Hours may drag, but years race.
Somebody wise has probably said something like that. If they haven’t—well, you read it here first.
It’s July 1. 2019 is half-over. Raise your hand if you haven’t accomplished most of those grand and glorious goals you set on New Year’s Day.
Yeah. Me neither.
This morning, I found myself reflecting on the past few weeks, and I noticed a theme. See if you can pick up on it:
- May 30 was the 22nd anniversary of the last time I was an employee.
- June 2 was the 22nd anniversary of my launch into the world of freelancing. (So far, so good.)
- June 29 was the 20th anniversary of the day I bought my house. I still love it (although I still hate the kitchen floor, and the paneling still bears witness to the prior owners’ dog’s unhappiness at being closed in the kitchen).
- Today is the 29th anniversary of my move from the southwestern corner of the state to the environs of Hartford for law school.
(You saw it, didn’t you? I figured you would. I have very perceptive readers.)
Much has changed in the past few decades. Many people have come into my life, and others have left it; ditto with cats. I’ve done things I never thought I would, from serving in northern Thailand as a missionary to spending the night by a dying friend’s bedside to publishing my first story. I haven’t done other things I expected I would, such as marrying and having children.
It’s been a rollercoaster, and the end of the ride is getting closer by the day.
I don’t mean for that to sound morbid. I’m not even sixty, and I’m in excellent health. But as I watch my contemporaries retiring or making plans for retirement, I can’t help wondering how we got to this point so quickly. Twenty years ago, when we were all in the thick of careers and childrearing and all the other things thirty- and fortysomethings do, reaching sixty felt like the end of a road that was far, far away.
When I was thirty, sixty sounded old. People in their sixties were all plump gray-haired folks with bifocals who grumbled about the good old days, their medical conditions, and how today’s music was just noise. Now, the sixtysomethings I know are vibrant and involved. If they’re retired, they’re traveling, playing sports, volunteering, cheering on grandchildren at track meets and graduations. One friend has spent her retirement writing books, teaching workshops, and traveling to fabulous locations like Iceland, Ireland, and France. Another couple moved after retirement to a part of the country where they have family, and they now divide their time between activism and activities with siblings, children, and grandchildren.
Some of us are weaving care for elderly parents into this mix, because these days, it’s not uncommon for people my age to have one or both of our parents still living. I spent Friday evening at the ER with my eighty-four-year-old parents after Dad fell; ironically, this came just a few hours after I accompanied them to a doctor’s visit (unrelated) at the same hospital. One friend devoted last weekend to a flying visit to his parents who now live a thousand miles away. Another is managing her law practice in Hartford and care of her elderly parent in a neighboring state.
Other contemporaries are learning how to navigate the loss of their parents; so far this year, I’ve already attended two funerals for parents of friends.
Which brings me back to the question:
How did we get here so fast?
I have concerns now that I didn’t have twenty years ago: the status of my retirement funds, the viability (or not) of Social Security, the extent to which my house is equipped for me to age in place. As a single person, who will I call if (when?) I’m the one in the ER after a fall? I come from a long-lived people, and there’s every reason to believe that I’ll see ninety (one of my aunts is 93), so I’m really hoping Medicare is still doing its thing for the next 30+ years.
Wait a minute.
Because while many of us find it difficult to shake off the old notion of “retire at 65, die at 72,” the fact is that these days, living into our eighties and nineties is a strong possibility. (Assuming, of course, we don’t get run down by a bus, but that’s easily solved: move to a place that doesn’t have bus service.) So even though it seems as if the first chunk of life has whizzed past like the telephone poles we used to watch from the windows during car rides, the odds are excellent that there’s still a big chunk left.
Granted, our focus changes as we age, but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Quite the contrary—once we’re free from the strictures of jobs and potty-training, we’re more likely to have time to pursue our passions. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of traveling, like friends of mine who are getting ready to embark on their long-awaited Trip of a Lifetime. Or maybe the thing you want to do most is relax in your armchair with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and chat—online, on the phone, or in person—with the ones you love.
Or maybe you love your job and can’t imagine leaving it. This isn’t uncommon; I have a client who is approximately my age, and she practices law with her father, while her mother practices with her brother. Or maybe you don’t think you’re cut out for a life of leisure, and you prefer to keep busy even after you bid your present job adieu. If so, you’re far from alone. Everywhere I turn, I see another article about someone’s second (or third, or fourth) act, a/k/a the new career or business or educational program they’ve launched in what used to be the time when everybody settled down in their rockers. I’ve seen commercials for a new sitcom coming this fall entitled, “Carol’s Second Act”; I can’t help suspecting that it’s designed to appeal to my exact demographic.
In Isaiah 40:6-8, the prophet writes:
All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.
Regardless of whether you agree with Isaiah, it’s hard to deny that this life goes by faster than we ever dreamed it would. Hours can seem endless–especially when we’re waiting for someone or something–but the years fly by. The important thing is to savor life as it’s happening, and not to be so focused on what came before or will come later that we miss this moment, when we, the grass, are lush and green.
As for me, I have a feeling that in another thirty years, I’ll be looking back and asking the same question: “How did I get here so fast?”