Thursday, November 17, 2011

Coming of Age

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning. For what was great in the morning will be little at evening. And what in the morning was true... at evening will have become a lie.
~ Carl Jung

Oh now Carl, it isn't that bad. Some things work no matter what age you are, some things never work whether you're young, middle aged, or old. C'mon.

Based on this quote, I decided yesterday that, at age almost 59, I am in the happy hour of life. It is a very happy time.

Coming of age usually means moving from childhood to adulthood. But I think there are so many comings of age in a human lifetime and no I do not compare them to hours in the day. This is yet another thing I could write a non-fiction book about.

Being in the happy hour of life means I'm about to come of old age. There is no way around it. I read somewhere recently that no one has yet written about old age in a way that helps other navigate through it because no one survives old age to reflect back upon it. Hmmm. One thing I can say for sure about old age, even though I'm not quite there yet, is that Bette Davis was absolutely correct, it ain't for sissies.

Early adulthood is about expansion. People marry, have families, work hard, rise in rank in their careers, buy houses, then bigger houses. They are coming of adulthood with its many challenges during those decades, hence they rarely have time to think about what kind of coming of age lies ahead. This is exactly as it should be.

The decade of the 40s is about building character. It's a challenging decade in which aging first becomes obvious for contemporary Americans. We mature young and age late at this moment in history.

The recognition that it's happening - that we're aging - can be kind of a bitter moment for some people. The mind does not age, that's why it's such a shock.

The realization is sobering. People think, "Oh my god! THIS is my life? This? What about all those other lives I planned, like being a brain surgeon or living in Paris half the year?" An urgency to kick it into gear accompanies the decade of the 40s. Time's a wastin'. At age 45 we can still believe we can have it all; we try hard to expand even wider and grander than in our thirties. We push ourselves. It's kind of a bitch.

I say we but what I mean is me and a whole lot of other folks I know and have known. A bunch of my clients have just entered the decade of their 40s. I'm watching them begin to wake up to their mortality. It's interesting to observe.

Once people enter the decade of the 50s, the mood lightens considerably. They still might think, "Oh god, THIS is my life?" But they'll also decide that their lives are fine. In the 50s, from what I've seen and in my own experience, we release many expectations. It's very liberating.

What age are you coming of these days? Whatever age it is, may it be sweet! Shalom.


Kerry said...

I'm 3 years ahead of you on this path, and still in Happy Hour. I've been surprised at how good these years have been, how free I feel.

Reya Mellicker said...

Excellent! I look forward to an extended happy hour! Yeah!

Angela said...

Me too, at 63, happy hours and days. But I must admit, nights are sometimes long, from four to six in the morning. Some nightly demons make it into my brains, telling me what I shouldn`t have done, or should have, making me feel guilty, or sad.
But as soon as the morning sun comes up, I still feel strong and powerful, and ready to do some good NEW things. I hope to still have some happy years, in which my old-age wisdom can be of use to younger ones.