These Are the Golden Years

THESE ARE THE GOLDEN YEARS: not the freedom of youth nor the selflessness of parenthood; not the irreverent joy of adolescence nor the security and insight of old age.

These, wherever you are, irrespective of the season currently enduring, are the years to seize, to cherish, to embrace. These are the years to live.

Spring, summer, autumn, winter.

The earth falls into each, unashamed and silently eager. This planet doesn’t skip winter, nor spring, nor summer or autumn. Each period is distinctly beautiful, a crucial stepping stone towards life’s next chapter.

I’ve said that you’re never too old to travel, to change careers, to take a risk, to pursue a dream. I stand by that.

But there are experiences meant for certain seasons; despite the money we accrue and the possibilities which come with it, there’s no substitute for being young, broke, with little responsibility and instinct as a guide.

That’s where I am, riding on love.

I dance in the thick of my youth, questioning and wondering, inspired by love and struggle and confusion; there are experiences to be had now that in twenty years, I’ll kick myself for not saying yes to. For not sending. 

For not actively pursuing.

I often feel like I’m wasting my youth if not living a story worth telling. I’m here, the train’s left the station — still, I question, what’s next?

I fear regret, deeply. I honestly don’t know when I’m going to live in America again. I miss my friends and family, but I’m not homesick. There’s just too much I long to see and do.

Still, I ask myself if I’m running from something; maybe it’s responsibility. Security. Rationality. The man in the mirror.

It can feel like what I’m doing isn’t sustainable; I can’t create a career based on seeking the ends of the earth, following what my heart tells me to follow.

I can’t make an impact in the world by running and telling my story. But I’ve started running and I don’t know how to stop. What’s right for others isn’t always the right thing for us.

I feel like I’m running from something because perhaps we’re supposed to have a stable career; we’re supposed to find a place to settle long term; we’re supposed to know what we want.

I don’t fucking know. I want to be the best person I can be. I want little more than to share the experiences which rip me open, those which challenge me to open my eyes and make my heart beat faster.

If you feel your instincts telling you this is the time, you owe it to yourself to trust that what you feel is real. If you don’t, two things might happen: you’ll regret not taking your shot, or you’ll fit the experience into a different season.

I can travel as a forty-seven-year-old and have an epic time, hitting the places that have sat on my bucket list for the last twenty years. But I hope to have a family at that point.

The summer of youth leads to the bright, deep, meaningful coolness of autumn. With a family, it’s not just about you anymore. Traveling will mean more planning, more money and earlier nights.

While I’m psyched for that season, I’m here, and the time is now to follow my heart.

“20 years from now,” says the author Richard Webster, “you’d give anything to be this exact age, exactly this healthy, in this exact moment. Take a second to enjoy it.”

Time slips away as we recall the past, regretting what we did or didn’t do.

Time slips away as we wait for the future, when we’ll finally start living.

These are the golden years, wherever you are. Sometimes it’s hard to understand, but there are no rules to this game of life.

So often we believe we don’t deserve the life we want.

Why? Others may go for broke, but you can’t? Others deserve to travel the world, but for you that’s unrealistic?

It’s not cool to want to be a mom or a dad, even though that’s all you’ve ever wanted?

We decide what we want to do; we create who we long to be.

It takes planning and action, but anything is possible.

You deserve the life that’ll make you happy. It only takes a single move.

I’m in awe of what this life could be if we cared enough to know. Go for it. There isn’t time to waste.

I often teach a class of one-year-olds. They can’t do much besides stumble around, giggling or crying. Their parents join them, and this time it was two dads.

The dads were goofy as hell, proud of their little groms when they’d pick the right color or when they smiled and danced to the music. I saw in these parents as I continually do that profound love which says: it’s not about me anymore, and I’m okay with that.

Maybe one or both dads were having a bad day. But they were there for their kids, embracing the moment.

We don’t lose something when the seasons change.

We simply shed our leaves to let in new light.

These guys made me happy to be human, to be alive, to be doing this job, to be a dad one day.

We could hardly communicate with words but we just hung out like kids in a playpen, for the kids were the dads and the dads were me, all the same in fascinating ways, yet living our distinct seasons.

We were there, rooted in our fallen time, each as we are, here and now, reaching for the sun.

In forty years, I’ll be looking back at my forty-seven-year-old self and recalling the days of my children’s youth.

Perhaps I’ll wish I spent more time shooting hoops with them or stopped whatever I was doing to just listen while they still wanted to talk.

These are the golden years.

The hydrangeas, recently fresh, mauve, and azure, have withered. Goldfish bob in the heat of summer; I walk home through the pouring, fecund coolness of rain.

There’s something about now to one day pine for: the freedom, the struggle, the chance; when all else melts away, when the noise quiets which constantly inundates, all that will remain in the stillness of our reflection will be the essence of now, the light that is, unsullied and true.

The chance we had.

And we’ll pine for it. We’ll wish we had taken that boarding trip in the winter with our buddies. We’ll wish we had said I love you first, courageously embracing the adventure and the possibility of a broken heart that would ensue.

We’ll wish we took that job in another city or went to see our parents across town or dropped the bitterness to say I love you, one last time.

Perfect clarity never arrives. We either open our eyes or we spend our lives waiting. It isn’t just the joy we’ll miss.

It’s everything, the joy, and the pain, the sun and the rain.

“One day, in retrospect,” said the neurologist Sigmund Freud, “the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

We’ll never get back those years of uncertainty, the seemingly endless season of solitude, silent enduring, heavy tears. Because when we walk free from the tunnel into the brilliance of day, we hardly remember what the darkness felt like.

The sunlight feels eternal, and then it becomes normal. Our memory wipes the slate to keep us from feeling that hurt again.

That time in the shadow makes us what we are. That darkness is a chance to grow. Have patience.

Patience is faith. Faith is letting go.

The absolute knowledge that what is right in front of us is all there is, for there is no joy or pain, only the full breadth of now; it contains the same potential, the same magic, as the thing we patiently await.

Forget the noise; it’s the signal that matters. Noise vacillates. We’ll have good days and bad. Pay attention to the signal. Persisting, daily steps. Patience. Cherish each and every one.

These are the golden years.

What will you do with them?

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