Reflections on Turning 65

I guess one’s 65th birthday is a kind of milestone, though I am not sure why. Perhaps this is the line between being ‘almost 65’ and ‘approaching 70’! As far as I can tell, like most of my other significant birthdays—21, 30, and 50—they are more symbolic than anything. At 21, I could drink and vote. At 30, I reached my goal of earning as much as my age. At 50, I was officially ‘middle-aged’. This one was supposed to be the moment I ‘retired’, but the fact is I am just getting started. About the only big difference is that I am now officially on Medicare and can start to get some pay-back for all those taxes I paid (although I would prefer to not need anything in that arena). Joking aside, I love being 65 and I really am happier, healthier, more creative, more loved and (I think) more loving than at any other time in my life. I am very enthusiastic about the future and the opportunity to be alive and participating at this time in history.

But as I reflect on being 65, I wonder if I am typical or just lucky? Am I just enjoying a momentary ‘high’ that will dissipate as I journey through what most would say is the predictable decline from here to the end? The fact is that only time will tell.

I remember when I was getting out of college, the ‘message’ passed down through the culture from a host of well-meaning advisors was that the ‘fun’ times were over. It was time to get to work, be a good citizen, raise a family and basically get into the harness of the ‘work-hard-to-be-successful ethic because life is serious’ business. It didn’t look to my young eyes like getting older was going to be a lot of fun and, while there would be benefits, it was going to be hard and the best was behind me. I was told to ‘be realistic’, don’t become distracted by being too idealistic and stop looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.

I remember thinking that I liked my rose-colored glasses. And why would I want to be realistic if that meant being serious and dour? I made a very conscious decision to look at life in the context of what is possible—not what is ‘real’—and work at making my ‘rose-tinted’ possibilities into new realities. I haven’t regretted that decision for a moment. While most of my friends were settling down and ‘outgrowing’ their youthful dreams, I not only didn’t settle down, but I played hard at making those dreams come true.

I guess I am doing the same thing now. I am keeping my rose-colored glasses on and rejecting all the conventional wisdom about how it is and how I should be. I can accept aging as a phase of life that is all about slowing down, disengaging and gracefully bowing out of the game. Or I can reinvent myself and reinvent the game in ways that are appropriate to where I am today, but not limited by my circumstances or how many years I have under my belt. I don’t think this is some sort of Pollyanna positive thinking. Nor is it denial that I am getting old and will probably be dead in fewer years than I would like to admit. It is a choice—a choice about the future.

I am choosing this future—the one I see through my rose-colored lenses.

What future are you choosing?