So get started. Sometimes I wish there were thirty-six hours in a day. If there were and you lived for eighty years that would be over a million hours which could easily be two people’s lifetimes. But we don’t have twelve extra hours a day and we don’t have an extra lifetime so we have to make do with what we have and for most of us it’s about fifteen good solid hours a day during which time we must eke out a living, raise a family and throw in a couple of chores. And dream. Dream about something we might have wanted to do at one point in our lives. A point at which we made a certain decision to do something else. Or eat something else. Or go with someone else. Or be someone else. Maybe we look back on some of those decisions with thankful relief. But sometimes we look back on them with regret. Would ha’, could ha’, should ha’.
In my current position as an orthopedic surgeon I see that people are living longer and longer, they’re smarter and smarter and have more physical energy and ability to be fruitful and prosper in their “golden years.” And trust me, all of us doctors are doing everything we possibly can to make it happen for you. So our attitudes at 60 should be more like our parent’s attitudes when they were in their 40’s. We don’t necessarily have to be looking toward retirement and finishing our careers. We shouldn’t have to be cutting back or decreasing our loads. We should be looking for something new to occupy our minds and bodies. And by the way, I’m referring to careers and hobbies, not necessarily spouses.
Twenty years of living after retirement and after children have graduated, married and maybe even have had their own children, can seem like an eternity. What about forty years of that? That’s plenty of time to try something new and I encourage people to get started by forty. When you’re forty you can start training for sixty. If yours is a physical job, it’s a good time to start training for a more sedentary job. If you’re already doing a sedentary job, it may not necessarily be a good time to look for a physical job, but maybe looking for something outdoors or creative would interest you.
If you’ve stayed at home with your children, forty is a time when they’re likely to be in school and you can start completing your own education, taking up a new hobby, or getting back into that career you put on hold. If you’re in a rut in your job, your fortieth might be the catalyst to start making the change. Businesses are more open to hiring and training forty year olds rather than fifty year olds and they don’t have to say it out loud, thereby giving you an opportunity to find an EOC attorney.
I loved forty. I loved fifty too…just not as much as forty. But forty was when I decided to learn to ride horses and to learn to work cattle on horseback. In retrospect, I must have been going through a mid-life reassessment (not a crisis) and wanted to connect to my heritage. It was between learning to work a cow and learning to sail a square-rigged ship. In Austin, Texas the cows were more accessible. And that decision led to a future of competitive horseback riding that will keep me busy until my back won’t take it anymore…and even then I might find myself a Paso Fino or a Tennessee Walker.
I love horses and recommend them highly for those of you looking for a new hobby in your forties. Now I counter that by saying I wish I had ridden horses as a child, because only child horseback riders, like child skiers, have that naive lack of fear, the absence of which keeps us late bloomers from becoming great and carefree riders or skiers. But if you choose your horses wisely, (another story altogether) then you should feel good about safety. And the great thing about horses is that they provide the power. You don’t have to run, jump or squat. I call horses the great equalizers because you can be a 5’2” hundred pound gal and compete or ride just as well as a 20-year-old strapping cowboy.
I’m not sure if I want this blog to be about redirecting our lives after forty or learning to love horses after forty, so I think I’ll make it both by using the horse experience as a metaphor for life experiences. Well the point of this blog is you try something new. You try something important. Something that involves the mind and body in a way that redefines you to yourself and to others. I became a cowgirl and a cowgirl-doctor. Now, I’m an author too. A cowgirl-doctor-author. Not necessarily in that order.
It’s interesting how, as a result of the internet, I do have patients who come to see me because they were looking for a doctor and found out that I was a horseback rider and an author, so they figured I’d be a good kind of doctor. I love that…I really do.
A patient of mine recently retired from IBM. His wife retired too and they decided to get their teaching certificates and become substitute teachers. Many of us have academic skills that should not be wasted. Nowadays most colleges and universities have short courses (some even a month long) for those wanting to get certified. I can’t imagine anything more fun than teaching, especially as a second career. Anyone who previously got a college degree and has some skill and desire to communicate with young people should not miss out on this opportunity to provide an important service to our struggling school districts.
In terms of hobbies, in general I love things that use our brains more than things that use our brawn. I see a lot of patients who injure themselves participating in contact sports and high impact activities when they are in their fifties. You have to think about what the human organism was meant to do. First of all, we women were not originally constructed to live extremely long lives. A woman in her thirties was an old sage. Cave gals started having babies when they reached puberty and didn’t stop until they died in childbirth. That’s why the average woman’s lifespan has gone from 40 in the early 1900s to 80 in this decade. Now that we live longer because of improved peri-natal care, forceps delivery, C-sections as well as antibiotics and roofs over our heads, we have to protect our bodies. High impact activities and contact sports aren’t the way to do that, especially after forty. I know a lot of people are going to hate me for saying this, but I am just parleying what I see in the office into advice for the aging population. Humans are hunter gatherers. We’re not runners (except for people from Ethiopia), we’re not swimmers, skiers, power lifters, squatters or rock-wall climbers.
I was a doctor first. Then a rider and finally an author. I’ll retire from medicine someday when it’s appropriate to do so. Hopefully I’ll still be a rider, maybe of Pasos, but probably not cutting horses, and when I just wear out and can no longer ride, I’ll still be a writer…in the middle of my second career! So when you start thinking of things to do as hobbies and jobs after forty, start thinking about things that are gentle on your body. Walking, hiking, painting, taking pictures, playing guitar and making jewelry. Think desk jobs and activities that use your creativity or intellect. These are the things that keep you out of my office and you can do them indefinitely. And look forward to a long life.
By the way, I’m going to give away a couple of signed copies of Endings. I’ll draw a name out of a hat for the first one. Slam dunk. Just send a comment regarding this blog and you’ll be eligible!
I love scavenger hunts and so for the second one, you’ll have to go on one. Here’s the question. What are the three things Leslie stocks her mini-fridge with? Of course you can find it in my novel, Endings, but you can also find it in my blog archives…something about a gift. First one to tell me the three items gets the second book. I look forward to hearing from you.
Barbara Bergin, Author of “Endings”