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Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

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What if you knew that you would live to be 100? Would that change your Here and Now?

Not long ago, I decided that I had reached the half-way point of my life. My parents had both passed away, having barely reached their seventies, and I thought, why should I desire to last any longer? Life at the time seemed much too long already. I had struggled for over thirty years, and in my mind the struggle stretched on beyond me for far longer than I could care to comprehend. In fact, planning to live to 70 was a huge concession: an admission that optimism might actually have a place in my life — I might actually continue to survive the drudgery of life for as long as I had made it thus far. Not that it seemed like such an exciting thing to aspire to, but at least I had a plan that involved having a future to speak of.

Since then, by some mysterious circumstance, my outlook seems to have changed. I find myself happy, most days, and at least capable of avoiding despair on those days that are not so enjoyable. Life begins to have a meaning that I never understood before: simply to live it, perhaps even enjoy it. By whatever miracle my brain has settled into a state of positive vibration, wanting to see and experience and enjoy as much as possible. So this is what chemical balance looks like! So this is what a well-functioning mind can bring to the table. I find myself wanting to create more and more. I want to learn. I want to work more cleverly and come home satisfied in a job well done. I want to spend my leisure time soaking in every sound and every peaceful moment, knowing that they are made of gold and that I can have billions more to glean, if I so choose.

And so I find myself very recently thinking: what if I weren’t at the half-way point? What if I were still somewhere just near the beginning? What if, instead of feeling calloused and jaded, I realized that I have seen so little of what life has to offer? Yes, I would be inviting a greater risk of sorrow and trouble into such a lengthier lifespan, but what if that weren’t a bad thing after all? What if those misfortunes were seen as giving birth to the happy times? I find it difficult to find the words to express what I am coming to realize. And yet: I now feel no urgency to find those explanations, because I could have several more decades to explore this very idea! I could spend a lifetime — a long lifetime — just searching for a way to explain to my young self that a hundred years is not such a bad thing after all.

I could think that I have seen all the good and all the bad that life has to offer, but I would be dreadfully wrong in so many ways. To think of it: I could be just beginning. I could finally decide, at 85 years old, that I am ready to settle down and get married. Or perhaps I will move to France in the year 2045. And perhaps, in just fifteen years, I will decide to return to school and gather more degrees to my name. Maybe I will end up with a career that I had never before dreamed of. Maybe I could read 5,000 books in the course of my lifetime. If I live to 100, I can do just about anything yet. And if I can do anything yet, then I am freed from the burden of trying to control where my life must go in this year, or in this decade. Where do you see yourself in five years? Who is to say? I can try to control that, but it discourages me to worry over it. Now, where do I see myself in 70 years? That is the much more exciting question to ponder! I could be anywhere, and I could be anyone. I could be a different person, one that wouldn’t recognize the self that was so very young but also so very ill in the beginnings of her life. I feel as though I am just being born. I feel young, but without the impatience of the young. I feel fresh, but no longer easily bruised. I feel a hope and a wonder for life that I have never, ever felt before, even in my actual physical childhood. I feel a child again, and yet one just barely precocious enough to know that she has nothing but potential before her. Anything is still possible for me. Happiness, as I have come to find out, is actually possible for me. And who knows: I may find that I have another 100 years of it to enjoy. Because now I know that anything is possible, and now I look forward to it. And now I know that life — even a difficult life — can be an enjoyment. Let’s see where this one takes us.

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