Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The 2nd Half

In many ways the first half of your life is a story-line that someone else writes.  It’s a playbook that you don’t always get to make-the-call.  Your life revolves around long hours at work, promotions, taking on extra work, beating the competition, children, mortgage payments, relocations, cash flow, net worth, and family commitments.  It’s a good story, but very little about it is uniquely yours.  You are living a script that other people have written for you, and over the decades you do whatever is required of yourself to make ends meet.

Around midlife – in the forties for most people – you come to realize that you can’t live this way forever.  There is fatigue, success panic, or unrealized dreams, disappointments, burnout, and emotional drain.  Additionally, your body begins to change in a number of ways, none of which you like.  Most alarming, your youthful beauty begins to slip.  Then it dawns on you, in the midst of the maddening pace you have been living for all these decades, you lost contact with yourself. 

I think this is why so many people have mid-life crises and self-destruct.

Conventional wisdom holds that the first half of your life is the most exciting and productive, and that the remaining years represent, first a plateau, and then a gradual downhill slide into retirement and a life of boredom.  But I have come to believe that the second half of my life can my best.

Consider these facts:
  • Most people who are fifty will live another thirty years (if you are forty, you could live another forty)
  • Most of us will likely have a whole second adulthood that our grandparents never had.  Our life expectancy is longer than theirs
  • The additional years we have been given will be marked by good health, vitality, physical activity, love, and the capacity to contribute (back) at a very high level towards worth-while causes
  • The traditional understanding of retirement is no longer relevant to a growing number of men and women today.  They continue working for the purpose of fulfillment, often choose second or third careers, or find non-profit organizations or religious causes to dedicate themselves to, and stay fully engaged in the process of living an active, productive life.

The 2nd half of life is the place where we hope to get off autopilot - you know, that set of routines we perform out of a sense of duty and obligation (mostly for others).  This is the place where you look inside yourself to find the larger story that is encoded there; the story that God wrote for you.  Your privilege is to discover it, script it yourself, and live it out.

Myself, I am unwilling to winter with the old folks in South Florida.  Playing another round of shuffle board is not my thing.  Neither do I want to live at the same maddening pace of my first half.  Knowing that I have another twenty-five years or so to live (God willing) and that I have the means and resources to give back, I want to live them as productively as possible, passionately pursuing the things that mean the most to me.  I want to run my race well and cross the finish line strongly.

I think that's what you're supposed to do in the 2nd half.

No comments: