Staying Young: It’s About Questions, Not Answers

Lisa writes: Recently a friend told me of a thrilling career opportunity that he had been offered and accepted. He and his wife are in their late 50s and the opportunity involved relocating to Asia. Excitement was written all over his face as he said to me, “It is so much easier to do this now with the kids gone, and us staying young. Or at least believing that we are still young.”

To me those words said everything. He looked, and I am going to guess felt, younger than I have seen him in years as he told me of the job he had never expected to be offered, in an industry from which he had retired a decade earlier. When I watched him I felt a little like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. I wanted what he was having.

On a parallel track I am watching my nearly grown sons go out into the world for the first time. They are experiencing life in the big city, minus mom and dad. When I cut through the thick layer of jealousy that comes from wanting to be my children, I realize that both my sons and my friend are at a moment in life where so many things are unknown and so much feels possible. The reason my friend is staying young is that at this moment, his life is much like my children’s, filled with more questions than answers.
Dock, looking out from the dock, rustic dock

Young adulthood, for most of us was filled with big questions; where would we live, who would we marry and what would we do? But then there were the seemingly smaller ones that turn out to be much bigger than we can know. Who will be my friends? What will I believe in? What kind of a person will I become?

Adulthood is the long pursuit of answers to our own life’s questions, but when we find the answers and the questions become too few, what do we have?

Parenthood has the sense of the unknown built into its very structure and fools us into believing that our youth has been prolonged and our journey uncharted. My father-in-law used to always say about my kids, “they keep you young.” I thought he meant that the sheer effort involved with raising young kids would keep me fit and in touch with the youth culture.

I now think I was wrong. Our kids kept us young because they made the landscape of our lives ever changing. Even if we didn’t move house or job, or take on new challenges or adventures, our lives as their parents never stood still as we followed them through the stages of childhood.

Parenthood lulls us into thinking that life still has so many questions, but the questions are in our children’s lives, not ours, and it is easy to confuse the two.

Staying young is more than trying a new activity or hobby. While avocations can spark new interests, in reality, if I take up knitting or travel to Hawaii, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. There may be novelty, but no real questions. Novelty is like eating candy when you want a meal. Briefly you will feel a rush of exuberance, but it will leave you hungry.

My friend has left New York and I have no doubt that his journey will be successful. Part of his success comes from the partnership I can see that he has with his wife. She has developed a thriving business in our town, she speaks only English and has deep roots in our community. When he came to her with this opportunity she could have focused on these very real facts. Instead she saw adventure, a new country and new language and most importantly, I believe, that leap into the unknown.

The feeling of youth is that vibration, a heady mixture of fear, thrill and adventure that ran through our bodies and minds when we were young. We experience it when we don’t know what will come next in some element of our lives. When it is sapped from us, when we feel that life’s questions have all been answered, that the scenery, real or in our minds, has stopped moving, it is then that we lose that wonderful link with our vibrant pasts.

 

 

Comments

  1. happyoutlook says

    Such a wonderful post that focuses us on the possibilities yet to come. I like thinking that my husband and I are staying young too and have many adventures ahead of us.

  2. says

    I want what you and he are having too. You are a joy to read.

  3. says

    Such wonderful advice. Age really is a state of mind. My father was 57 when I was born and I never knew he was “old.” He went to the beach, amusement parks and worked into his 80’s. Let’s just say he didn’t like following rules, even the inevitable ones of growing old (in numbers).

    • says

      Such a gift to have a parent with this wonderful attitude. Particularly in his time 60 would have been thought of as old, now it is just time for a new beginning. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. says

    I like that – yes, I think being open to adventure helps keep our perspectives youthful. Better to think young than to dwell on getting older. And to do things while our health is good. I think it would be nice to live vibrantly all the way to the end and then just drop dead.

    • says

      I think so many of our generation will, there is a sense of trying new things (maybe because of the technological age we grew up in) that will keep us looking forward.

  5. says

    Lisa, what a joy to read this morning! This empty nest, middle aged stage IS so like being an adolescent again – wondering about so many things and open to new possibilities. Growth. Questions. Being open and curious. I’m going up to your link and seeing what it is your friend is doing.

  6. Steve swartzman says

    Really beautiful entry, Lisa. This captures in many respects why I fear so much the boys growing up. What then will keep me young? The journey only grows harder.

    • says

      Think the answer has to be to not let them grow up….though I never did quite figure out how to pull that off…

  7. says

    A beautiful and wise post filled with hope. So true that the unknown keeps us young, keeps us searching, keeps us moving. Perhaps the being scared about what’s to come is part of the secret. I’m looking forward to being scared… at least a teensy bit. Thank you for this.

    • says

      You know what I forgot to add, Lisa, how grandkids play into this…not sure I know, but worth considering.

  8. Joanie says

    On Staying Young…ahhh, how this resonates. How to keep searching, learning and experiencing things outside our little worlds while maintaining the stability and security, which are equally valued and yearned for, that we’ve created over the years. Can you move to Asia and still see your kids on a weekend or meet your best friend for a fast cup of coffee and conversation? Would that it were…

    • says

      Not sure you can see your kids from Asia, or your best friend. Adventures come at a cost, but they do keep us young.

  9. says

    My kids are 11 and 15, so I’m hyper focused on helping them launch in the next decade. But it’s great to have people articulating my next step so that I’m better prepared. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  10. says

    Love this: “The feeling of youth is that vibration, a heady mixture of fear, thrill and adventure that ran through our bodies and minds when we were young.”

    I guess I still feel young, then. Because I’m very excited about the adventure that’s my life.

    • says

      If you feel that way, then you are young. So many of us get into routines and loose that sense of the unknown, sounds like you still have it.

  11. says

    This is one of the pluses of having children young. There’s so much pressure on kids to way until they get it all figured out before they settle down and have kids, and I think this is valid, but there’s also great reasons not to wait. Who knew that there was life after 50? Maybe this is a new invention and that’s why nobody told us this before. I don’t know. But I’m like your friend. My life has more questions than answers right now, and while it is scary, in part because I have far less years to find answers than I did at 20, it is also exhilarating.

    • says

      Chloe, I know few people who are more on an adventure with their lives than you. You may be actually winding the clock backwards!

  12. says

    Hear Hear! I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s like that old adage, when you stop learning, you stop living. I’m pretty sure the Gen Fab gang will help keep us all young!

  13. says

    Yes! That leap into the void is such an important part of “staying young.” Life offers us these chances from time to time, and it’s up to us to decide to take them.
    Karen

  14. Pat says

    The secret is to seeing life through eyes of youth as an adventure with endless possibilities even as we age.

  15. Carpool Goddess says

    Beautifully written as always. I never thought about it before, but having children does keep us young for all the reasons you state. Here’s to a life with more questions than answers!

  16. says

    Adventures are great and to do them with vitality and good health is a great opportunity at any age!

  17. says

    Great take on aging gracefully. I find that the words “I’m not done yet” keep going through my head.

  18. says

    This is wonderfully, thoughtfully written. I pick up a feeling of wistful melancholy – looking back and mulling over life. You are dead on that it is the questions, the “thirst for knowledge” as my high school philosophy teacher said, that keeps us young and thriving. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Helene says

    That is exactly what we mid-lifers need to give us a new lease on life: an exciting opportunity that makes use of our talents and validates our contributions. How nice for your friend!

  20. Jackie says

    I loved this…. It made me think, though, about all the questions I still don’t have the answers to!

  21. says

    I don’t think of myself as adventurous, but I love newness. It’s why I always want to move after being someplace a few years. It’s thrilling to be someplace new. I would love to move to Asia, just for a while. That would be so exciting.

  22. says

    That is beautifully put.

    My mom said something once about having adventures after my brothers and I were grown. She was presented with the opportunity to do something risky, and she realized in the past she wouldn’t have done it because children were depending on her. Now that we were on our own she could make different choices. I often wonder how adventurous I may or may not be in the future, but right now my kids need me to be safe and stable, and that dictates what I do.

    • says

      I can certainly see her point. There is such a feeling of responsibility when the kids are small. Not sure how that will feel to be fully lifted but it has to be one of the silver linings of an empty nest.

  23. says

    Wow, what a great new perspective. How empowering to realize that it’s better to keep asking questions rather than knowing all the answers. So happy to be on this new adventure of midlife blogging with you! xo

  24. says

    Children do enable us to see the world through their eyes – anew. But we’re more able to take that leap into the unknown than we realize. Sometimes it’s emotional. Sometimes logistical. Never without a bit of fear… Always interesting!

    Such a thoughtful post.

  25. Anonymous says

    I agree 100%, aging on the outside means nothing to me…but I am not about to grow old on the inside. If my body can physically do it…I want to keep doing it.

    Great post!

    Holly

  26. says

    Excellent post…loved the story of your friend. I know what I do…teaching and blogging…help to keep me young, because they are different every day…never the same. It keeps me vibrant and engaged. Good work!!

  27. says

    I was an empty nester before I even turned 40….a symptom of starting REALLY young. Not going through that decisive time in young adulthood (because I was focused on taking care of other people rather than me) to find who and what you are – it took until I was in my 50’s to experience that “Gee what do I want to be when I grow up sensation”….until then I was just somebody’s mom, somebody’s wife and whatever title I had within my career. Wish I would have had a mentor to tell me then what I know now….

  28. says

    Very encouraging…you are never too old to pull up stakes and try something new. Very exciting!

  29. says

    What a wonderful opportunity. We’re as young as we let ourselves be and our numeric age shouldn’t define us. My best professional endeavors have come to me after the age of 45, most likely because I finally realized my destiny was my own hands.

  30. says

    Goodness, I just love this especially since it would appear that I had many more answer in my 30’s than I seem to have now. So I will continue to question where my life is actually headed, and just take it day by day, seeing where it all leads … like an adventure!

  31. Moving For Love says

    As we get older and our nests get empty, this is perfect time to rediscover ourselves or take the steps to follow your passions or dreams. It doesn’t matter if it’s to try a cooking class or to move to move to that warmer climate that you always talked about doing. In our company we see this so often that it is a true perk to see people follow their dreams!

  32. says

    Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

Trackbacks

  1. […] now I find I want to stalk my kids.  I want to be 21 years old and see New York City anew. I want to live in an apartment with almost no belongings and hold […]

  2. […] community and we can become just a little too settled. Quitting our jobs or pulling up roots and traveling the world is not an option for many. Blogging takes us into an ever-expanding world in constant contact with […]