Gather up as many good experiences as possible. It increases your chances of being a pleasant old person. Life is made up of moments. A reunion among friends. A first date. A birthday…
We are in the lucky position to help you create these moments. Relish them because you will carry them with you forever.
I read these words sitting in a Red Robin restaurant yesterday with my family. As I was perusing the menu and the specials on the table, a little placard jumped out at me with these words obviously promoting the fact the restaurant would be a good gathering place to meet with friends. At first glance I thought it was an innocuous little statement on life. But then as I waited for my burger to be delivered I picked up the card once again and re-read these simple little words. This next time, they struck more of a chord with me that caused me to do a little day-dreaming to pass the time and to better put the statement in perspective.
I thought about some of the old people I have known in life. You know the one’s I’m talking about. The sort of disgruntled old codgers who give living a long life a bad name. Seasoned citizens who have absolutely no respect for younger folks and in general just have an ornery, mean disposition to everyone. I’ve known a few…in fact, they’re probably the reason that for many years I didn’t want to grow old. To these folks they seemingly always feel as though life in general has “dealt them a bad hand” in the game of life and while they know they’re not gonna win…they damn well won’t make the game pleasant for anyone else to play, either.
Okay. Now let’s flip the coin. Let’s look at some of the old people in life who are pleasant to be around. They appear content with growing older not because they look at old age as a curse, but more of a blessing. They accept the fact they are no longer physically capable to enjoy many of the activities they once participated in during their younger days. Oh sure, a few more aches and pains may have crept into their daily life…but they realize this is part of the price to pay for being given the privilege of living a long life. Most importantly, this person seems to understand and comprehend the difficult challenge of being “a pleasant old person.” They know the choice is theirs to make.
This all got me thinking about some of the older influences in my life and how I once interacted with them. Truth is, my dad died when I was 10 so I had to learn about all the wonderful ways of the outdoors mostly on my own. I did so often by seeking out my uncle Art because he was one of the few older people in my life who was a genuine outdoorsman. Art certainly fit into that category of pleasant old person. He occasionally took me fishing at his lake cabin, but many other times he took me trapping, hunting and living outdoors vicariously through his many stories. When he would talk to me about trapping he hadn’t set an animal trap in probably 40 years or more…but that didn’t matter. The equipment may have changed as well as some of the techniques over that time…but the experience of being outdoors was largely the same shared between our two generations.
You could say during the years when I was “cutting my teeth” to become a sportsman it was older adults, such as Art, who helped form my mental impression of the person I someday wanted to become. When uncle Art would talked about some experience skunk trapping or perhaps fishing for northerns through the ice we shared a special bond that lives on to this day. Unfortunately, Art has long since passed on to those happier hunting grounds in the sky…yet several of his happy life experiences continue to live on with me.
Far too often we forget about the many impressionable younger folks who might be looking up to us and learning from our past ways. If they hear how you once had a total disregard for wildlife and was a poacher…well, then, how could they possibly grow up respecting wildlife when the only examples they’ve witnessed were bad ones. On the other hand, if a person takes the culmination of outdoor experiences they have had and relates them to others in a positive way…it can educate, it can inspire, but best of all it can make you an older person others thrive to be around.
I strongly believe that a person largely makes their own good fortunes in life. If you don’t live out your years doing the sort of things you want to be doing…well, there is nobody else to blame except for yourself. Maybe it means taking that first step to live out a dream of going elk hunting out west. Maybe its that trip to Alaska halibut fishing that has been bouncing around in your head for way too many years. Could it be doing some off-shore fishing down in Florida that always appeared exciting on TV, but maybe a bit beyond the budget unless you begin saving now? Re-read that first line on this post. [seriously, scroll back up there and do it]. Tell me how can you gather any good experiences if you don’t make an effort to live them?
This all sort of reminds me of another statement I read several years back. It went something like this:
When you are 90 years old sitting in your rocking chair reflecting on life…what will you be thinking about? All the wonderful life experiences you got to enjoy…or instead, will your life be full of regrets about the many things you never even attempted to accomplish? The choice is yours to make.
It’s really no big secret why some people grow old gracefully while others become more bitter to the very end. So how are you going to answer this last question?
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.