Sunday, November 16, 2014

Life is Short

Life is short….

That’s what I hear at least. I had a conversation with my husband this morning about just that. In recent weeks, we have been faced with people our age dying – some suddenly, others battling horrible diseases. It’s so strange to think that we have made it to an age where our peers dying isn't all that strange a thing. Granted, dying in your late-40s is still far too young, but in a country where obesity and laziness are two of the top traits that identify us as Americans (Merica!), it’s not really all that shocking.

But with 50 just around the corner for us, we discussed what it is that keeps us feeling young, because I have to say I do not feel anywhere near 50. Holy cow, 50 is old, right? I don’t feel old. Sure, the body has more aches than it used to, but I don’t feel any different in my head than the person who met and fell in love with a Canadian boy on a hill in Germany 23 years ago.

I think that last statement is part of what keeps us young. Seriously, who can say something like that?

“I’m American and I met my Canadian husband on a hill in Germany.”

I grew up in a town where many of my peers (and family members for that matter) graduated high school and never left. Some went off to college, yet still came back to that same small town (for the record, just the thought makes me physically ill!). For them, I guess the consistency of being in that same place is comforting. To my mind, that is the definition of stagnation. Adventure keeps me alive!

“Who cares where it takes us? Let’s get on and see where it goes.”

In 2013, my husband and I went to Shanghai, China, for our 20th wedding anniversary. We were living in Japan at the time, so it isn't like it was a long trip, but still…CHINA! When we walked off of the plane, having no real idea yet of what life in China was like, we were freaking out a little, but at the same time it was so damn exhilarating! 

Excitement, fear, anticipation, curiosity…my heart raced with it all!

We soon found out that China (or Shanghai, at least) is nothing like we feared “Red China” would be. It was an amazingly vibrant city with friendly people, beautiful architecture and art, shopping, restaurants…it had everything. One day, as we were walking along The Bund, we came to a window selling ferry tickets. Because we could not read Chinese, we had no idea where the ferry was going. Mike suggested we buy tickets and get on. My initial reaction was, “What the hell is wrong with you? What if it carries us 20 miles down the river and dumps us off in some unknown place?” As his response above so obviously demonstrates, he didn't care.

We got on the ferry that day. Turns out it did nothing more than take us across the river to Pudong, but that one leap into the unknown has become my motto in life. Don’t fear where the path will take you; instead, trust in yourself to be able to deal with whatever adventure lies at the end of the path.

I think this mentality is what keeps us young. Yes, we are almost 50. Mike just retired after 24 years in the military. He has a master’s degree in health services administration. While he waits out the slow hiring process for the executive level positions he is applying for, he’s decided to go to culinary school. He’s always loved cooking and works some serious magic in a kitchen, so why not? It’s never too late to chase a dream. 

In that same vein, I am considering getting a master’s degree. I finished two bachelor’s degrees in 2001 and then decided it was more important to be home with my children, so now I have two pieces of paper that do nothing for me because I don’t have experience in those fields. So maybe a master’s degree is a good idea. Or maybe I just want to get certified to teach English as a second language so that we can go to another country for a while.

OH! And I want to get braces. I've always hated my teeth. I despise pictures of myself because of my teeth. So I want to get braces. Who cares that I’m almost 50…right?

Nothing protects us from dying. Absolutely nothing. You can be in your late 70s, having lived a healthy lifestyle forever and get cancer. Or, you can be in your late 70s, having smoked for over 50 years, be overweight, and still golf three times a week. You can drop dead of a stroke or a heart attack at 48. You just don’t know when your time will come. But I think keeping yourself alive…having an adventure every day, even if it is just to walk down a street you've never explored, or go to a city with no plan on where you’re going to go, but just to walk and see what you find – is what keeps you young. Mind, body and soul need an adventure.

Get on the ferry. I dare you.