Are the Golden Years a Myth?
No, so long as you have a sense of adventure
"All that glitters isn't gold” has deeper meaning for older adults. Good health, family, dignity and respect are qualities more valuable than gold. In reality golden years are more silver, quickly tarnished unless frequently polished. A myriad of stellar opportunities abounds for those who pursue them.
At 70, and with no interest in retiring, I focused on making my next decade the best possible. My enthusiasm fully charged, and the notion of coasting anathema to me, I picked three activities to take to the next level.
I increased my weight and aerobic training to help prepare. If sidelined with an illness or injury, an in-shape body would heal faster, and I also needed maximum energy to support three separate journeys.
While I'd become a voice actor, my acting lacked depth. I was a rookie and simply hadn't worked hard or long enough at my fledgling craft to excel. But I was imbued with two critical characteristics for success: patience and perseverance. Acting classes bolstered my abilities, and I began auditioning for novels previously out of my reach. I sought five-star reviewed books exclusively, novels that attracted the best narrators. I rehearsed tirelessly. After concerted effort, I was awarded a contract for a highly regarded novel. I was in demand. One down.
I'd ridden motorcycles much of my adult life; mostly racing-style bikes I rode like my hair was on fire. I refused to give up a sport I'd felt passionate about simply because of age. Instead I purchased a 125cc motorbike with a top speed that equaled the first-gear top speed of previous bikes. I sacrificed speed but not enjoyment. Since I'd moved to a large city, I needed to improve my urban riding skills. I practiced on busy streets daily until I felt competent. I sometimes daydream about the heart-pounding ride I made through Death Valley, California, a decade ago at 130 mph, the sun rising behind me. But my passion for two-wheeling remains strong. Two down.
I'd traveled extensively but wanted to immerse myself more fully in foreign cultures. First stop: the Yucatan, Mexico, for six months. I recorded in a rented studio, but made certain to leave time to explore. I befriended a Mayan family, spending several weekends at their small, 100-year-old, sparsely furnished cement house, with walls strung with hammocks for sleeping. I devoured Mrs. Ic's savory Mayan cuisine cooked in restaurant-size pots over outdoor fire pits, and drank beer with Mr. Ic on his postage-stamp patio overlooking chickens, roosters, turkeys and dogs. The Ics had dozens of relatives in Teabo, their village, and Mrs. Ic's bountiful cooking routinely brought a dozen or more family members each afternoon for Comida, the largest meal of the day.
I returned to California but quickly grew anxious to travel again. Next stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand. I studied Buddhism, visited dozens of Buddhist temples, talked with monks, ate Thai food, motorbiked, and tried to learn Thai, a language for which I had no proclivity. I recorded three mornings a week in a rented studio. After three months, I went home to care for a sick friend. Her recovery took six weeks, after which I returned to Chiang Mai, home to 40,000 expats from around the world.
I rented a small apartment, met a sweet, English-speaking Thai woman, made interesting expat friends, and focused on making each day special. Chiang Mai is inundated with motorbikes, and I learned to swarm-ride with the fearless locals. I rode in the countryside this morning, up narrow twisty, sparsely traveled roads over stunning jungle-covered mountains, and down into verdant valleys interrupted only by a farm or river. My heart nearly exploded when I ran over an enormous snake crossing the road coming around a blind curve, but the undeterred snake continued on his journey. It was a huge adrenalin rush.
After watching a YouTube video, I built a recording booth framed with PVC piping in a corner of my apartment. A seamstress sewed a tent to fit over the frame, to which I added latex foam. I work three mornings a week in my home studio. I have no immediate plans to leave Chiang Mai. I'm having too much fun. Three down.
Your Golden Years will look like whatever you imagine if you aim high, never compromise, and listen to your inner voice. Lean hard into your adventure and remember to enjoy the journey.