Don’t Let Living in the Past Threaten Your Future

It’s not unusual when looking at pictures of our younger days to feel a bit nostalgic. Seeing ourselves when we were smooth skinned and shiny eyed, when the world held so much promise and every day brought the possibility of new exciting experiences strikes a sweet chord in our heart. Remember when you had energy to burn and napping happened once a day at the end of the day? Sore muscles and tired joints were momentary inconveniences that quickly passed. Good eyes, strong teeth, stamina without end and the ability to eat whatever you want without fear of repercussion were nothing out of the ordinary – just the way it was.

Then one day instead of living the life depicted in those pictures we find ourselves outsiders looking in wishing what had been could be again.

Many believe the past holds the best moments of their life lived. Glory days back in school were as good as things ever got. The early days were the best days. After that the merciless grind of the job and burden of making a living sometimes became all-encompassing. Who has time for fun living in a world where every hour in the day must be productively spent?

I read a book about a 50 year old who felt his life was slipping by. Mistakes and miscalculation that mere decades ago could easily have been overcome now felt insurmountable. The clock was ticking and he feared he was running out of time to be all he could be. His focus was on how great his earlier life had been and how lost he felt having arrived at the ripe old age of 50.

I don’t buy it.

Sure it was grand to be young and strong and energetic back in the day. When it comes to physical prowess youth holds the edge. But what about when you need your brain, when intellect and experience give you the advantage? The adage wisdom comes with age is well said. Diverse experiences over our lifetime teach us how to react and respond optimally to unpredictable situations. It’s hard to realize the benefit of learning from our mistakes when we have not been on this Earth long enough to stumble and get back up few times. We learn over the years to avoid mistakes that caused suffering or hardship. The accumulation of knowledge and experiences along with patience and understanding ideally evolve into something those few in years do not possess – namely wisdom. None of us is born wise – it is the product of time and living.

danger thin ice

Before you overdo it with sweet thoughts of those perfect days of yore take a moment to think back on some of the less-than-romantic realities of your younger days. I for one would not want to relive those anxious dating days when I psyched myself up to make that call to invite a classmate on a date. Pacing anxiously up and down the hallway, rehearsing my “lines” as I struggled to get it just right, finally approaching the phone with my heart in my throat only to turn away at the last second to regroup and try again.

What about your first driving test – wasn’t that fun? Or your first visit to the dentist – oh joy! And those nightmares paled in significance when down the road you found yourself impossibly tasked with coming up with some magical solution to ease the pain your daughter felt being dumped by her boyfriend. It is one thing to deal with your own broken heart but quite another to feel the helplessness of a well-intentioned father who only wants his child to be happy and safe but is ultimately at a loss.

Would you really voluntarily relive those moments all over again?

Being young is wonderful but it is only one stage of life. Obsessing over what you could have been or should have done will not change where and who you are today. Don’t waste the possibilities of today to dwell on a yesterday over which you have no control.

I prefer the glass half full perspective when it comes to expectations of what lies ahead. Rather than fret about the things I may not have accomplished to this point I try to focus on what I can do or become or experience. For retirees our second act can be a second chance. Why not pursue dreams of your youth now that you are blessed with unlimited time and relative independence? Accepting that you are getting older does not mean you must surrender meekly. Retirement can be your time to add excitement and new adventures to your life resume.

We cannot change the past and we may not know what the future holds but we can live in this moment and make the best of it. Rather than obsess over what could have been its better to obsess over what still might be. And enjoy!



Retiring after Years of Asbestos Exposure

Written by Virgil Anderson

Retirement should be the best years of your life. You get to relax, sleep in, enjoy new hobbies, travel, and of course spend more time with family. So what if you’re retiring from a job that exposed you to asbestos for years? You need to know what health problems that exposure could have put you at risk for, signs of asbestos-related illnesses, and how to get compensation if you get sick.

I was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. From automotive to demolition work, I’ve had many jobs in my life that contributed to my exposure. On some jobs, the air was so thick with debris and asbestos you could taste it in your mouth.

When I was diagnosed I needed immediate medical attention. I found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with my type of cancer but nobody got back to me.

Then I found Even though I contacted them on a Sunday one of their patient advocates gave me a call back within minutes. They gave me a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to me.

As a result of their website I am now being treated at the national cancer institute and the patient advocates have even provided me with financial assistance so I could afford a place to live during my chemotherapy. If I had not reached out to this website I would likely be homeless and more importantly in Hospice waiting to die. These people gave me my only chance at survival.

The Risks of Asbestos Exposure

Since 1975 there have been restrictions placed on how and where asbestos can be used. Even with these restrictions, asbestos is still found in a lot of places, especially on ships and in older homes and buildings. If your employer did not follow good safety practices regarding asbestos, and you were exposed to its fibers over years or decades, you could be at risk for serious health problems.

The danger comes from inhaling the fibers of asbestos. If asbestos or products containing asbestos are disturbed or broken, fibers can be released into the air. When you breathe in those fibers they get lodged in the lungs and the lining of tissue around the lungs, and cause damage. That damage, over time, can cause illnesses. Asbestos exposure is the number one risk factor for mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive type of cancer. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma, but you may develop another illness like lung cancer or asbestosis.

Latency Period and Age

It is important to understand that mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses have a long latency period. The time between the first exposure to asbestos and getting a diagnosis is between 20 and 50 years. This means that mesothelioma especially is most often diagnosed in people at retirement ages and older. Most people diagnosed are over 50. The consequence of this long latency period is that by the time many people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is already in the later stages and very difficult to treat.

Early Signs of Asbestos-Related Illnesses

Because mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases have typically long latency periods and are difficult to treat, diagnosing them as early as possible is crucial. It is especially important to be aware of asbestos-related symptoms and to seek a diagnosis if you know you have been exposed to it. The earlier you find out you have one of these illnesses, the easier it will be to treat and the better the prognosis.

Asbestosis is most often characterized by experiencing shortness of breath during physical exertion. This illness may also cause fatigue and a dry, persistent cough. Lung cancer caused by asbestos typically cause a persistent cough that gets worse with time, sometimes accompanied by blood, difficulty breathing, and chest pains. Lung cancer may also cause you to feel fatigued and to have frequent respiratory infections.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this cancer and it causes pleural effusion, the collection of fluid in the tissue surrounding the lungs. This causes symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen and is rarer. It causes symptoms including abdominal swelling and pain and gastrointestinal upset.

If you are concerned about your exposure to asbestos as you face your retirement, get screened for these illnesses and be aware of and alert for the symptoms. If you do get an asbestos-related diagnosis, you may be eligible for compensation. Lawsuits against companies that exposed workers to asbestos are often successful at winning compensation for victims. Some companies have even set up trust funds for these cases. Don’t let your workplace asbestos exposure ruin your retirement. Be proactive about symptoms, and in the worst case scenario take advantage of the compensation you may be owed.