I was taking my regular walk New Year’s eve around one of the Disney theme parks when I realized that I really didn’t need or want anything on offer. Not that I’ve become a hater of the Mouse or decided to become some sort of ascetic (check out my belt size–I don’t fit the profile). It just came to me that I’m at the point where money or the things it acquires doesn’t drive me to do what I want to do with my life. What do I want as I head into 2020? Read on.
If You’re Not After Money, What’s the Point?
The above is not to say that I will stop billing my customers. I still have bills like rent, insurance, and groceries to pay. And yes, I’ll continue to be a productive citizen and paid contractor. I even stand a good chance of paying off my remaining debts in the first quarter of the new year. I can focus on practical things like save for retirement; look to the future care of my aging parents; or even take the occasional vacation. My obligations won’t go away, they’ll simply change.
Change to what?
That’s the challenge thrown up by advancing age: you move past survival and sustainability to success–however you define it. I guess the turning of the new year did what turning 50 or traveling halfway around the world did not: give me a little perspective. I discussed this topic last year, and identified some of the ways one can do this:
- Personal giving and philanthropy
I think this year I have a better idea of how I can accomplish all of the above. I’ve identified a handful of causes I consider worthy. I have my book back from the editor so I can get my literary mentoring legacy in publication. I have a friend’s book to help edit, and I’m looking forward to that because it, too, will speak to the generations after mine. “Creating” might not come through fiction, but through writing I do on behalf of the causes I value.
And yes, there is another useful way a graying person can leave a decent legacy, and that’s through the quality of his/her relationships: familial, friendships, professional relationships, romantic, and others. I do better with some of those than others, but I now have it on my radar to operate with intent: to be more helpful, be kinder, be the kind of person others want to have around.
In Charles Dickens’ memorable story, A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge is shown by three spirits how, as he aged, he withdrew farther and farther from the true intention of Christmas. By the end, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge how he comes to a dark and unloved end, his passing unremarked, save for some harsh, biting words by his survivors or greed by those acquiring his possessions. Is that how you want to be remembered when you’re gone? I’ve decided I don’t. It will take work. I’m no wiser than Scrooge in some ways, and I can let my mercenary efforts get in the way of doing something meaningful with my time.
If you’re one of my typical readers (and thus younger than me), you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 to do constructive or helpful things for your fellow human beings. Just keep in mind that this is not a one-and-done activity (writing a single check would be a copout). Nor is this a “New Year’s resolution” sort of thing, but rather a lifestyle change. As Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Present put it,
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Time to get down to business.