Life is full of surprises – some good and others not so. Whatever fate has in store each of us must find a way to deal with what comes our way. We play the cards we are dealt, learning as we go, hopefully not too often repeating the same mistakes. Our education might be straight forward seasoned with a healthy dose of common sense. Or we might need to call upon a certain inner strength to guide us safely through troubled waters.
Some surprises are less-than earth shattering in significance. They present themselves as mere pains in the butt, distractions along an otherwise pretty smooth road. We expect to have to deal with many situations in life. But what about those unexpected out-of-the-blue experiences we don’t see coming?
Did you know that your passport expiration date must be at least 90 days beyond the date of your scheduled return from a trip? I learned this recently while in line at San Francisco International airport. With luggage in tow my wife and I were blissfully expecting to depart a few hours hence on a month long escape to Switzerland. It was not to be. “You can’t travel on this passport.” I was informed I had no alternative but to go to the local federal passport building to apply for a same day passport. As luck had it the next day was Labor Day a wonderful holiday that happens to shut down all government agencies. Another day lost.
We could have bemoaned our situation but instead made the best of the cards we had been dealt. We were in San Francisco, a spot travelers from around the world hungrily journey to. So we found a last minute deal online and booked a hotel for two nights. We then proceeded to walk the town journeying to beautiful Noe Valley, touring ostentatious and glitzy Nob Hill, exploring the latest pizza hot spot in SOMA, and just kicking it in The City. Our experience at the federal building went unexpectedly smoothly and we were soon on our way arriving in Zurich a few days late but safely and with my brand new 10-year passport in hand.
No matter what age navigating the unexpected can be challenging. And nothing gets easier as you get older.
What would you do if in your early fifties you suddenly found yourself out of a job – right sized out or phased out or just plain laid off? It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact a lifetime spent building and honing your skills is suddenly deemed worthless. With companies laser focused on cutting costs regardless of the impact on lives this undesirable situation is a stark reality for many. And your options are not always many. Some are forced to move into a lower status (and paying) role to make ends meet. Others find themselves pushed into some kind of early retirement, underfunded and unexpected with an uncertain future.
Recent weather extremes have rattled many a cage. From the epic flooding in Texas to the path of destruction left by hurricane Irma to fires that rage once again across California, many are learning to expect the unexpected from Mother Nature. How do you cope with the total destruction of your home? What words of consolation are there for the frustration felt having to recover from the ravages of forces beyond your control?
How we deal with unexpected events can pave the road to our future happiness or lack thereof. No one can wave a magic wand and make everything better. But we can try to make the best of a bad situation. Life events can feel overwhelming but maybe less so if we try to actively do something about it. And nowhere is it more important to take an active role than in the case of planning for retirement.
How can we make our individual challenge less so? What is within our individual power to impact our situation? We don’t have to do it all on our own. Family and friends are there to lean on and provide support. Getting through unexpected times calls for us to utilize all of our tools, our contacts, our networks and whatever else might help.
Not all unexpected events are negative. More easily dealt with are joyous announcements of pending weddings or births. Far less intimidating are ecstatic calls received when kids describing the new “perfect job” they just landed. Uplifting are those times when your tomato crop exceeds your wildest expectations. There are plenty of good unexpected surprises in life.
We can expect the unexpected to be a mix of positive moments as well as challenges. Hopefully the scale tips in our favor. How we handle these ups and downs will define the person we are and the quality of the retired life we live. Good luck to us all. And while you have a moment why not double check the expiration of that passport of yours. No need to unnecessarily add stress to your next airport encounter.