This getting older is an interesting thing, isn’t it?
On the one hand we think, or at least society wants us to think of it as a winding down. We wind down our businesses. We retire (what an odd word). Our bodies begin an inexorable winding down. Everything seems driven by an accelerating entropy.
In this time even our myths seem to desert us. Our heroic legends and our fairy tales often end with that strange refrain, “and they lived happily ever after.” But what happens after ever after? What happens once the heroic challenges have been met? Does the journey just peter out? Do we quietly fade into some kind of happy senescence?
I don’t think so. Or at least I don’t want to. Too many of my friends continue to remain very lively and engaged and vigorously active in life. They inspire me to retire only my preconceptions of what this next phase of life could be like.
Yet aging seems we have no meaningful narrative, no good myths or stories for this chapter of life. And the old stories just aren’t cutting it. They don’t go far enough.
I believe we need a new vision for what lays ahead, a vision that not only encompasses the trials before us, and surely we will all face those, but also the promise of something still to be won.
As we move towards that age called retirement, society wants us to believe that what has brought our lives meaning, the struggles for continued value and significance, are behind us. But a life without purpose, a life retired, is a tragedy. No wonder so many die so soon after retiring, especially if they retire early.
Our professional life, the greatest provider of significance for many of us, is nearing an end, sometimes abruptly, because of mandatory age limits. Some of us who want to continue contributing find ourselves moved aside by workplace ageism that looks to replace us with younger, perhaps more malleable, and much less expensive versions of our functional selves.
Another great project for many of us has been our children. Their care and launching, sometimes halting, into the world to make their own way and contributions is moving behind us. Grandchildren become the promise of that project’s corrected continuation.
And our bodies, our poor bodies, sundered, neglected and beaten by the relentless prioritization of work begin limiting us in ways we scarcely imagined but a few years ago.
How can we find a path through this time of life that isn’t entirely defined by what we’ve lost, what it seems we can no longer have, and what we will eventually face?
I believe there is such a path. I’m inspired by others who have found it and, while it is unique to each, I believe that with the right intent and information we can find, or better yet, create it for ourselves.
Isn’t it time we let go of the shore, of society’s grim expectations for how we should live out these years, and embark on a new journey?
As T.S. Eliot said,
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
This really is what Age Stronger is about. Finding meaning on this next journey and readying ourselves for all the challenges along the way—physical, mental, spiritual and perhaps even political. We’ll be challenged on all fronts. This journey promises no shortage of demons or monsters. Not everyone will heed the call and that’s ok.
But for those who are interested, or more accurately those who are compelled to find meaning in this next journey I hope Age Stronger can be our guide along the way. I know I’ll welcome your company, your strength and wisdom on this journey. I’m hoping our shared energy and passion will help light the way for our friends in time.