Aging Gratefully

          It’s funny how the “set point” of what we consider old changes as the years pass. I recall in my teens thinking how old 30 sounded. Then, as I got into my late 20’s, 30 wasn’t old, but 40 was, then 50, then 60. Now that 60 is in my rearview mirror, the number that hits me as old is maybe somewhere in the 90’s. I have friends in their 70’s. My oldest brother will be 67 in a few months. Mom is 92. But these days, I think less about what is considered old.

            Every stage of life has its expectations or concerns for the coming decade or even the next year. It’s different for everyone, of course. When I was in my 20’s, I expected that by the 30’s I’d have my place in the work world, become established, settle down, get married, have children, do all the things families do. The 40’s were vaguely out there but seemingly distant. A continuation of the 30’s with family and work highlighting life. At that time, I didn’t think much about the 50’s, or 60’s. Mom and dad were in those years. I couldn’t imagine that far ahead.

            Virtually nothing came about as I had imagined. I got married in my mid-20’s. We weren’t able to have children. We’ve lived in several places, made some big moves, ended up far from family. I’ve worked a number of jobs, some full time, some part time; tried a bunch of things, experienced layoffs, never climbed any corporate ladder. I’ve been employed, unemployed, self-employed, underemployed. While I worked hard, tried to do a good job, I seldom felt satisfied. It was just a job.

            It took many years to realize that climbing some corporate ladder isn’t for everyone—and to stop feeling like a failure because it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t suited for an office or cubicle or suit and tie. Too confining for me. I like the outdoors and that’s where I’ve spent most of my working life. Golf courses, lawn care, grounds keeping. That’s the work I like.

            I’m still working. I now work for the county in which we live—on the grounds maintenance crew. While I work mostly full-time hours, officially I’m part time/seasonal. Now, I watch the young guys looking for their place in life. They pick on me for being old. I smile and give it back knowing I wouldn’t trade places with them even if I could.

The new set point isn’t an age, it’s retirement—and that’s less than a year away. As with every other time in my life, I have certain expectations for retirement. Certain hopes and dreams. Also, as with every other time in my life, I’m certain things will not go as expected.

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