Tripped over another of those pious, infuriating, now-we-are-fifty “prepare for death good people” posts today which have irritated the crap out of me for years. Before I was fifty, especially in my tiring forties, I owlishly believed come the dread fifties one must take to a rocking chair and with good grace and gentle regret watch the sun setting on our lives. Sunset shmunset. Late afternoon is awesome, sunset is blazing with colour, and after that comes the evening and THEN, okay, prepare for the good night but that’s hours and hours away.
I’ll tangle my metaphors further, why not. Late middle age is autumn, not winter. Autumn can be, sometimes is, blustery and challenging, but it is also mellow afternoon sunshine, respite from the heat of summer, favourite season of many – as in the year, as in life.
Hands up if you love late afternoons, sunsets and the promise of the evening: if you think that autumn is spectacular: do you apply that to the context of your own life? Too many say, and believe, I’m old now. Losing my leaves. The light is going. Must be winter. Nope. Not yet. Enjoy the season to its full, and let winter wait its turn.
If at 30 we said sadly we had peaked physically, so it was time to give up all sport and exercise because what’s the point, we’d be howled at. If at 45, when we have reached our productive peak, we said that’s it, I shall stop trying at work now, those older and much higher up the corporate ladder would be aghast. And yet at 60, those who say I’m studying a new language, have taken up a new sport, am painting, am going to travel on my own because no-one else wants to visit the place I have always wanted to see, etc etc etc, our own generation ask if that’s wise, at our age, when there’s that nice rocking chair out on the porch instead.
If you, having read this far, have said to anyone (or even thought) they were too old, when they were clearly capable at least for now, did you really believe that, or are you simply groomed to fixed expectations by their age? Time is flying, yes. Older friends and relatives will have to start trimming their sails, yes. Tick tock. Now is more important than ever before, and maybe that’s why it is such a thrilling time and why, if you have the energy, the desire, and the funds, the freedom to do it, you should be cheered on, not anxiously cautioned. Carpe diem. The rocking chair will be there in 10, 15, years, when we can enjoy sitting in it to look at the stars.
Of course the motivated ignore the faint disapproval from family and even friends and go ahead and do it anyway but crucially don’t talk about it much because they are bored with being judged. Many are simply too busy to tell the burned-out forty somethings wilting in summer how awesome autumn will be.
I know the friend who reposted the pious ‘count our blessings as life nears its ends, we the over fifties’ has enjoyed a riotous autumn, meeting the love of her life, taking up cycling and winning races, running in half-marathons, and eventually uprooting and moving a thousand miles away where she is now successfully running a business with new skills learned in the last few years, and trying to meet kindred souls who are equally loving their so-called leisure years. She must have been having a pensive day, or be feeling a bit down. Of course there are down times as well as up – when not, in life? but remember, said good people, there IS up, bags of it, and more of those enjoying it should be grooming those following behind to know what to really expect. Autumn is awesome.