This year I will hit what to me seems a significant milestone, a sexagenarian one. And as I approach my 60th birthday, I do so with a bit of trepidation as to what it will feel like. As I think back over all my years, each time I turned a new decade, it was a time of reflection back over the decade ending and a look forward at what might be in store for me in the next 10 years.
My memories of when I turned 10 are not as clear as I’m sure they once were but I know of at least two thoughts I had looking beyond my single digit years. First, I looked forward to becoming a teenager since that was the second stage of maturation into adulthood. But even more significantly, I looked forward to turning 16 so that I could get my driver’s license and finally be able to drive a car!
My teenage years were pretty typical of most anyone: getting a driver’s license, getting my first part-time job, buying my first car, graduating from high school and entering college. But interestingly, by the time I turned 20, I remember thinking finally, I am no longer just a teenager—I’m a real adult!
My 20s proved to be most fruitful advances in my adulthood. I graduated from college and graduate school, got my first and second real jobs, got married, and had two of our three children all before I turned 30.
In fact not long after I turned 30, a popular television show began to air called “thirtysomething” that favorably portrayed life for a group of young professional baby-boomers in their 30s. It made being thirty-something “cool.” All through my 30s, I never considered myself old, just the right age. That is up until I was 39.
Once I turned 39, I began to realize that I would be 40 on my next birthday and that was the first time I really began to think of myself as old. And as do many others at that age, I went through a midlife crisis before I turned 40 although unlike others, mine was automotive in nature. But once I actually turned 40, it wasn’t that big of a deal—almost anticlimactic. In fact, it was a most enjoyable decade and I happily experienced seeing our kids off to college and graduate school. It was the beginning of a relationship with our kids, adult to adult.
The week I turned 50, my oldest son and daughter both graduated with their Master’s degrees. Although I recognized I had been alive for half a century, it too was a fun-filled decade and my wife and I became empty nesters during this time.
Professionally though, life has been a bit tumultuous in my 50s having survived two company buy-outs in five years. But at the same time, it was a time when I really began to think about retiring and it was exciting to consider the opportunities I would have in retirement.
Late last year, I even reached that significant tax milestone age of 59 ½ when, according to IRS rules, you can technically retire and begin to draw from your tax deferred accounts without tax penalty. Although many years earlier, I had learned that retirement was not about age, but rather about money as the “Amway business plan” was presented to me, it was still nice to know that the nest egg that I had been contributing to for many decades was now officially available.
But now that I am about to turn 60, an age that one can conceivably retire early, I am thinking that is old. I’m sure part of my thoughts are influenced by the fact that both my parents died in their 70s.
So will I feel old when I turn 60? Or will my 60s be my new 50s? Only time will tell.
A few months ago, I told my wife that I was absolutely loving the years we were having and the experiences we were enjoying as we welcomed three new grandchildren into the world.
One thing for certain, I will celebrate this 60th milestone and start ticking off the years with each new adventure.