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I'm nearly 50.

So, I suppose, given our propensity to carve our lives up into milestones, this might explain why I am feeling unusually reflective and contemplative these days. …

This is not unusual for me at such times – I have felt exactly the same way at ages 30 and 40. (At 20 my life was too turbulent for any sort of coherent reflection!)

So there is a desire to take stock, see where I am in relation to life's journey, and look forward to the new. So what is different this time?

One big difference relates to work. At 40 I still saw many years stretching ahead, was conscious of the need to make career related decisions and choices, was still paying at least limited attention to the concept of getting ahead.

Now, none of these concerns seem nearly as important. I have reached essentially the top rung of my particular career path – any further advancement would mean changing my work routine considerably. I have explored these potential opportunities within my immediate field and am not convinced that the advantages, primarily more money, would outweigh the disadvantages, i.e. more supervisory work and less hands-on science. Of course, events such as funding running out for my current job would act a catalyst for change but that is not an immediate worry.

Furthermore, I am now old enough that I can see retirement on the horizon. Not feeling the need to prove anything further, I can take my remaining work years much more calmly.

Integral to this feeling of calmness is the other major change over the past decade. Through a very dedicated devotion to saving and investing over at least the past 15 years, I can now say that we, as a family, are now secure financially. This removes an enormous amount of pressure in terms of our current and future lives. It's a change I am not sure sure I have fully internalized – I still worry about money – but an objective look reveals the difference. This gets thrown into very sharp relief compared to some of my contemporaries who have amassed little or no savings and carry a heavy debt load.

Still, far more important than either of these factors is the emotional reward, stability and joy provided by my family over the past decade and more. This has provided the bedrock that is going to carry me through what I perceive to be a very happy remainder of my life. Life may well throw up difficulties, but now I feel confident enough in spirit to overcome whatever obstacles we will face.

Life is good.

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