Becoming Seventy: Looking Back at Past Decades
In anticipation of turning seventy this year (2019), this author reviews and reflects on salient points of a sermon preached by a renowned American clergyman, Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832-1902). He discussed the journey of life from the twenties to the seventies.
The experience of every reader may not fit exactly into the decades as Talmage proposed, but revisiting our past can be beneficial even if not in a specific order. Extracting useful nuggets for the future can only boost our sense of appreciation for additional birthdays.
The italicised statements which follow my sub-topics are paraphrased summaries of Talmage’s perspective; only the seventies decade has an exact quote. The brief reflections are intended to encourage those of us becoming seventy as well as those who have journeyed past it, to embrace the privilege with joy.
Twenties: The Early Connections
In our twenties, we were chasing success, forming connections, deciding principles and habits which would guide the rest of our lives.
Those were our college days, followed by our first experiences of living on our own. We were happy for the independence, but we missed the security of home. We tried many things for the first time, and made friends in the process.
Now, whether we meet an old college classmate whom we barely remember, or we meet one with whom we communicate regularly, our conversation is the same: activities which held our mutual interest, which made us laugh, which taught us principles we learned and by which we still live. Fighting and winning, awards and defeats are no longer on the agenda. We inquire about those who are not on Facebook and Twitter. We express sorrow at the news of those who passed on. We confess our complex thoughts about aging and we cheer ourselves with laughter when we exchange insights to help us cope.
Because of the meaningful experiences we lived through together in our early years, we know how to communicate at soul level with our first adult friends. On our journey toward and beyond seventy, these long-lasting connections are the ones we cherish the most.
Thirties: Learning the Struggle
In our thirties, we were struggling for recognition. Our modus operandi in dealing with obstacles likely became a permanent pattern.
In our effort to keep up with career goals, we sometimes neglected house and home. We wanted recognition for our hard work. We needed ample income to pay the bills, treat our children well and afford a vacation. The struggle to meet our goals helped us to improve our performance and appreciate the money we earned.
Now, approaching seventy, we still may not know for sure how we pulled through. What we do know is that perseverance pays off; that recognition is not nearly as important as good health and happy relationships. The grit which carried us through our thirties can still support our determination to eat nutritious foods, to balance activity and rest, to share love and support, all in the interest of our well-being. There's still some struggle left in us.
Forties: Deciding Who We Really Are
In our forties, we discovered who we really were--our abilities and our limits. We settled into our true character.
Not that we ignored identity earlier on, but by this decade we realized that keeping up appearances was not worth the effort. We became tired of being people pleasers, of putting our own ideas on the back burner, of stifling the ambition we shelved since our twenties. We either woke up, stepped out of our comfort zone and became the leader, the entrepreneur, the musician or actor we were designed to be; or we laid back and continued to babysit other people’s passion.
What matters now is that each person is satisfied with his self-description. Hurrah to those who are! To the rest, becoming seventy is an ideal time to begin becoming who we were meant to be.
Fifties: Reaping the Harvest
In our fifties we began to reap what we had sown, be it wild oats or honest labor. We were grateful to have lived for a half century, but also fearful that we had lost half a century.
We realized that we had probably lived half of our lives. We became sober at the thought that some of our actions could not be undone. The consequences showed up in our credit score, in the type of social circle to which we belonged, in our health profile, in our children and protégées who valued our presence or in some peers who preferred to avoid us. It was time to check our self-approval rate. We watered the good deeds so they could increase.
However, there are still some bad habits to change, and to this day we still have some seeds to plant. That's one reason we're still living.
Sixties: Accepting Change
In our sixties, we were surprised that we were that age. We talked about “When I was a girl (or boy).” We were experienced enough to do more in the next ten years than we did in the last thirty.
We seemed to get there quickly, but we only had to look at our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews to verify how far we had come. Every time we marveled at how much they had grown, and how electronically savvy they were, we reminded ourselves of our aging status.
- We were already in our fifties when our eighteen-year old grandchild let us use his iPod which was released in (2001), the year he was born.
- We were already in our sixties when our eight-year old great grand child explained the iPad which was released in (2010), the year she was born.
With the years we have left, we may try to impress these young ones with the beautiful intimacy of face to face communication, handwritten notes and touching palms void of cell phones. We may also set our minds on adapting to the changes. We can!
Seventies: Reason to Celebrate
Looking back has given us hope that we can continue to work at our unfinished business, to learn and grow even as we age. The quote below is full of anticipation for those becoming seventy, and will be the feeder for Becoming Seventy Part Two.
My word to them is congratulation. . . You ought to be jubilant because life is a tremendous struggle, and, if you have got through respectably and usefully, you ought to feel like people toward the close of a summer day seated on the rocks watching the sunset. The most of your friends have gone over the border. . . What we all need is to take the supernatural into our lives.— Thomas De Witt Talmage
© 2019 Dora Weithers