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“What was the Best Time of Your Life?”

During an interview a few weeks ago, a reporter asked me, “What was the best time of your life?” You would think it should be easy to come up with a few stand-out eras or events but I failed. Blank. Empty. Not even a hint or two.

Since then, I've spent some private time with that question and of course, the first problem is the question itself: how to define “best”?

Does it mean healthiest? Happiest? Most successful? I don't know.

A little, light research around the web turned up a lot of pages addressing the question and among them are advocates for every age of life. The majority of respondents, however, said they were 20-something, drifting up to 40 here and there, but they all gave a similar answer: childhood, teen years, college and 20s were, in their eyes, the best times of their lives.

Explanations for that choice were also similar, variations on this:

”Independence without bearing responsibility or burden. You have no family, your parents don't require your obligation yet, and you are physically and financially free to do whatever the hell you want.”

Does that – a period of no responsibility – really represent the best of life? Not for me. I have no recollection of not being responsible for at least myself, and for others as needed or wanted through the years. As far as I can figure it, responsibility to a variety of people and entities is part of what life is.

It's clear then that “best” means different things to different people but for now, let's go with what I am guessing was the reporter's intent: the time or times in life that stand out above others in a positive way.

I've had a lot of good times – from being blessed with smart, interesting friends to fascinating jobs. During the decade I was a producer for The Barbara Walters Specials, I traveled the U.S. and the world on someone else's dime visiting places I would never have gotten to on my own.

There was another bunch of years as part of the team that created and then ran one of the first two news websites (cbsnews.com) at the start of the internet era. Now, as for the past 15 years, I've used what I learned in all those earlier years to turn out this blog.

For someone whose enthusiasms are all over the map, I couldn't have asked for better kinds of employment - although I am dangerously close to admitting that during my life, “best” has meant “entertaining” and I'm not sure that's a good thing. But it's too late to bother with now; time is running short.

After all that explanation, my answer is, “now, right now” - as it would have been during each of the eras (and others) I've described – is the best.

Best is not necessarily synonymous with happy and sometimes, when terrible things happened, I was miserable. But the overall arc of my adult life is that each year or era was the best as it was happening.

That may sound disingenuous from a woman living with pancreatic cancer but I've always been a realist: take what life throws you way and if you can't fix it, do the best you can with it.

And so it is now. I'm trying.

What was the best time of your life?



Comments

Ages 40-52 during which I went out of my way to accept challenges and accomplish long-time "dreams".

I think my "best" years were from 30 to 42, not that there weren't some bad times as well as good ones. I truly enjoyed my kids, the oldest being born when I was about 30, I learned to play and see the world afresh with them, and during that time started a business making art. I think I was sort of on idle until then.

Age 40-49 (currently 58). So many reasons why: I had the best job of my entire career. We paid off our remaining mortgage and car loan, bought and paid off a crappy mountain cabin to rehab ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed the process as well as the outcome. Debt free and frugal feels carefree. I'm glad we learned the difference between a need and a want in our early 30s. Changed our stressful, debt-laden life forever.

I am currently 58 and retiring on July 26. We'll see if that becomes the best time of my life :-)

This is tough! Every stage is remembered for it's good things - the high lights, and those less recede to the back of the room. And I liked them all, especially when I learned and grew during those darker times, not knowing whether reality or dreams existed. All of them contributed to what has been my life and often the upside trumped (oh, dear me, shut up) the negatives. But both are constants. What changed is attention and attitude.

So my time is now, also. For me, it's about awareness and feelings felt.

It's fun to just think back and remember all of the times, thanks for the question, and wishing you each moment ahead of you good times too... just did some gardening, reading, studying, and listening, all things I can do now that the kids are grown, and husband is rehabbing from his two heart surgeries this year. (Think making playdough animals with my kids and grandkids comes to mind, as happiest times)

I'm 77. There were two times. The first i can narrow down to the moment. I was a young married mother of 2 perfect little girls, living in our new house, both kids in bed, lying in the hammock in the backyard on a beautiful evening looking up at the sky and thinking "It doesn't get better than this." It didn't.
The second was later in life when the younger girl graduated college and I celebrated my new freedom from the responsibility of raising kids as a single mom by buying a red convertible.

I didn't know the answer to this until late in life, but for me, the best moment is always the present moment. That's the only time we can be fully conscious of being alive.

Actually, two times. I think the very best was when I met wife #3 (I was her #3, also). I was in my early 40's, she was in her late 20's. We met, moved in together a week later, and are still together 32 years later. We both consciously decided not to have children, although she has a daughter and I none. Now we are retired together and enjoying THAT freedom. I only wish we had met 11 years earlier, but that is "water under the bridge". My other great time I was thirty with wife #2. I became very involved in local and state politics ending with my becoming Mayor of a small town. I learned a lot, like the saying: "Experience is what you get when you were expecting something else.". It was my last foray into politics, although I still
volunteered until about age 45. There were other great times in this wide world and beautiful country of ours, but the two times I mentioned are most important. B

What a great subject for a post Ronni. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I know it will make many of your readers think. I did. I believe two times for me were the best. First, from my 18th to 30th years. For my 18th birthday my father gave me a car and the use of the apartment downtown Paris, so it was easy to get around. Then after school I had a glamorous job in an American music publishing co. off the Champs-Elysees in Paris where I met famous singers like Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and free access to concerts like Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie and so forth. Then I went to San Francisco for a trip in 1961 and loved the city, met my husband and we would go to rock and folk concerts and were married during the “year of love.” We lived in SF until I was 30 (1970.) I thought then that all cities in the US were like San Francisco where everyone loved everyone.

The second time was: from my 40th year to retirement I worked in a large corporation in GA with foreign trainees, made friends with many and visiting many of them in their home countries – went to 66 countries not including going back home to Paris twice a year. I had to take the trainees, while here, to trips through the US during their time off – so much fun, and everything paid. But still, I enjoy life now even though my husband died, because of being able to read blogs like yours, meeting blog friends and not feeling isolated because of my blog. All in all it has been fun all along, really.


The best time? The arena was filled to capacity. Only the stage was lit. It seemed that I was the only person in the world as I walked across the wooden floor boards to the man at the microphone, wearing a long purple robe, holding in his hand my dream.

The many honor Society cords hanging from my shoulders swung with each step. I still recall the disbelief that this was really me. But it was. I really was graduating summa cum laude, age 56. The first person in my family to graduate from college.

It had been a very long road to that point. Working full-time, going to school full-time at an age where most people are working towards a fulfilling retirement. Tears, exhaustion, frustration. Where did I get the gumption? To this day I do not know.

I went on to have a fulfilling 15 year career.

Now I’ve been retired for 8 years. And in those eight years I have had so many more awesome times, best times. More than I had ever dreamed of. But the very best time was that night when I held the tangible proof of my dream in my hands. My future!


Thinking back, it's more like "best moments" rather than best times--the births of my two children--followed by "times" that were up and down; fetching cow dung and planting a garden with baby on back on our farmette--preceded and followed by "times" up an down; feelings of pride and satisfaction in my careers--yet with problems also; travel to novel and exotic places. Although there were many best "moments", my best time is right now, which consists of ample time to pursue anything I wish without financial strain, in continuing good health. A good question to ponder.

I just read Caroline’s comment and congratulate her on her best time, her graduation. It made me think about special best events. Two come to mind: finally going to Dubai in the late 1980s (way before it was built up and fashionable) to visit my trainees. Their sisters and wives having long dresses made up for me so I could eat on the floor with them, giving me perfume and incense and having my hands painted with henna tattoos - laughing all the time. An ex trainee, a pilot, taking me to his special reserve of racing camels, in the desert near Oman, where I pet a baby camel, so sweet and affectionate with lovely fur.

The second time: taking my youngest daughter to southeast Asia after her Master’s graduation and stopping in Luang Prabang, Northern Laos, taking a little shallow boat on the Mekong to the thousand years old Pak Ou Caves containing 4,000 Buddha icons; such an emotional moment. My special events I guess were made of times totally out of my regular world.

The first 17 years of my marriage. I was the most happy, secure emotionally and finally felt settled.

Then we retired, he changed , we were not as happy and he died.

Now in my older years (70s), I’ve truly found myself, have total freedom in decisions and choices, and I’m content in my life.

I do get lonely at times, do regret that my marriage did not follow the American romantic dream of perfection into old old age and do regret that our country is being run by such corruption and so many people are under that spell.

But finally being who you were meant to be is an awesome feeling.

Oh the age frame was my 40s into my early 50s. I married late

Middle school -- 7th and 8 grade
When my kids were young
When my kids went to college
When I finally got the job I aspired to
Early retirement

Thank you for this post. I have to say that I am saddened that in your research it was found that most people thought the best years of their lives was when they had "Independence without bearing responsibility or burden. You have no family, your parents don't require your obligation yet, and you are physically and financially free to do whatever the hell you want.” Wow. No wonder our country is where it is today!
Although I had a fascinating childhood, it was not the happiest time of my life. It was not the best time of my life. Because in spite of the fascinating outer life I was exposed to, my inner life was filled with turmoil, confusion, lack of direction, pain.
The best time of my life started when I was 30 and has continued to this day. What makes it the best time of my life? Enjoying with great appreciation and gratefulness everything about the gift we have been given with this creation. And that is the surf board with which I maneuver the surface of all the churning underwater called life.
To your reader Vagabond: I also spent a year in Paris at my parents' apartment but I still had no direction at the time. Edith Piaf: a childhood backdrop. Wasn't Marion Cotillard marvelous in "La Vie on Rose?" I think Edith Piaf came through her in that one!

I'd like to say now that I am retired, this is the happiest time in my life. Unfortunately, I can't. The truth is, I'm miserable. Not because of the things I can no longer do, but because of the things I could have done. But that's not answering the question.
If I had to pin the "Happy time" down to one parcel of time, I would have to say the period between 1976 to 1984 when I was in my thirties...and married.
Not only did I look good, I felt good too.
I had money to burn and was married to a terrific gal who was pretty, smart, had a job, and laughed at my stupid jokes.
I had more friends than I could shake a stick at, a house and two cars and was part owner of a business.
Even to this day, when I'm feeling blue, I look back at that time and feel better.

I'm struck that among women -- self included -- many of our "best times" come when we're older, over 40. Maybe in a society that sometimes treats us as perpetual children it just takes awhile. I have been noticing lately that the best women politicians, at least in the Boomer cohort, seem to be at least a decade older than the comparable men.

For myself, the period I'd label "best" was between 40-55 when I came into my own in my work in the world. Later, some of what I lived and accomplished included coasting on what I learned then.

Many times were hard -- but memory softens them. Thank goodness.

There's a saying: "We don't remember days; we remember moments." And in pondering the question, I find that's true. I can't really say what was the best time or period in my life. I remember moments, events, but not much of the times surrounding them. A wedding, a new baby, a new job, etc. All in all, I'm pretty content right now. Age 76, no personal conflicts with anyone, no deadlines or office politics, no pressing responsibilities, reasonably comfortable financially, finally living where I always wanted to live, son and grandkids close by. Yes, now is a pretty good time.

The best time of my life is now, always.

Like Susan above, I can't really remember a 'best' period of my life, but your question brings forth memories of the best moments of my life. Finally graduating from college 25 years after I started, a beautiful, fall day panning for gold with my future husband, yada, yada, yada. I could go with a couple dozen more best moments and in between I them could probably name a couple of dozen lows that made the highs even more meaningful. Great question, Ronni. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's replies.

The 'best time' of my life was between the ages of 19 and 25 in the late 1950s ... single, living in Miami, between world wars and 'police actions' in the Far East, and no one to answer to like parents, husbands, children ... dancing all night with Cuban refugees on Calle Ocho, and spending weekends in the keys and surf fishing at dawn. That was when one says, "All's right with the world" ... at least my part of it.

When I was a little girl I played with dolls and they were always my babies. When my make-believe children were replaced by real babies I was on cloud nine. To hold that sweet clinging beautiful little bundle of humanity in my arms was the best time of my life.

My second best time occurred after I retired and fulfilled a life-long dream of travel. I have seen some wonderful things that I had dreamed of and it was an exciting time of my life.

I had many good years while I was the unencumbered childless professional. Lots of travel, career success, and good friends. Then I married into the Navy and found even more adventure and change (which I like). However, the best years have come since I began recovery in Al-Anon, for families and friends of alcoholics. I no longer depend on others for my happiness; it has set me free. I'm learning to focus on what I can control, and trying to let go of the rest of it.
There have been many difficult and sorrowful episodes in these years, yet I have tools to get through them without as much pain. Since I take responsibility for my own behavior, it is easier to let go and I feel more free than ever.

As many others here, when I ponder 'best times,' it's moments that come back to me, mostly with visceral memories, as the most memorable. Scenes like the one my friend and I relished two years ago on a Corpus Christi bay as we watched incredible numbers and varieties of shore birds having their breakfast, and later that evening, their dinner, with a backdrop of Texas sky that just left us in awe. The briny scent, the colors, the sounds, the air made it one of those times that Abraham Maslow termed a 'peak experience.'

There have been others over my 69 years, including very simple ones as a small child when I would sit in the sun in almost anything that held water, lean my face back and just bask in some sort of primal response to a oneness with the Universe and everything that ever came out of it on this earth.

Yes. Now. As I watch our extended family spending time together. They laugh, talk loudly all at once and play silly games. All three generations love being in the same room, as they were over this past holiday weekend. The preparation for their visits and the clean up after, are well worth it. But none of this would have been possible without the blessing of sobriety. Giving up alcohol has made the past 38 years the very best time of my life.

As some others have commented, I have two best/good times in my life (not counting my current situation - retired, working and volunteering with mental health, seeing siblings on a daily basis, living in the farm home I was raised in....:-): The first was a period of 15 years, living in the States, married to a Brasilian, having 5 children, moving 11 times, meeting and making good friends, an art teacher in 3 different school systems, later being a stay at home Mom...some times good and some not so good! The second period (about 16 years) was when I was employed by La Leche League International and working at the central office in Illinois, interacting with international agencies and organizations and traveling worldwide, meeting fabulous people and helping to advance the cause of breastfeeding support.

I agree with your comments on now being the best time.
I am alive now and experiencing my time.
Everything else is just a memory.....and probably not too accurate!

Definitely 40-60! In my 40s I was building a career in nonprofit administration. I'd given up my attempt to follow much-younger Paris and Nicole as"Party Girl of the Year", started a new job and met my wonderful husband (#3 and done).

I had boundless energy and only the occasional minor health problem. In our 50s we were still regaining our financial footing (largely due to past bad financial decisions) but we were gradually getting out of debt and re-establishing ourselves as responsible adults. Needless to say, we got a rather late start on retirement planning. We worked LONG and often different hours, but life was good. We had at least 2 great cats during those years (we still have 2 great, although different, cats).

Now? Except for the fact that my husband is still here at near-90 and our cats, it is what it is.

Well first of all, I resist the "was" because that assumes the best time of my life is over. What is over for me is times of more energy and the notion that I still had many years to live. Like everyone else, I have had good times and hard times, with personal successes, a lovely marriage (the second one) and also losses with the death of my husband, my parents, and just recently, my dear dear brother.

Youth, health and possibility are wonderful. But so is wisdom and the time to reflect and make use of all those experiences.
So I have to say right now, this very minute is the best because here I am, living and breathing, happy to be alive and so so grateful for all I have experienced and am still experiencing.

It wasn’t my childhood or teen years and, despite some rewarding moments, it wasn’t marriage—two of them—and motherhood. Beginning at the age of 34, I finally came into myself when I escaped from being a mad housewife and enrolled in a local community college. The natural follow-up to that event was a second divorce and another period of single motherhood.

But this time I had things under control and I wasn’t looking for another husband when I moved to another city to enroll in a university. The following years as an undergraduate and then a graduate student, living in subsidized on-campus family housing, were life on my terms, even if they did involve loans, part-time jobs, food stamps and other ways of managing a happily hand to mouth lifestyle.

I had many friends whom I often entertained in my small apartment with cheap food and good music and great conversation. My children grew from very young to high school age in a safe and nurturing environment among other college families, which included many single mothers. I found the love of my life and had to give him up when he returned to another culture on another continent, but I would never forget him. Life wasn’t always perfectly happy, but it was always interesting.

After I finished my degrees and went to work I found plenty of success, rising from an entry level job to managing a statewide program, and later on making a complete change when I achieved another success in university administration. My professional career—both phases — was successful and rewarding, but nothing was ever as wonderful as those six years of being the person I had always wanted to be, with people I liked and respected, in an environment which suited me better than any other.

P.S. In my long-winded comment, I forgot to say that I was absolutely charmed by today’s post and by the sincerity of the comments it engendered. Truly, the TGB virtual community is my people, the friends of my old age, the friends I never expected to have again.

Every day is best in some way, but ironically I didn't appreciate these "best" moments of my life until I lost my husband to lung cancer. I look back fondly now at those wonderful times with our kids growing up, without focusing on how stressed I was with a full-time job and two busy daughters. Everything is a mix of fabulous, blah, and terrible at any stage. Now that I've reached the pinnacle of having two adult daughters, it's still a roller coaster ride. I just hold on to my fellow passengers, scream or laugh when I need to, and try to enjoy the trip. That can be difficult at times.

So glad to read all the comments, as well as another stimulating post. I've been thinking of happiness, and trying to pin down times I was truly happy. Yes, it's a bit different. Doesn't require a lot of satisfaction...but I can sure remember great giggles with my younger sister when we were young adult mothers. And I can remember a particular Christmas with all my three sons who surprised me and flew one of them home from the Peace Corps in Jamaica. I don't remember a single present, but the presence of all of them with me was fabulous.

I am playing Green Day "Time of Your Life" while I read these posts--I will re-read later because these comments are, for the most part, profound, almost more so than the actual blog post--a first as far as I can recall.
To me, (A) the best times were from mid 3rd grade to the beginning of 8th grade. It was prepuberty, pre-growth spurt, and pre-acne. My spatial intelligence limitations had not reared their ugly head yet and I was dominant in most tasks and situations so I could relax and enjoy that phase of childhood with a neighborhood full of friends. It ended.
(B) My next favorite phase was after wife #1 ran away and I had a cavalier "I don't care" attitude and just had fun with no worries about anything--good thing no calamities hit. I was 31 to 33 years old and people liked me for my care-free attitude and, in all modesty, good looks (a gift for those that have this because people respond to it).
(C) My absolute favorite time is now that I am retired, as long as the health and mobility holds, because I have a nice life style, a fabulous wife and relationship, have no job pressure, no house to maintain (I have a nice apartment), and lots of computers to play with and repair as necessary--I can do the latter because computers do not require spatial intelligence, just logical problem solving capability which I am good at. And, I get to travel extensively.
A, B, and C, very diverse phases and all with merit. Childhood ends and things catch up ending A somewhat abruptly. Early thirties are a lot of fun and with luck I lived recklessly without paying a price. And finally today, retired and everything I do is to my liking with no pressure, with a great girl (a beauty now and in her prime--but well grounded and crazy about me--what's not to like) and enough money to play/travel. The latter my reward for getting through some very interesting phases and situations--all being more difficult due to poor spatial intelligence. My cerebral palsy brother, from his nursing home bed, said "John, you had help". I must have.

This brings to mind a comment my daughter made when she was in high school. She said she hated it when people told her that high school would be the best years of her life. She said - why do people say that? Basically they're telling me that life peaks at 18 and it's all down hill after that. Her philosophy became - "the best is yet to be".

I left my home and family in Philadelphia in 1968 when I was in my early 20s and moved to San Francisco. That began a period that I would consider the happiest time in my life. Although some difficult things happened, I loved the way the world was then - it seemed to me to be full of love, joy , and creativity. That lasted only a few years. However, I am lucky to have lived my whole adult life in places up and down the west coast, where the majority of people think and believe
the way I do, which is very comforting. When bad things happen, I know where and whom to go to for emotional sustenance. I have everything I need right now, and I live in the present.

This very minute. In spite of. I am 75 with health issues and I've never felt so intensely engaged with life, giving stage performances, even my own life story as set piece. Young 'uns listen to my stories, my experiences, I hold nothing back as they question.

I think intensity has much to do with "best" and nothing to do with success in the material sense. I truly have had it all, my own company, houses of my dreams, living by the ocean, writing, directing and on and on.

When I am passionately engaged with life, that is the best. The very best.

XO
WWW

I agree with the reader who said "intensity."

The very best times of my life? Ages 12, 40, and 69–71. I am embarrassed to admit that each of those involved a passion for a male. Interestingly, none of them—not only the fellow 12-year-old—did I ever sleep with. They were muses, I guess—each served as a lens or "burning glass" through which to experience life with much more sharpness and, yes, intensity. The ones I was actually involved, with, at other times—much more of a mixed bag.

But there were many other very good times that didn't involve that "drug." I probably was happier as a confined caregiver in my 60s than as a putative free spirit in my 20s, devoured by neurosis and insecurity. But there was no period of my life that didn't have its overall good, or its poignancy, or its gemlike moments.

Oh lordy, I so love this community. I don't share a lot, but I read every word that you write..all of you.. and so appreciate the connection you give me.

Like several of you, my "best times" are sprinkled throughout my 72 years. My childhood was mostly good, my late teens to early 30's were wonderful - albeit with periods of drama/angst/youth, but the world was mine. I mostly felt strong.

Since then, after a painful period, I've struggled on and off. Lots of highs and lows, but I'm still here!! (didn't they write a song?? :)

So..best times of my life? 18-32 and maybe 72 -??? What do you think??

am 73 years old, and have had many «best times» during my long life
The ones I recall as The Best Of All are when each of my sons was born, I felt I could burst with joy and love
and when I graduated from Law school and later became a lawyer at the age of 32, with 3 children! It felt glorious, the world was really my oyster!! I felt empowered and oh so strong!

1973. First love.

Actually, life was pretty good up until I hit 80--which was absolutely NOT the "new 60" for me and I would guess not for many others as well. My husband will be 90 in a few months if all goes well. I certainly will congratulate and honor him, but I have no big desire to get there myself. My body started signaling "done" about 2 years ago.

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