My birthday is Dec. 30. I turned 65, entering at the end of 2012, that demographic so irreverently dubbed “the 65 and older” gang.
“I can’t believe we are 65,” a high school friend said to me from her cell phone on the way to her 99-year-old aunt’s funeral. Never mind that she is not as close to the deadline as I am with a June birthday and 1948 year of birth. I can’t believe it, either.
However, facing this birthday, instead of grieving the inevitable, I was reflective, examining the advantages over turning 35, a year in which life seemed to have hit its peak.
Some enhancements stem from personal choices, like moving from the city to the country and determining to revise career goals to make for a slower-paced life. Others derive from the stunning technological advances in the last 30 years. Here, not necessarily in the order of importance, are 10 improvements my reflections lit upon:
1. Attending a yoga class times a week at 9:00 in the morning.
The year I turned 35, I was just graduating from law school and facing the bar exam. Fortunately, I had a job, but it was contingent on passing the bar, as were the jobs offered all my classmates. At 9 a.m. every morning, I had been studying for at least three hours already and had mapped out the topics I would review over the next 10 hours. No time for yoga.
2. Growing an organic vegetable garden.
And not just any garden, but one from which I am still eating fresh tomatoes in the middle of December. The year I turned 35, I lived five minutes from downtown Fort Worth, which was convenient for work. My city lot, albeit in a lovely neighborhood, provided no space for vegetables.
3. Listening to silence in the night.
The year I turned 35, I heard the sounds of train whistles, the coupling and uncoupling of railroad cars at the nearby switching yard in the middle of the night. I had grown used to them, so they didn’t bother me much. Like not realizing how much you’ve been hurting until the pain is gone, I wasn’t aware until I could wake in the night to silence golden is the absence of sound.
4. Walking the dog at 4 p.m.
The year I turned 35, I didn’t own a dog, and even if I had, I could not have spared the time to walk a dog in the afternoon. I would have had to sneak a few minutes after dark and would have felt guilty the whole time that I was away from my studies.
5. Choosing whether or not to multi-task.
The year I turned 35, the only books, besides law books, I could consume were those listened to on tape while doing chores. I piped in books from earphones while stuffing laundry into the washing machine or dishes into the dishwasher, stretching sheets onto the bed, spreading make-up on my face or blow-drying my hair. My “reading” material then emanated from a two-and-a-half pound Walkman that nearly pulled the stitches out of the pocket it inhabited. Thank God for the smart phone.
Today, I have the choice - and the time - to read a paper book, view an e-book with the Kindle app on my computer or my Android, or listen to an audio book downloaded from audible.com. And I have the choice whether to do that activity solo or combine it with folding or ironing clothes, or whatever.
6. Eating home-cooked meals most of the time.
The year I turned 35, I downed multiple cups of coffee and a piece of toast for breakfast. Lunch was either served at or was taken out from a downtown restaurant. Too tired to cook, I ate out five of seven evenings each week.
Today, I make gourmet (or not) meals at home and eating out is a treat, not a necessity.
7. Gazing at the sky and seeing stars.
The year I turned 35, I lived where the city night lights blotted out the Big Dipper and most of the stars in surrounding constellations.
This year, on clear nights, I look up at twinkling lights from the heavens rather than those attached to electrical poles.
8. Determining the number of hours I work.
The year I turned 35, the law firm expected me to put in whatever time it took to handle the work assigned me, which meant I often worked 50 or more hours a week. Most of those hours I spent dressed in a business suit, sitting at a desk in a high-rise office building.
Today, I dictate my own schedule, working far fewer hours and accomplishing most tasks sitting at my computer at home in jeans or tights or even PJ’s, if I so choose.
9. Looking up information on the internet.
The year I turned 35, looking up things I wanted to know meant researching in books and libraries. Commercial internet service providers (ISPs) hadn’t emerged until the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Today, almost anything I want to know is at my fingertips, not only with my PC, but through my cell phone.
10. Keeping in touch with friends and family around the globe.
The year I turned 35, it took snail mail, the telephone or long-distance travel to keep in touch with friends and family. It wasn’t until 1999 that email service would be widely available.
Today, I routinely communicate with individual or multiple family members and friends via email exchanges. I frequently email animated vocalized cards generated in London to friends and family as far away as Afghanistan for occasions such as holidays, birthdays or anniversaries, to say thank you, to extend sympathy or just to say “hello.”
So, it’s a pleasure to join all of you already in the 65 and over club. I hope you, too, on the eve of a new year will reflect on all the wonderful things you can do now you couldn’t do way back then, when you were 35. Happy New Year!
Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an elder law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain. If you have questions about this column or wish to suggest a topic of interest, she may be contacted at (254)797-0211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.