A week ago I turned 60. And while the number sounds much older than I feel, I am also extremely aware of how great my life is at the same time. In fact, thinking back I am hyper-aware of how much my life has improved during the last 30 years. But how can that be? In a culture obsessed with youth, is it possible that we've all been mislead about what happens as we age? Or maybe those of us who have lived to midlife and beyond stay too silent about the benefits? Either way, now is a good time to let those who follow know that not only can we get better as we age, but life itself can be more sweet, meaningful and SMART as it goes along.
Here are the top 10 ways my life has improved at age 60:
1) I am content with being me. Maybe some people know who they are at 30 but I sure didn't. Looking back I doubt I even knew what I didn't know. Sure we all have attachments, opinions and perspectives but are they ours, or just products of our education, influences and upbringing? After 60 years of living I've embraced and discarded enough to know what is really me and what isn't. And while I'll never stop growing and learning, the me that I've found at 60 is at peace.
2) My writing is satisfying and purposeful. I started writing in my late twenties with far more doubt than talent. After writing for over 30 years and suffering the highs and lows of the creative life, I finally claim the right to call myself a writer. While room to grow and develop continues to expand, right here, right now is a really good place to be.
3) I'm healthier now than I was then. In a culture obsessed with youth it is easy to equate good health to age. Wrong. At 30 I smoked cigarettes, never used sunscreen, drank sodas every day, ate masses of red meat, and consumed carbs like there was no tomorrow. Thankfully my body hasn't held such poor treatment against me (at least too much!) Thanks to a much-improved diet, regular exercise and an active mind, my vitality, stamina and optimism doesn't even compare.
4) My relationship and friendship with my husband is 100 times better. At 30, Thom and I had been married for eight years. Even though I loved him and our relationship was reasonably good, I had no idea at the time that our connection could grow as wide and deep as it is today. Words fall short of explaining this, but I am aware that who I am and what I have become all link back to my love and friendship with the man I met and married 38 years ago.
5) My finances are 1,000 times better. As entrepreneurs, Thom and I have been self-employed our entire married lives. At 30 we lived hand-to-mouth and while we still managed some fun and adventures, the stress of constantly wondering where money to pay bills would come from was stressful and problematic. Now completely debt-free at 60, we have honed our crafts and our consciousness enough so that money is not an issue in our lives.
6) I love where I live and don't crave living somewhere else. Thom and I met, married and lived in Colorado for much of our life before 30. Even though it is a beautiful state with many benefits, it wasn't where we longed to be. We've also lived in a big city and that didn't suit us either. After living in several states and nearly two dozen homes, we've finally arrived at a place and community that fits us. While we still love to travel and explore new locations, we've finally found our "place."
7) I don't crave things that I don't have. At 30 I was still hypnotized by our cultural belief that more money and stuff would make me happy. I wanted a bigger house, a nicer car, and all sorts of stuff that others had. Now 30 years later I realize that all that stuff does NOT lead to happiness and that meaning, peace of mind and loving connections are what really matter.
8) I'm much better able to be in and enjoy the moment. At 30 I was a maniac about doing and seeing as much as humanly possible. Yet, I was so busy running to the next "thing" that I hardly even remembered the last experience. It was as though I were convinced that if I didn't do it all, and didn't do it right now, I would never ever get another chance. At 60 I finally realize the gift in the moment right now in front of me. Priceless.
9) I am far less controlled by the wants, needs and expectations of others, and now live more with the guidance of my own soul. I spent a lot of time trying to please others at age 30--my friends, my family and yes, even Thom. What I've gradually learned is that you can't change anyone else or get anyone else to love you (let alone like you) if they don't want to. At 60 it is clear that I can only change myself and as for love, that starts in on the inside as well.
10) I am at peace about my understanding of Life, God and where I fit in the Universe. Fortunately I was raised in religiously open-minded home so didn't carry much baggage around with me in that department. But at 30 I didn't really know what I believed. Now after years of contemplation, hundreds of books, hours of study, and with the help of many admired people, I have pieced together my own understanding of a benevolent Universe and where I fit in it All.
Far too often I hear people my age talk about the downfalls of aging. And of course, it would be pointless to deny there are some. But let's face it, there are just as many disadvantages to youth as well. So instead of focusing on all the negatives that are possible, maybe it's time and SMART that we all started talking about the rewards of getting older. Perhaps when we start valuing age as a gift with under-appreciated benefits, those younger than us will recognize it as well. Then when someone says, "I just turned 60," others will exclaim, "Oh, how awesome for you!!!"
Kathy Gottberg believes in living healthy, authentic, fearless and SMART. This post originally appeared on her blog with a number of related comments. For other similar topics go to SMART Living 365.