An old friend and I were talking the other morning about the journey she is taking with her parents into retirement. Long after most of their friends retired, her mother kept going to work day after day at the furniture store that she and her husband opened forty-four years ago. They have provided beautiful chairs, bedroom sets, dining room tables and chairs, and dinette sets to hundreds of families over the years. Many of these pieces of furniture will be passed down the line to the next generation to impact lives that, I'm sure, they never even thought about. It is a sad time that, with age and health issues, must happen but it is also a frightening time as well.
Interestingly, I've been having a similar conversation with a young person about next steps in their life. As my friend and I were talking, it hit me that this process never changes in our lives. This young person is fearful of next steps, is stepping out tentatively, at best, into what the future holds. Just as my friend's parents are facing the unknown--a life with no set schedules, no 'reason' to get up and go every day, no trips to market, no annual visits with old furniture buddies--so is this young person. Both are unsure of what to expect, both think they must have all the answers before they take the next step.
My friend and I were laughing about ourselves at a much younger age. We believed we held all the answers. We were stepping out, blindly believing that, of course, we knew what was ahead...until we hit the first wall, which we both did pretty quickly. Then we stumbled and tripped our way into the next steps for each of us. We both agreed we wouldn't want to go back there!
Maybe that's what this 'middle-age' is about: recognizing the folly of our youth, understanding that we've never really had control over our lives and we never will. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, the road takes a turn you never saw coming and you must adjust your map, the map does not adjust to you.
The best you can do is to take today's steps. Take each one as it comes and know that some steps will be good and some not so good, but always having faith that, in the end, there will have been more good than bad. And being grateful for the lessons that come with each one.
The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.