I have a birthday this week. For some reason, recent birthdays have me feeling nostalgic and contemplative like never before. A few years ago, it became clear to me that I likely have fewer years in front of me than I do behind me. John Cougar (Mellencamp) said it perfectly in the song “The Real Life:” “It’s a lonely proposition when you realize that there’s less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of this cart.”
It makes me feel sad, because I really love my life. It also makes me push harder to do the things I want to do before I die. Life seems to get more complicated as you age, and many things become harder than they seemed years ago. I’m trying to be bolder as I get older, but in truth things scare you as you age that didn’t scare you when you were younger.
I was in a car accident a few years ago. It didn’t seem that major when it happened, but it has had long-lasting effects. After a few years in physical therapy, I am nearly back to the condition I was before it happened. Unfortunately, losing the weight I gained during the time I was off my feet has proven to be more than difficult. It took much longer to heal from this accident than more serious things that happened in my past.
And then there are simpler things. Remember when you were younger and you’d sleep on the sheets or pillow the wrong way and then you’d wake up with those lines embedded in your face? Heck, they’d be gone before you finished your Froot Loops. When you get older, those lines can stay on your face until noon, or later. Nothing like being at the office at 11 a.m. and having someone come up and say, “What did you do to your face?” (“I aged,” you mutter under your breath. My mom’s secret tip to prevent wrinkles: satin pillowcases. Try them. You’ll be surprised how much better you look in the morning.)
I don’t know if I would call it a bucket list, but each birthday after 30 I’ve tried to take a look at my life and determine whether I’m on course. Some years, I feel right on track. Other years, I feel like I don’t know who I am or what I want.
In the past year, I began downsizing my life. I recently moved into a much smaller home. I got rid of a lot of things before the move, but I still have way too much for the house I live in now. So as I unpack each box, I am taking great care to decide whether I really want to keep each item or whether it should go to another home to live.
(Instead of setting something perfectly good out with the garbage, call your local Salvation Army. They find other people who would love to have the things you cast off, if they are still in good condition. If you don’t have a Salvation Army near you, find another such organization. Many of them will even pick things up!)
I am also considering what I really want from my remaining years. You don’t think about those things when you’re younger, when you feel like you’ll live forever and nothing can harm you. But as you age, physical injuries take longer to heal. Emotional wounds last longer than when you were young and you would brush things off, knowing you had plenty of time.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of three books about happiness, said it best. “The days are long but the years are short.” Think about that for a minute or five.
We all want to be remembered. We all want to make it count. It’s never too late to start fulfilling your dreams. No one is promised forever, and you never know when your life will be over. You should make every day worthwhile. Figure out what makes you happy and go for it, no matter how old you are.