The whites of his eyes gave it away. He saw fifty, and was afraid. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but Carl Honoré certainly got the wind up him when he saw his fiftieth birthday coming towards him. He knew, good hockey player even though he was, that he couldn’t out-manoeuvre this particular piece of play. As long as he stayed alive, fifty was going to reach him.
So, what did he do? Being a writer, he wrote about it. He went out and researched what fifty and onwards meant for different people. And found that there are a whole lot of them living their best lives after fifty, after sixty, after seventy, after eighty, and after ninety. Wtf! Doesn’t our best life happen when we’re young, dumb, and full of fun? Of course being young is great, but it turns out that being older can be great, too. Sometimes we only become what we always were at heart once we get older.
When I got to sixty, I felt happier and freer than since I was a kid – and didn’t quite know what to make of it. In my youth, I only ever viewed it as the slow disintegration before death. I never really knew any older people when I was younger to show me otherwise. I had older people around me, but I didn’t get to know them. I didn’t even really know my parents all that well, until I looked after them when they were elderly, but I missed out on who they were before that. In spite of my youthful reservations about knocking on in years, I don’t think about death being closer, apart from a desire to have my affairs in order now, so I can then forget about all that. All I think about is what an unexpected and wonderful gift this feeling of freedom and happiness is, and how much I enjoy it. I might do something exceptional with it, or I might not. Who knows?
Carl’s book is full of people who discovered a new lease on life, too. Some of them unearthed remarkable talents later in life, and some of them just unearthed their real selves. But getting older brought surprising rewards to them all that sweetened the deal. I don’t feel old – I’m just aware that to some I am an older women. What I feel like, is that I’m at the beginning of a new era of my life. Seems like this later life joie de vivre has been a well-kept secret so far, but books like Carl’s are spilling the beans on it. Bring it on – it deserves to be trumpeted, whether we choose to live in quiet happiness, or rip up the rules.