No one knows how long they will remain physically or mentally able to enjoy what life has to offer. The reality of aging is things get harder rather than easier as the years pass. Activities we took for granted just a few decades ago may suddenly become too difficult to undertake. No one wants to spend their second act looking in the rear view mirror at what was. We want to look forward to what will be.
Glenn Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Think of all those plans you hope to embrace once you leave work behind to focus 100 percent on retirement. Free time is a blessing. Freedom to do what you want when you want is what retired life is all about. Once you arrive the trick is to not let the moments pass you by without making an impact, without grabbing for all you can.
My folks have been retired about 20 years. They have pretty much given up on long distance travel. Hassles of airports and security lines, rental cars and navigating unfamiliar surroundings is to the point they just don’t want to do it anymore. But before that they were traveling machines. They wandered Europe in a VW bug while my dad was stationed in Germany. They made regular car trips across the US in search of historic sites and memorable monuments. Mom and dad truly traveled, loved it, have collected many great memories, and are now content with staying closer to home. The point is they did it while they could.
A month ago my dad had a stroke. He is 85 and had been struggling a bit over the past year with his balance and a slight slur when he talks. The stroke was severe impacting his speech and leaving him paralyzed on his left side. After three weeks of intensive rehabilitation he is improving and we are moving him home. But once home, mom will require 24/7 help to assist with day to day living for how long yet to be determined. Dad is improving – we can understand what he says and he is getting stronger. But how far will he recover? No one knows.
You don’t always have to wait for retirement. I know it’s hard to set aside time when living an incredibly busy life but how rewarding it can be to explore your passions before you retire. Younger with more stamina and no sore knees you can truly enjoy the moments to their maximum. Your eyesight is as good as it will ever be. You may feel a bit tired at days end but you have the will to press on – mind over matter is still possible. Although you cannot do all those things you hope before your second act delaying everything is a risk. You never know where you will be or in what shape in 10 or more years.
Most of my family is big believers in walking, hiking and generally getting out into nature. My wife and I deliberately chose a retirement area with an abundance of state and national parks packed with enough winding trails and hidden vistas to keep us busy for years. My favorite aunt at age 75 traipses around the world on tours and trips that inevitable involve navigating many miles on foot each day. And don’t get me started about my Swiss family. They can walk me into the ground while easily hiking seemingly vertical paths leading to hidden lakes and secluded restaurants only accessible on foot (or helicopter). We are generally in the same age group and love hitting the trail. And we realize we may not be so fortunate to be as mobile as my aunt when we reach her age so we do it now while we still can.
Having reached retirement age or thereabouts most of us realize we are not in control of as much as we would like to be. So much is beyond our sway if we hope to make good on our second act we must remain opportunistic. Don’t let possible good times pass us by. Stop thinking about it and instead do it. Get going while the going is good. I know I cannot change the past. And I don’t know exactly what the future has in store. But I am here today, now, in this moment. It is up to me to make the most of this moment while I am still ready and willing and able.