We were both waiting for the same train. I had sat down next to her in the waiting area, and she had moved her things slightly to make room, which meant we began to talk. For some reason, the conversation turned quickly to age.
I told her I was 81 and I liked being old. She said she was 61 and she didn’t. I asked her why not? “Well, because I feel all my future is behind me,” she answered.
Oh dear, I wondered. Do a lot of people feel this way?
There is something about age 60, which sounds like a new level, like the levels in one of your grandchildren’s computer games. Except whereas they are always seeking to get onto a new level, this isn’t something that many of us are trying to get to.
It sounds like the beginning of ‘old’, which means the beginning of ‘the end’. Even if people at age 60 are not yet worrying about death these days (not so long ago, such thoughts might have been very reasonable), it is a time of thinking about retirement.
And retirement means stopping. Life as you have known it comes to an end. I guess it is an easy step to your “future is behind you.” (This brief companion also told me that she had lost one husband through divorce and another through death, so perhaps that sounded like the end of the road in the romance department.)
We turned to the reasons why I liked being old. “You are SO much more confident,” I argued. Yes, she said, and noted that she hadn’t really thought about that. “You feel so much more comfortable in your own body.” She agreed.
“And you do whatever you want to do and say whatever you want to say,” I added. She didn’t demur. I don’t know whether I won her over, but I did give her a flyer for my recent book on the subject of growing older.
She said she would look into it. Our train was called, our seats were in different compartments, and I didn’t see her again.
But good heavens, life doesn’t stop at 60. It doesn’t even stop at 80. The past 20 years have brought two new books from under my pen. (In case you are curious, the other is on hospice care.)
Twenty years ago, I hadn’t written a word for Sixty and Me, for whom I have been writing for the last eight or so years.
And I hadn’t begun my new enterprise, started only five months ago when I was 80, of a free Substack Newsletter, each with a blog on some completely different topic of general interest. It has grown from 25 family and friends to nearly 170 subscribers, which is very rewarding.
Of considerable importance, on the family side, I didn’t have either of my two wonderful grandsons, who have added so much to my life.
I might note that I know several women who have found new relationships just before turning 70, so even that side of things is not finished at 60. As far as I am concerned, the last 20 years have left me even happier with my long-standing husband.
Nor are the joys of life counted solely by what one has produced or the people in your life. There is a wealth of everyday experience to be enjoyed.
Everybody is different in what brings them joy, but I have gained hugely from the books I have read, the music I have sung, the places I have been. Not to mention those hours just chatting to a friend. Or lying on my bed thinking my thoughts.
I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.
My future is still in the future.
What has brought you joy in your 60s and beyond? What would you have said to the woman who thought her future was behind her?