At my recent 60th (!) high school reunion, I ended the festivities with a raunchy poem about getting old,
The Golden Years
“The golden years have come so fast,
The golden years have come at last;
I can not see; I can not pee;
I can not chew; I can not screw.
The golden years have come at last;
The golden years can kiss my ass.”
Ha, ha, ha.
That is a parody of the idea that life will be wonderful in our later years. As I’ve considered the trajectory of my life, it occurred to me that the so-called “Golden Years” don’t come at the end, but in the middle of our lives. The notion of the easy life of cruises and endless golf games in our declining years is not appealing. What makes life “golden” is to be working at our full potential in a satisfying job that brings us fulfillment and value to others. The period of 65 to the end is a period of reflection. As I review my work life, I really didn’t get started until my mid-thirties and was pretty much wrapping it up by my late sixties.
This model applies to the professions, mostly. Athletes, for example, may make their greatest contributions before 35. For the professions, the early years are for education and training. In old age, we lose our edge. It is time to reflect. Younger hard-chargers are nipping at our heals to take over the top spots, as it should be. They are sharper, with more contemporary educations, and cost less. Doubt what I’m saying? I have two words for you, “software engineer.”
If you are 25ish and not happy with your contribution, don’t fret. The best is yet to come. You have jobs, marriages, children, and mortgages ahead of you. You also have your best contributions to make. But, being realistic, you also have the disappointments of being divorced, getting fired, police knocking on your door at 2:00 AM about your adolescent kids, and maybe years of therapy. Welcome to “paying your dues” in the new Golden Years.
The apex of my professional life was my book, “Speaking Up, Surviving Executive Presentations,” published when I was 73. Now, I clean out the basement, do the laundry, and write my memoirs.
So here’s to all you “Phase IIers,” kick ass and take names. We are cheering you on. Also, keep paying into our social security. Stop by some time. I’ll show you the slideshow of my life.
4 thoughts on “The New “Golden Years””
Funny article- so true.
This rings true.
The promise embedded in the “Golden Year’s” is not in the least bit unique as it points to all the “facts” and “promises” that we have been recepients of over the years that are complete 180 degrees from what was subsequently revealed. There is not one promise or fact that we have been fed over the years that has not been completely reversed. Think about it! Not one–not even cigarette smoking:
In the mid-fifties, KENT cigarettes broadcast testimonials by doctor’s as to the positive health benefits of the Micronite filter!!!!
As the pre-eminent philosopher of our times, George Carlin, so aptly summed it up: IT’S ALL BULLSHIT!!!
As an ageing optimist (yes, optimist), let me add that all of this represents long term progress for our species.
The only advice I believe in as we go forward is: QUESTION EVERYTHING!!!!–so that you give yourself the chance to live a better, longer life.
Gosh, I don’t at all agree that my Golden Years were in the middle of my life. I think it’s all getting better and better each year. Both Mayer and I have had interesting jobs all along, but none that we enjoy as much as the jobs we are doing now. Neither one of us can imagine retiring. Why would we, when we are having so much fun and involvement with our work? — Of course, neither of us followed the normal course of life. We moved into our dream home when we were 60! And we did not have true financial security until then either. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or more productive. And I have projects lined up to do when I can clear enough space, including I hope another book, and lots of travel. — I don’t believe in perpetuating the stereotypes about aging. If you buy into them, they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For me, 70 is the new 50, and nothing about me feels like slowing down or looking back longingly. — George Burns summed it all up for me: You can’t help yourself from getting older, but you can help yourself from getting old!