Sunday, July 02, 2006

Changing profession at age 100

A close friend and I recently talked about longevity. The topic becomes more interesting for those of us in our middle years, but is well worth anyone considering.

“I’m going to change professions at age 100”, my friend said. The statement would have surprised me had I heard this idea from him for the very first time, but about 20 years ago he had told me that he was going to live to be 120.

This is not hubris, this is goal setting. What my friend was saying, in essence, is that he intends to live his life in such a way as to reach this goal. He is pragmatic, and understands that he may not attain his goal, but what he is saying is that he is going to treat his body and his soul in such a way as to be able to make it if he can.

It’s easy, I am finding from experience, to “dial down the rheostat” of life in the middle years. “This is too complicated.” “I’m too old for this.” “I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work.”

A Swedish friend told Linda and I on the occasion of our first departure from Sweden that she would miss us because so many she knew had “given up” and we haven’t. What she was saying was that so many of her friends in our mid-50’s age group have dialed down the rheostat of their expectations and activity. She certainly hasn’t given up, and one of the reasons she appreciated us was that we hadn’t either.

There certainly is a place of “surrendering gracefully the things of youth,” as the apostle Paul put it. And clearly, sickness or disability may limit our options. However, there is no reason to give up that which still belongs to us. But I have seen in myself just that behavior, and I struggle against it.

For example, I was surprised to find that gaining strength is not just for the young. I learned this in my late 40’s at a time when I had casually assumed that I was unable to gain as much strength as a young man might. But over a period of only two weeks I gained 50% more strength in specific muscle groups simply by training consistently. It turns out that science has now demonstrated that this potential for strength gain exists at every age of life.

Another example: coming down from an early morning hike into the foothills east of Anchorage, my right knee was in agony as a result of an injury 15 years ago. Later in the day, the other knee was on fire because I overused it in protecting the first knee. I was pretty miserable. The lesson was “I’m too old for this.”

But here’s the reality check delivered by my doctor: I can hike all I want, he said, I just have to build up my muscles enough to compensate for the loose knee ligaments. All the flat ground walking I do is great, he said, but it’s not enough to help with descending from the mountains (which is where the pain is).

How many other areas of my life have I ceded when in reality they still belong to me?

Linda and I applied this discussion to ourselves as we drove home from Delta Junction today. While we have thought casually in terms of what we might do in the years ahead, we are now thinking to set a goal date at which we “retire.” At that point, our idea is to have enough funds to work full time in missions or other Christian ministry.

I like the idea of setting a life goal. It will help to focus what we do. I don’t know if like my friend I’m going to change professions at age 100, but I’m sure going to change it about 65!

No comments:

Post a Comment