I recently enjoyed my 60th birthday. While many people find this milestone discouraging or even depressing it, I have relished it. Like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling, I finally looked in the reflection in the mirror and saw a swan. As a child I was full of curly hair, lacking confidence, very shy and felt socially incompetent. I now recognize that none of that is true although I wish the first one was still relevant. I admit that the current body has a tendency to kvetch (complain) much more often than in the past. Still, I see this age as a wonderful time in terms of how I view myself, how others view me, and how I interact the with world.
The wonderful aspect of time is that provides the opportunity to gain skill and acceptance. By this age, people are very experienced at whatever task they have done for many decades. Their methods may not be the most modern or efficient, but the results speak for themselves. It is possible to state without any pretension that you are good at what you do. I would even say that I am much skillful now that I was 20 or even 10 years ago. I stand with confidence and act as a leader without effort. The major loss is the ability to properly take on too many tasks as the energy reserve drops. In my case, this is mainly to my advantage as I have always suffered from the inability to sit for long period of time. Therefore, as the Chinese and Japanese know so well, age is a blessing in terms of skill and should be viewed as such. These facts were probably true in the past but I have finally recognized them.
I also enjoy the entrance in the age of respect. It is matter of both small and great matters. I find it convenient, even charming, when a “young person” helps me put my valise in the upper rack on the train, as occurred in Poland. or people are more polite with me. Of more importance, my voice seems to have more weight than it did when I was younger and always the youngest in the group. As an aside, I suppose that is why it is annoying to still be treated as the youngest sibling. Furthermore, I am expected to be wise or at least wiser due to my age, a heavy but flattering duty. On the other hand, if I cannot figure some function on my phone, it is not because I am stupid but merely not technologically native, a forgivable crime. I am enjoying my stay in the throne of active, contributing citizen worthy of special consideration.
This decade also releases people from the competition game if they allow themselves to do, of course. Most of our lives, we try to match people’s expectations of our behavior and compare our achievements. The opinions of others are important as it signals what we should be doing to advance ourselves and provides feedback whether we have succeeded in life. At 60, unless through an inheritance, very few people will become significantly wealthier or change their family status. To a large extent, we have attached our highest status in terms of job title, income and children. Therefore, we no longer have to please bosses, potential partners or even not-so-close friends. To a large extent, we can finally be who we are, warts and all. In other words, we are free to interact the world without feeling without fear of hurting our interests, within reason of course.
Thus, as I looked at the reflection in the mirror-like water this January, I saw a contented and successful person that has done well with the cards he was given. Clearly, others have been more successful in one area or another but that comparison was and is irrelevant. In regards to 60, As Frank Sinatra sang, with a small change, it is a very good year.
* Captions are important for blind people.
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