As I prepared to present some new versions of the Why Not Do What You Love? program for the fall semester of 2014, I found myself momentarily in a minor panic. This teacher does not know what to teach . This teacher is on the same life journey as her students–having entered not too long ago, as will we all, the unknowns of loss, the confusions of uncertainty about the future, and the slowing down of aging. Answers about how to live one’s life in this more mature, and more lengthy chapter, are not as clear as they used to be.
My new class is targeted to those 55 – 70. With a new title, I’m Over 55, Now What? It acknowledges that the world has significantly changed with more tough changes just over the horizon. Class enrollees probably share my questions. “Since I’m getting older, how do I want to spend my remaining years, where, and with whom? How will I support myself? What will I contribute? What do I want to leave my children? How can I have more fun in my life? And my concern: “I don’t want to die AFTER my time.”
Our new life longevity has granted us more unscripted years than we expected, more years than those that used to be called “retirement.” Longevity is also granting us more years to be chronically ill, as the medical advances which keep us breathing, keep coming to market. It’s granting us bonus years in which we may be required to seek additional income streams for ourselves. And in an economic milieu in which the middle class has less of a safety net.
Disconnects abound. And the way forward is not yet clear.
Fortunately, I am not alone. Nor are my students. As their teacher/facilitator, I can help us name the issues we never thought we’d face, and convene the conversation in an open space where both fear and creativity can speak. I can orchestrate an atmosphere of support for each other as we meander through to the answers that will work for each of us.
One thing for sure, I can invite them to allow, even embrace, the inherent “not knowing” … On the one hand it is painful. On the other, freeing. It’s the perfect place from which to create something new.