It seems almost universal, doesn’t it? The way the loss of loved ones steers us into deep waters of self-reflection about our own lives. For me, this introspective journey has been triggered not just by losing several loved ones recently, but also by the impending milestone of turning 50. It’s got me pondering, more than ever, about how I want to spend my remaining years. It’s not the clichéd mid-life crisis that movies and books often depict, but rather a feeling that each life decision ahead now requires more careful consideration.
In my 40s, a decade typically known for soul-searching and dramatic life changes, my husband Michael and I found ourselves navigating life’s ups and downs with a sense of ease, perhaps stemming from having our kids young. We had already navigated past the intense demands of toddlerhood and the daily grind of school routines. This granted us a certain freedom and flexibility at a time when others our age were often in the thick of those challenging years. This head start allowed us to focus more on each other and our personal aspirations, a luxury not afforded to many still deeply entrenched in the active parenting of younger children. We both even completely changed our careers without the worry or weight of the outcome or risks. However, now, it’s not just about having the space to pursue personal goals or career changes; it’s about consciously choosing how we want to spend the rest of our lives in a way that feels meaningful and fulfilling.
The last thing on my mind is about escaping or reclaiming youth. Rather, it’s about acknowledging the reality of our fleeting existence. I know some friends who’ve sold everything to live as nomads, and they claim it’s the happiest they’ve ever been. Conversely, I see other friends deeply engrossed in their careers, pursuing the elusive promise of a golden retirement. For me, the premature loss of my Dad a few years ago has continually led me to question this conventional life path.
”Is waiting for retirement truly the best way to utilise our precious years?
I am fortunate to have the luxury of contemplating decisions about how I ideally want the next years of my life to unfold. But here I am, feeling an unfamiliar paralysis when making life decisions, a sensation I’ve never experienced before.
Recently, Michael and I have been discussing possible career changes or new business ideas. We’ve always embraced risks, feeling that there was plenty of time to change course if needed. Now, for the first time, there’s an acute awareness of being in the second half of our time here, necessitating more careful consideration of decisions that could consume precious years in pursuit of a long-term goal.
This feeling is new for me, the finitude of time casting a different hue on my choices. There’s a newfound caution I’ve never had before, a desire to measure twice and cut once. Big decisions feel imbued with a significance that wasn’t there before. It’s as if the sands in the hourglass are more tangible, each grain a moment I’m conscious of not wanting to waste.
And so here lies my conundrum, the question I’m wrestling with most:
”Is this cautious approach a reflection of prudent wisdom, or does it risk dimming the vibrant, adventurous spirit that has always guided me and brought so much joy and happiness? Is it a betrayal of the very essence that has made me, me?
Writer Sarah Wilson recently turned 50 and on her blog, she wrote about it. She says, “At 50, I think, we understand life goes nowhere. And settle into this truth.” It’s a reminder that life is less about reaching a specific destination and more about embracing the journey itself. This perspective challenges the traditional trajectory we’re often told to follow, and it’s liberating.
Even as I write this, I feel my answers are presenting themselves. I really need to stop fixating on the ‘time left’ or the ticking clock of life. Instead, I should focus on reminding myself that the true compass guiding my decisions should be the moments that have brought me the most joy.
Reflecting on my past career choices or business ventures, even those that were risky, I should ask myself: What aspects truly made me happy? Was it the thrill of the journey itself, the process of building something, or the satisfaction found in the success at the end?
If the journey – the sleepless nights, the brainstorming, the exhilarating ups, and the inevitable downs – didn’t ignite joy in me, then perhaps radically changing my path isn’t the one I should tread again. But if it was these experiences that brought me happiness, then perhaps I’ve found my answer.
I need to cast aside my fears of time slipping away, focusing instead on ensuring that the time I do have is spent pursuing what genuinely fulfils me.
So, as I stand at the threshold of this new decade, I’m resolving to make choices not out of fear, but by reflecting on those instances that brought true happiness. My path forward should be about embracing the journeys that resonate with this inner joy, understanding that success is not just a destination but found in the richness of every big or small experience itself. Our time might be finite, but the potential for joy is infinite. It’s not just about the longevity of our journey, but the depth of the happiness we find along the way.
That, in essence, is what life is all about.