What a curious time in life. Those of us at the end of the baby boomer generation, we are all at this point: we have understood that our life time is finite - the limit of the time horizon is now in sight. Those of us who had kids are growing out of the parent role, the jury still being out on whether or not we managed to steer the next generation to where they need to be for themselves and for the world.
Those of us who had passions and professions are in a review period. Can we go on working this hard for another decade or more? Or maybe the economic system has changed, and our business models and value systems don’t work anymore. But how figure out what is next, how to reinvent ourselves?
Some of us are utterly lost. What do we do after kids and without that business model? If you haven’t had kids, how do you create something that lasts beyond your time? Too late to build a house or write an opera?
And then, our parents are getting old, or sick or dying. Many of us are inheriting wealth we didn’t earn from this much more successful generation before us. Others are sandwiched between fledgling children and aging parents, or inheriting an economic or real estate mess, apartments full of books. What if your parents became demented before you could forgive them for their screw-ups? Now they need you and you haven’t even found the peace to love them. I am seeing it all around me.
I see a lot of desperation, sadly, especially among men. Self-hatred. The feeling of having wasted time, either having done the same thing for too many years, or doing too many different things without real focus or depth. Unemployment, boredom, doubt, loss, alcohol. Teenage kids glued to little screens, farther and farther from the reach of our love. Do we still matter for anyone?
The good news: we know what we know, we know what we are able to do, and we know what we don’t want. For some of us, long-term partnerships have not survived this life phase of contemplation and change…. and we rediscover who we are just by ourselves. Not too bad. The big dream has died, but the little dreams live on.
We have 15+ years of productive time left. Enough time to do something different, learn one new thing, try one new system, change location. A few (lucky ones), manage to fill the remaining time, keep riding the same professional wave to the end, chin up, and gather applause on the way out.
More good news: those who don’t have self-doubt, and are not lost or desperate, not on a wave petering out, actually may now reach a calm sense of positive expectation, resting on two pillars: trust and curiosity. I think, at this point in our lives, we cannot ask for more than to base our lives on a healthy mix of those two sentiments. Trust in ourselves and in our abilities, and our judgment, and in the basic goodness of the world. Curiosity about what gifts will come our way, and who will be there with us to enjoy them, and what we can make out of them.
My gifts are so many now: my children, who are turning into amazing sensitive and sensible people, my parents, who get older and weirder, yet I am learning to love them and enjoy them in new ways, appreciating every minute I have with them. My work, which is ever changing and rich with learning and a team that is growing together and working in sync, in ways I didn’t even know existed. New and old friends who provide comfort, companionship and love, and with who I can look into the darkness and into the light, as we hold and support each other. Stepping out into the night, breathing the cool air and hearing the rustle of the trees, feeling that I have had it good.
50. I couldn’t think of a better age.