gone like the last 20 years went, one day at a time. The rest is what you do and the world that is.


  1. The trick would seem to be not allowing oneself to become mired in decisions of the past or paths not taken. Although I haven't yet reached the midpoint in life yet, I can see the difficulty in being content with what is and not letting your mind drift off to what could have been. Since one can never know, why trouble yourself over it. Unless it changes behavior, regret seems of little use. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune once I've aged a bit more.

  2. Excellent point, and some regret stays with you throughout your life. It's sometimes useful to have regret to remind us of times we were happy and sad, and faced a major loss. Why? I don't know, except some regret is normal, and in a way, good.

    I say this because I remember a conversation I had in the mid-1970's doing some research in Placerville, California. I went to the Chamber of Commerce office there and spent an afernoon with a woman in her 70's who had spent all but one year of her life there.

    She told me of the places to visit for the research, and I asked her about her life. She talked about her youth there between and after the wars. She told me when she was 18 she decided to go to Sacramento to attend beauty school for two years. In the first year she met a handsome man and after a short courtship they married.

    They settled into a small apartment while she worked and attended school and he worked long hours. They were a young couple in a vibrant, growing city. One day, though, he didn't come home. And each day after that. He simply seemed to have left. None of his friends knew where he went or why he left.

    She wasdevasted, so she finished her first year and went back home to live with her parents and work in Placerville. She never left town, except occasional trips with her parents, and lived in her parents house. During her words, she began to cry, and then stopped a cried continuously.

    I apologized for asking about her life then. She said she had forgotten about it and I had brought it back into her present, and while she remembered his departure, she remembered how happy she was then. And she thanked me for reminding her of her youth.

    Regret isn't always something we should lose, it's part of and intertwined the whole set of feelings we carry, and sometimes all our life.