Growing older does not put your obligations aside
Today, I turn sixty. I am officially “old.”
I know, people are always saying, “You’re only as old as you feel.” Well, somedays I feel really old. A bad back, two bad knees and a goodly number of concussions from sports can leave their mark. Despite those inevitable break downs caused by an active life, most days I feel pretty good physically. Thank God for Naproxen.
The real issue this year is psychological. I managed to convince myself that fifty was the new forty. However, sixty is not fifty. You can’t get social security or start drawing from your IRA in your fifties. Moreover, when you start drawing retirement pay (military reserve benefits kick at age sixty), you are just, well…old.
As I sit in what is very likely the last third of my time here, I cannot help but wonder, “What is the meaning of my life?” Have I have I done “enough” (whatever that means)?
I’m afraid that I am “trapped” by the charge my father gave me when I left home, “The greatest challenge of your life is how to put to the best use you can, the gifts that God gave you.”
That notion has haunted me all my life, but now has more immediacy. As my remaining days now become measurable, the question looms ever larger. “Well, have I done the best I could to use my talents in a way God would find pleasing?” If I have not, the time to act is growing ever shorter.
I don’t say this in a melancholy or self-pitying way. I have many regrets; many things I have done or not done that I wish I could alter. As do we all, I would suppose. The issue is more what’s left to be done. More important, can I even figure out what that is and act upon that knowledge.
For a time a couple of years ago, as the real estate market began to wane, I pondered my next steps. The kids are out of the house. Time to relax? I have been successful in business. I have tried to help build a better community. Isn’t that sufficient?
Then my father’s words fell upon me. As I reflected, I thought, “Really Dave, Is that all you have to contribute? Or, for your own selfish reasons, are you contemplating wasting what you have left to give?” I am still that young boy standing before a demanding father. In the end, we are always standing before our Father and He does call us to account…sometimes through means we don’t always understand.
Just because you get older, your responsibility to be your best doesn’t fade away. In fact, perhaps the obligation gets greater. With age comes experience and hopefully wisdom. You are no longer a Spring Chicken, but neither are you “wet behind the ears.” You have more gifts, not less, to give.
At every crossroad in life, we have choices to make. They are rarely cut and dry, the proverbial “harder right and easier wrong” or the “road less travelled.” Rather, the decision often comes down to, “How much uncertainty am I willing to tolerate?” And, age does tend to moderate risk-taking behavior.
For me, the choice ended up not so hard to make. I met the most incredible group of entrepreneurs I could imagine. They have become not just my business partners, but my close friends. We have started to build new businesses outside my original knowledge base, but the process stretches me in ways I never would have thought possible. Imagine, an old analogue guy moving into the digital side of business. Anything is within your grasp if you believe and they have made me believe again.
And so it is with each of us. Life should not be all toil and without joy and fun, but neither should it be utterly without meaning. I do not believe our purpose has a certain shelf life, that at some point it is to be set aside as unusable.
So far, I don’t think I left much on the table, but that does not mean I have nothing left to play. Isn’t that the point after all? Giving of your talents can be an utterly exhilarating experience…at any age.