Or planned? Or expected?
To avoid misunderstanding, let me stipulate up front that new beginnings, new goals, renewed aspirations and purpose come about at any age. But for most of us who hang out at this blog, our working lives have ended or are winding down and our private lives, too, have probably changed a great deal from 25, 30, 40 years ago.
If I live as long as my internet friends, Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner who are both 91, I have at least another 16 years – time enough to pursue all kinds of possibilities whatever amount of new knowledge and learning they might require.
Generally, however, by age 75 or so we slow down and even ignoring the barriers society places in the way of elders who seek new ventures (paid or not), it is also a time when it is useful to take stock of where we have been and what we have done over a half century or more - how we have used all that time and consider how it has turned out for us.
I've been doing a bit of that during these waning days of summer.
Today's children are pressured almost from the cradle to choose a career path. Nothing like that happened to our generation, especially for women. If we were to work at all in the mid-20th century, it was understood to be a stopgap until we found a husband and retired from the workforce for motherhood.
But I knew that wasn't for me partly because, when I graduated from high school at age 17, I still felt like a little girl. There was so much to learn, so many places to go, people to meet, things to do. I felt unprepared.
There was, however, the question of college. The University of California at Berkeley was a short trip across San Francisco Bay from where I lived, easily affordable in those days, and my mother said I could live at home and commute if I chose that. Otherwise, get a job, she said.
Two things about college. From a young age I was generally a loner and although I was at ease with most grownups I was equally uncomfortable with my contemporaries.
The idea of arriving at the Berkeley campus and undoubtedly needing to ask some kid I ran into where to go paralyzed me. I know that makes no sense but that's how it was for me then.
If college had been required for some reason, I would have managed. But it wasn't, which brought me to the second thing, the rationalization.
I had no idea what to study or what I wanted to do for a living. From day one in school I had been an A student, was an enthusiastic learner and craved more knowledge. If anyone had bothered to ask me what I wanted to know, I would have answered in a flash: “Oh, everything.”
So with no life plan available, I went to work as an office clerk in San Francisco. I hung out with Beatniks in Sausalito and North Beach and those amazing people who were mostly 10 to 20 and more years older than I saw to my continuing education by sneaking me into jazz clubs, sending me to avant garde movies, giving me books they required I read and including me in their wide-ranging, all-night discussions, debates and dialogues.
During these years (because of them?) I continued to ask myself what I wanted to be when I grew up. Nothing came to me. I liked my life if you didn't count the mindless office typing and clerking jobs.
When I tired of the fruitless internal debate about my future, I deliberately decided not to make a choice and I made a big deal of that. I made no decision my life plan: I would keep putting one foot in front of the other, I told myself, follow whatever interesting stuff turned up and see where it took me.
And oh my, that worked so well for me that here I am still doing it, now with a blog. In between, I fell into media – first radio, then television and for the last ten years of my paid career, the internet.
What a glorious ride it has been and still is, gathering in all the ideas, knowledge and collective thought I have time to track down about – “oh, everything.”
I've never tired of it because by definition, the media I worked (and still work) in requires constant learning and understanding it well enough to report on it to others.
Back when I was trying to find life path, I didn't know there was such a category of - well, let's call it “See what happens” that for me has turned out to be right up there with to doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.
Now and then I still question it. Lately, especially just after I've been in touch with Millie or Darlene, I ask myself if I shouldn't make a plan for these next 15 or 16 years, choose something and follow my bliss, as it were. Be more deliberate about choices than I've been for the first 75 years.
Then my wits return. Nah. Even not knowing what I've wanted, not having a plan or expectation, it's turned out fine for me.
What about you?