Oceans (by Juan Ramon Jimenez)
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
Midlife creeps up on us through the busy-ness of our days, from the demands of our daily lives and of our material pursuits. It’s no wonder that at some point we look up from the tasks and challenges that drive us, and -- to our own surprise -- four, five, six decades of our lives have passed. It’s no wonder that we might find ourselves wondering, Is this my life? Is this what I signed up for? What happened to what I wanted to do? What’s important to me now?
Sometimes, midlife feels like stuckness - like something has to change so that you can move forward. Sometimes, it feels like facing a void - going ahead into unknown, uncharted waters. Sometimes, it feels like you’ve finally shed a layer of your old self, as a snake sheds its own skin - freeing yourself to be a new version of yourself.
Need a little help at midlife to think and work through your next steps? Midlife presents a unique opportunity to create a meaningful change in your life. Even a small adjustment at this point can create a greater sense of purpose and meaning and open possibilities for greater pleasures and fulfillment in the remaining years of your life.
So what is midlife? Some people who come to my class, “Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change,” are surprised to learn that, according to current definitions of aging, midlife can extend from late-forties up to mid-sixties. In fact, the Baby Boomers, in their sheer numbers, are redefining our very notions of aging, so much so that demographers have now established new subcategories of the concept of “older” people. In this scheme, midlife extends from age 55 to 64. “Young old” are those aged 65-74, “old” are those aged 74-84, and it is above 85 that’s considered “oldest old.” And an even greater surprise? What is the fastest growing segment of the US population? Given the Baby Boomers mentioned above, yes, those 65 and above -- but specifically, according to the US Census, the fastest growing population today is those at 85 and above. In general terms, a woman aged 65 in the U.S. today can expect to live to around 87 on average and for a man it would be about 84. (Life expectancy in the 1980s were round 75 and 67, respectively.) These extra years, unprecedented in past generations, are often referred to as the “bonus years” by those who study aging.
So why talk about the years ahead? Because how you approach it, shapes it. Being conscious of today matters.
What lies ahead for you? What’s important? What do you want to do, and what will you create in and of your life? Don’t just get old… get older learning and growing at every stage.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” - Mahatma Gandi
Registration for the winter quarter “Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change" at North Seattle College is now open. Please join me. It'll be fun, engaging, and provide you with food for thought for shaping your future.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.