I turned 67 today. It’s kind of an odd birthday. You’re not yet 70 and certifiably old (according to some of my 69-year-old pals), but you’re creeping up the ladder and are two rungs above 65. So what does it all mean?
It seems kind of like a rest-stop. A space between retirement and more serious potentials.
But we don’t have to go there. I’d rather contemplate what I’ve learned so far.
First, family and friends become more important as you age. Last weekend, we had four house guests – two couples we’ve known for 40 years. They’re marvellous old pals, both with clusters of wonderful children whom we’ve watched grow up. Just like our own children, they’re turning millennial energy and brilliance into lives that are underpinned by family values that we know well.
The special weekend festivities at our house in the forest were planned magically by my wife, who knows all about 12-pound Alberta grain-fed prime rib roasts, extraordinary chocolate cake recipes, and remembers that we still have winter carrots and Siberian kale in the deer-fenced vegetable garden. And she invited new friends from the Skelhp neighbourhood to join the party.
She also stocked up on Nk’Mip Merlot from the Okanagan Valley and organized a round of thoughtful toasts before we sat down to eat. (I must reaffirm that marriage is a wonderful institution and that after 40 years of marriage, I absolutely love my wife.)
All of the house guests participated in country walks on Saturday and Sunday. We went out individually and in groups. The weather kept from pelting rain, providing swirling mists and low overcast to shelter our deliberate steps. We revisited deserted logging roads, cleared and yet unsold acreage properties, and we walked on Her Majesty’s domain between low and high tide marks at Scotch Fir Point.
All of this walking reaffirmed my love of the outdoors and my continued enjoyment of the B.C. coastline, in all of its pointed and slippery formats. I think regular beach walking on difficult terrain wards off Alzheimer’s and all manner of dementia. It’s good to think about where you’re going to place your boot.
It’s also good to give the boot to tiresome arguments and irretrievably lost causes. I gave serious consideration today to how I wish to spend my volunteer time and drew some conclusions. I’m going to focus on the very local (e.g. PRISMA, the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy) and the very national (e.g. CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society). It’s time to stop spending volunteer hours where they don’t fit my schedule, my geography and my worldview.
I’m also going to stop consulting. The trouble with working after institutional retirement is that it often (and shortly always) requires subservience to younger clients with less experience. In such situations, you’re occasionally at risk of knowing an idea won’t fly when the client is sure that it will or is indeed already airborne.
Additionally, I think it’s time for the job market to broadly welcome younger talent. I’ve witnessed too many acquaintances hang on to paycheques that deservedly belonged to younger workers. We need to be mindful of our societal best-before dates.
I intend to write more, however, at a time when economic disruption is ruining the careers of young journalists. I have no fear that this will steal someone’s livelihood as my weekly outpouring of well-read Troy Media columns nets me – wait for it – less than $500 per year. I’m amazed to be told by old journalists that op-ed writers used to be paid enough money to buy houses and have lives.
The main reason I write is to express my ideas. But I’m also mindful that the weekly discipline of column writing is mentally akin to a good gym visit with weights and cardio.
So at 67, I say: keep your family and friends close, love your partner, frequently walk on unstable ground, don’t volunteer for the sake of volunteering, know when it’s time to get out of paid employment, and do things that give you pleasure and provide mental discipline. Like writing weekly.
Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.
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