Young or old, which one are you?
The better question might be: Which one do you want to be over the long term?
This past weekend Mr. F2P and I found ourselves mingling with a group of old and young. This is certainly not the first time we've been in this situation of course.
The event? Our 25-year high school reunion.
Despite the fact that all those at the event were within the forty-one to forty-three-year range, the way they acted, spoke, carried themselves and looked couldn’t have been more different. And I mean that both in mind and body.
What An Eye Opener
Within minutes, it was easy to ascertain who:
- Had settled
- Was thriving
- Thought the best was behind them
- Seemed lost as they near midlife
- Were still themselves, or an even a better version of themselves
These observations made me feel elated and heavy hearted, all at the same time.
They were also a good reminder of what it means to live the good life. The real one, not the one the marketers sell us. Here’s a short list of both types to better explain what I mean:
The version of "the good life" we buy:
- The right look (clothes, grooming, plastic surgery)
- Material status symbols (car, home, furniture, jewellery, tech gadgets)
- The right degree from the right institution (Ivy League, desirable profession)
- The right entertainment (vacations, concerts, restaurants)
- The right community (the right schools, home owners associations)
- The right drugs (popular junk food, alcohol, tobacco, TV/gaming/surfing, various prescribed and unprescribed narcotics)
The version of "the good life" we build:
- Being involved in activities we enjoy that help us grow (sports, community service, continuous learning, spending time with friends and loved ones, meditation)
- Feeding our curiosity about ourselves, others, how the world works
- Taking care of ourselves by listening to our intuition and doing what might be hard or inconvenient in the moment but feels right in the long run (career change, pursuing fitness goals, removing ourselves from negativity & obligation)
- Connecting with others in meaningful ways that help us all become better versions of ourselves (mentorship, deep & meaningful one-on-one conversations, mastermind groups, active membership in various associations)
There are a variety of differences between the two lists:
- There is less long-term satisfaction in what we buy than in what we build for ourselves
- Investing in ourselves and our environment has lasting effects on who we are and how we feel
- What makes the greatest difference in our happiness usually doesn’t cost anything
And, most importantly, the second list includes within it the proverbial fountain of youth:
Those of us who feel a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose & meaning live longer and healthier lives.
We build our best life, we don’t buy it.
This experience brought me back to thoughts I had when I was a teenager. Back then, I thought life would be over by the time I turned forty. I thought I might want to end my life by that time because there would be nothing to live for. I realize this might seem extreme, but that really is how I thought at that time.
These thoughts were informed by my observations of those forty and above. Most of these people appeared unhealthy, and seemed to be in a state of perpetual/predictable/aimless motion. To me, that was just as good as being dead.
This might be awful thinking in your view, but to me, this thinking was a gift of sorts because it made clear the type of living I'd rather not entertain.
None of Us Should Settle for This
The science doesn’t lie: community, positivity and a sense of purpose keeps us young.
And how wonderful it is that these are things we can’t buy but that we that we can create for ourselves, if we so choose.
And, though I’ve seen many examples of this, my best one to date are Guy and Julie, friends of ours in their seventies who suck the marrow out of life on what seems a daily basis. They value family, friends, community and health over all else and their continued focusing on these values has helped sustain them for decades.
I've told Mr. F2P on more than one occasion that they are my role models when it comes to living the good—long & fulfilling—life. If we do as well as they have over the years, our regrets—if any—will be minimal.
Getting back to the reunion, it was great to see everyone again and to catch up on the last twenty-five years. If you have the opportunity to go to a reunion, I highly recommend it, even if you felt awkward in high school. (And who didn’t?)
I wish all of my former classmates the best over the next twenty-five and beyond, and I hope they make these coming years the best ones yet because it's never too late to grow, learn and experience all that life has to offer.
As Spock would say: “Live long and prosper.” Or should that be "prosper and live long”?