This is 70
When I turned 70 last September, I was more trepidatious about my new age than I’d been since I turned 21. That long-ago birthday made me feel as if I was supposed to be accomplishing great things now that I was an adult. I had no idea then that my chronological age had little to do with where I was in life and what I had done or not done so far. This more recent milestone mostly just scared me. In my mind, 70 meant I was officially old. That idea didn't match how I felt physically and emotionally, but I worried that it was all downhill from there. Now, nearly a year later, that fear is largely gone and I'm excited for what lies ahead. I also feel a sense of responsibility to make the most of it all.
It is much easier to be in love with my life at 70 than it was at 21. I know who I am now—I see the foibles and the missteps, but I appreciate the heart and the intention.
I’m not sure I ever consciously said this, or even acknowledged it, but when I was in my 30s and 40s, I knew I had plenty of time left in my life to fix anything I might be messing up. If I was out of shape, I had decades to get back to exercising, eating more healthily, and taking better care of myself. If my relationships weren’t all that I’d hoped they’d be, I felt like I had all the time in the world to fix that. No matter what was going on in my life, I didn’t have to worry that I was ruining anything or missing out on something. I still had lots of chances to do a better job. At 70, no matter how much I squint, I can’t help but feel like that "Get Out of Jail Free" card is expiring. I have what I have, and I am who I am. I can certainly make some changes or adaptations, but they have to be more intentional. On most levels, that is a very good thing. I find myself wishing these days that I’d felt the same sense of urgency about being fully present in my life when I was younger, but of course that’s a pipe dream. In truth, everything happened as it should, and continues to.
At 70, I like myself better than I ever have. I treasure my experiences and my memories and what feels like amazing circumstances and opportunities that have come my way. And, maybe because the road ahead is much shorter than the one behind me, I feel like I have so many things I still want to do. Some are bucket list items, like learning to bake sourdough bread or do a TED Talk, but others are much larger and broader, focused on how I want to live and be in the world in this last segment. At the top of every to-do list is to be as present as I can be, to not spend my time and energy worrying about what disaster might happen, or how something I did in the past could have been done differently.
I think 70 is the time we need to be on the best terms with ourselves ever. This is when we need to be so glad to be who we are, and to honor our own dreams and our own wishes for each day. But, more than ever before, I want to be strong—emotionally and physically. I want to take risks, engage at a level that might scare me but will benefit me, and learn as much as I possibly can. I want to pay attention to the days, to light and air, and to words and gestures.
We are gifted in our 70s with more open time than most of us had when we were working and raising kids, and I want to appreciate that gift by being as alive as I can in that time. At 70, I feel the preciousness of these moments and the duty to mark them, to appreciate them, to be grateful, and to be in awe. It is much easier to be in love with my life at 70 than it was at 21. I know who I am now—I see the foibles and the missteps, but I appreciate the heart and the intention. This is 70, and there is so much more.