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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Boomers and Aging*

The Author at Deal's Gap
*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, May 28, 2008
as "Seize the day - Live life to the limits"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

Turning 53 can be one of three things: A day of celebration, a day of mourning, or just another day. On my last birthday, my brother-in-law called and with his usual Aussie bluntness asked, “Well, do you feel old?” My reply was that since my hair was still dark and largely all there, while his is snow white and in full scale retreat, no; I didn’t feel old.

Attitudes towards aging are connected to our personal view of life. If we have accomplished most of the things we set out to do, then regrets tend to be few. On the other hand, if all we see are missed opportunities and failures, then age becomes a terrible burden.

Star Trek’s Captain Picard described aging as the moment when one realizes that “…there are fewer days ahead then there are behind.” That realization strikes in moments when you least expect it. In the giddy hours after closing on our house, I was struck by the realization that if we held this mortgage through to its conclusion, that we would be 80 when the thing was finally paid off.

Baby Boomers have been described as “the ageless generation.” Thanks to modern medical technology and our generation’s funding of the home fitness industry, we will probably live longer and most likely work more years than our predecessors, not because we have to, but because we want to. In our youth, we rebelled against conformity and rallied for our independence. That attitude has carried us through the decades. Although we are aging, we refuse to act our age.

Passion is the motor that drives our lives. It was true in the ‘60’s; it’s even truer now. Without that motor, we would end up sitting in one place, watching as others pass us by.

I changed careers at age 48. My father’s generation would have preached against taking that kind of chance. I’m sure his contemporaries would have questioned his sanity. For the members of my generation, however, this kind of mid-course correction is par for the course. We know what happens when someone gives up on a dream, sacrificing hope for the expediency of “making a living.” It makes folks old before their time.

We’ve never given up on our dreams, always willing to make changes in life, however drastic, to achieve them. This innate faith in ourselves makes us willing to risk, and most importantly, to stop waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrows have the tendency to sneak past, so camouflaged by the pressing responsibilities of today that we scarcely notice when tomorrow becomes yesterday, and hence, gone forever. Of all the cosmic forces that rule our universe, time is the most unassailable, unchallengeable, and unforgiving.

Our dreams have kept us hopeful; chasing those dreams keeps us young at heart. To “settle” for less would be a betrayal of our gifts and talents. We love challenge, because we learned from the Greatest Generation, our parents, that facing adversity makes a person tougher and even more resolute. It also fends off that emotional trap of age, regret.

We have learned that the future is not set in stone. What we do today will create the world we call tomorrow.

Finally, at the end of this headlong sprint that has been our lives, if we know that we at least tried to do as many things as we could in the best way that we could, then there will be no long evenings by the fireside, mourning lost opportunities. There will only be the sense of satisfaction that comes from the golden memories of a life lived to the limits.

Nos occupo dies.

We seized the day.

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