The Courage to Be Human
The Courage to Be Human
What doesn’t destroy us, makes us stronger.
It’s that time of year again. Birthday time. According to the calendar, (which I still find hard to believe) I’ll be 76 in a few days. It seems insane to be this age. There are days when I feel 20 years younger. And there are days when I feel every one of my roughly 27,740 days on the planet.
Here’s what I know: It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. The actual number itself is quite meaningless. What counts is who we become in our days on earth and what we do with the time we’re given.
Some people spend a lifetime going through the motions of living and reach the finish line feeling incomplete, empty, and filled with regrets. They live a safe life, rarely taking risks, and they usually never worry about having big upsets or big breakdowns, because they always colored inside the lines.
Some people choose to live full out, daring to be themselves, reaching for their potential and full expression, not settling for a safe life. They can expect to have more failures under their belt than those who play safe because when you live from big commitments, the potential for big failures, or what I prefer to call breakdowns, increases exponentially. People who have the courage to live a “big life”, one characterized by innovation, creativity, spontaneity, and risking, can also expect to generate substantial learning from their choices. “What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger”.
When we reach old age having lived a safe life, we might ask ourselves what had us choose this path? Why were we so afraid to bust out and live from joy and freedom instead of taking the narrow road?
I hear from many people who write to me about their fears of aging. Often, it’s the seventieth birthday that is the wake up call. At 70, there is no denying that we are far down the path of life, the finish line somewhere off in the distance, but becoming visible, even if only psychically. For most, the chapters that were about career are over and people are left with a sense of anxiety about what to do next with their life. If you’ve always identified yourself as your work, who are you now when that chapter is over?
Consider that on some level, your work is never done. It will change form as you age and evolve. Your work will evolve right along with you. Consider that the lifetime of experience you’ve gained in your career is now what you have to offer to an entirely new audience of people. Today, more than ever, the world needs people who know what you know, have the skills that you have, to be in service to those less fortunate, or those who need someone to mentor them.
As I approach this 76th birthday, I realize that I have lived out to the edges of life for most of the years I’ve spent on the planet. I have taken many risks, not all of which turned out successfully. Many were painful. But it’s those risks and failures that have taught me the most. They were the grains of sand in my oyster that caused me to develop resilience, trust and faith, acceptance and humility. It’s the hard lessons that have shaped me the most. They didn’t destroy me. They made me stronger.
My genetic inheritance tends towards longevity. My mother lived to be 91, my father 86. So I might expect to be around for a while longer. At least I fully intend to be. And oddly enough, at a time in life when most people are well into retirement, my work life is exploding. There will be no slowing down for me, and that’s just the way I want it. This year, I’m completing my book, Exploding the Box, and developing a podcast of the same title. Stay tuned for updates on both.
While we probably have it easier than any other generation of humans who have ever lived, I think it takes great courage to be a human being on planet Earth in the twenty-first century.
We indeed, live in a brave new world, which demands that we step up and courageously live into it, full out. So I say have the courage to live into those elder years if that’s where you are, as a badass elder who is making a difference wherever you are. Don’t settle for the rocking chair. It’s ok to visit on occasion, you’re allowed, but don’t hang out there. Enjoy the sunsets and all the beauty that surrounds you, but don’t forget to pay it forward. There are others behind you on the path that could use a hand and that hand might just be yours.
Have the courage to show up whatever age you are. Have the courage to be who you are, who you came to the planet to be. Have the courage to know that you matter, that your life matters. And then live it as one who matters. And when you get to be as old as I am or older, you’ll look back on your life not with regrets, but with gratitude. I couldn’t be more grateful for this life I’ve lived, all 76 years of them. Full speed ahead!
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Blessings on the path.