Recently, I told my ailing elderly mother about my Encore Incubator project, and she said, “that’s good, but you will live a long time. You are still young. You don't need to think about retirement and things like that yet…”
Actually, that’s exactly why I want to think about the second half of life, my encore act, now. I do hope to have a long and healthful life. I do hope to be active, engaged, and enjoying life well into my old age, but I don’t take these things for granted.
Take, for example, my parents. By the time my mother was my age, in her mid-fifties, rheumatoid arthritis had already crippled her body, bending fingers and toes and knotting joints. In the decades that followed, she had scores of surgeries to reconstruct nearly every joint ravaged by RA, including the cervical vertebra of her neck, which had to be fused together lest her head literally fall off the spinal column. Every medical treatment, every experimental drug, and the daily doses of aspirin have taken their toll on her, in spite of her sharp mind and strong will.
My father was a professor at the height of his career and traveling the world when he suffered a grand mal stroke just a few years before his retirement. He recovered to some extent from that episode, but not fully, and then he suffered another stroke, and another… Recovery, when it comes, comes in fits and starts, and only after grinding physical therapy. Physically and emotionally, one must be willing and able to shed old habits and to learn new ones to optimize recovery and quality of life. But that’s the challenge, isn't it?
In the past 20 years, I've spent more time in assisted care facilities, hospitals, and acute care centers than on vacation, at restaurants, or simply watching TV with my parents. I've had a lot of time to think about the second half of life, the “bucket list”, and developing the strength of character that will serve me regardless of what happens. Pursuing one’s encore acts -- and in the process, continually learning how to learn and grow -- is simply one way towards a more fulfilling life. Life is more fun that way.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.