When I hit 55, I did a mathematical calculation about how many months, weeks and days I had in my life until I turned 75.
That’s roughly 240 months, 1,042 weeks or 7,300 days, in case you wondered.
Seventy-five years old! From the perspective of a 55-year-old, that seemed like the outside range of being able to enjoy a full life. I reasoned that by that time I would no longer be able to enjoy summers as I did, or remain physically or professionally active or take part in a whole range of other things that I was involved in.
Today I believe that thinking was an epic fail.
As 75 approaches this July, I realize I arbitrarily set the alarm at 75-years-old as an end date, not a benchmark. If I hadn’t accomplished something by then, well, game over.
I wasn’t consciously planning on passing away after blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake obscured by a forest of flames. But by looking at 75 as an age-related deadline, I was unintentionally about to pull over on the shoulder of the road of life.
Today I want to paraphrase the late Yogi Berra.
I have come to a fork in the road, and I’m going to take it.
One positive outgrowth of that age-55 math & age exercise was drafting a short list of things I wanted to accomplish beyond just normal life. The three things seem pretty modest in retrospect: learn to play a musical instrument, become proficient in a foreign language and publish a novel.
How’d I do?
I published three eco-thriller novels in four years.
My Spanish is good enough that I can bumble along relatively confident conversing with most speakers of Español.
And while I would not be comfortable jamming with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, I enjoy strumming and singing, alone or with other Uke addicts.
So what about the next 20 years?
I don’t have a solid list yet. And I don’t need one. What I do have is a swirling cloud of ideas that seem to grow all the time. What’s different about these evolving swirling ideas is that I’m more focused on how to manifest joy or satisfaction, not simply check off another accomplishment.
It’s taken me many years to understand it’s the doing and the process that’s most important, not claiming a ribbon or trophy.
Still, here’s a tiny peek into that swirling cloud of ideas I’m mulling:
- Read all 50 books by American author Jack London in the order they were published.
Jack London’s life and works had an extraordinarily positive effect on my professional and personal life. I credit him with saving my life as a teen during winter months of snowy confinement in Upstate New York, and prompting my career as a writer. I owe him a thorough reading of all his work. Plus many of the works I have already read will be like meeting old friends. Writing a tribute about him – perhaps to him – sounds like fun, too.
- Take up the piano/keyboard.
While the ukulele is fun, its limitations have always haunted me. One thing that comes to mind is eventually learning to play “As Time Goes By,” the famous tune from the film “Casablanca.”
- Learn American Sign Language. I became intrigued with ASL watching the last two seasons of the television program “New Amsterdam.” Actress Sandra Mae Frank – who is deaf – played a deaf surgeon on the show. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her when she was signing. Her range of facial expressions easily matched her flashing fingers and limbs. I know how much learning Spanish expanded my communication horizons. If I could communicate with deaf folks, too? Wow.
- Write a memoir. Or two. Two titles/books come to mind with quite different focuses. One is “Don Quixote at the Keyboard,” a look at my 50-plus years as a journalist and writer. I joke that I still have secrets I never revealed from my years as a reporter in California. And it’s true. I could relieve myself of some of them at last. Plus the tales of journalistic adventures and misadventures over the decades are legion.
The second title is “Bookends: East to West/West to East.” I spent three semesters at Villanova University outside Philadelphia where the U.S. 30 highway was a looming presence in my college experience. Fifty-plus years later, my life is now based at the other side of the country in Oregon, living along the westerly terminus of U.S. 30. I dream of tracing U.S. 30 on a road trip from one side of the country to the other, perhaps finding America and myself along the way.
- Seek out meaningful volunteer opportunities. There is such need in so many areas. I wonder if I should adopt the “New Amsterdam” staff mantra and ask “How can I help?” And when I learn ASL? That’s a bonus skill for helping in many arenas.
- Keep checking the swirling cloud. If travel is more about the journey than the destination, so is aging dynamically.
BIO: Michael J. Fitzgerald is an editor with Dynamic Aging 4 Life magazine. In 2023, he celebrated 50 years as a professional journalist and writer. He writes a weekly column titled “Write On” for the daily Finger Lakes Times newspaper in Geneva, NY. He is also an editor and writer with the Richmond Pulse newspaper in Richmond, California. Originally a native New Yorker, he retired as a professor of journalism from California State University, Sacramento. He and his wife Sylvia Fox sailed their yacht Sabbatical to Mexico where they lived for almost a decade. He currently resides in Oregon, living in a floating home on a tributary of the Willamette River near Portland.
Michael J. Fitzgerald is an editor with Dynamic Aging 4 Life magazine. In 2023, he celebrated 50 years as a professional journalist and writer. He writes a weekly column titled “Write On” for the daily Finger Lakes Times newspaper in Geneva, NY. He is also an editor and writer with the Richmond Pulse newspaper in Richmond, California.
Originally a native New Yorker, Michael retired as a professor of journalism from California State University, Sacramento. He and his wife Sylvia Fox sailed their yacht Sabbatical to Mexico where they lived for almost a decade. Michael currently resides in Oregon, living in a floating home on a tributary of the Willamette River near Portland.