“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” – Viktor E. Frankl
Gosh my life, probably like yours, has taken some strange twists and turns. But there is one thing that’s always been steady, and for which I’ve been immensely grateful for, and that is my love of my work. I knew very early what I wanted to be and, apart from the odd wistfulness that I didn’t go into medicine and indulge my deep seated hypochondria full on, I’ve always been pretty delighted that I went into journalism. It has served me very well indeed. Most especially because I love talking, love writing and I’m hugely nosey about other people’s lives.
Young people find something you love above anything else. Older people find it now before it’s too late – and it’s never really too late until it all ends. In my humble option work is the secret to some kind of contentment and purpose. Money and status are very poor substitutes up against passion and meaning.
My Dad worked until he was 88
So I got thinking about work and how I can never envisage a time when I would ever want to stop working. I do realise I’m lucky as I work for myself and really enjoy what I do and have choices. I have got role models here; my father finally packed up his business at 88 and I had many elderly aunts who thought nothing of holding tight to their business reins well into their early 80s. They all lived in the United States, which back then really did seem to be land of possibility, and I admired their ballsy “the only way I’m leaving this desk is in a box” attitude. Priceless.
I was so delighted to hear Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, speak at a conference this week. She’s a real hero of mine. She urged us all to roll up our sleeves – now more than ever – to fight some of the growing injustices of our world. It was 10am on Saturday and as I was busy rubbing the sleep from my eyes, when her words crashed through my complacency: “I reckon I’ve got 11 active years left to really make a difference on climate change,” she said.
I googled her age quickly. She is 75!!! And she was talking about “active” years – not just years. Check out The Mary Robinson Foundation https://www.mrfcj.org/about/mission-and-vision/– Climate Justice is a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. What a woman!
And here’s me – a mere 55 – thinking, admittedly only sometimes, that I could kick back a little bit and really don’t have anything left to prove anymore? Shame on me. And then I remember how at this age work is actually more important than ever before (empty nests and time on our hands) and really us mid-lifers have so much to offer in terms of experience and not so many family ties (appreciate this isn’t the same for everybody) . And here are my musings for the week on the importance of midlife employment (not necessarily paid)
- Lack of purpose and meaning is a one way track to depression and that feeling of being out of place in the world. Too much time on your hands is not good for the body or the soul.
- Research continually shows that being part of something bigger than yourself is good for your health. In short selfish people die young (and probably unhappy)
- There’s growing research that loneliness kills too – stay connected to lots of different people of all ages. It’s hugely rewarding and fun too. At 30 I had a best friend who was 75, now one of my best friends is 24. Work or volunteering is a great way of doing this.
- The average age of death in the UK for a woman is 82.9 years (79.6 for men) – Totally get that I may not get anywhere near this, but if I do gosh all those years left to make a difference to something/to somebody. Now that is exciting.
- There are so many people who could do with a kindly word/or a bit of help… in my quest to broaden my horizons this week I’m meeting with one of the UK’s youngest Imam’s. A brave young man who is so sad that more people do not know about the amazing work that muslims in the UK do to support all our communities – this includes blood drives, tree planting sessions, homeless feeding sessions, building schools in third world countries …. I’m going to be telling you all about him next week.
Oh and I’ve saved my best for last – take risks! Lots of them. Fail, get up and fail again. Get rejected, pushed back – and keep on keeping on. The greatest risk to your happiness is not taking a risk. Don’t miss a moment or an opportunity in this very brief very beautiful life.
Have a great week.