Another Milestone in my Life
I just passed another milestone in my life a couple of month ago, although it was not something I looked forward to, much less something I wanted to celebrate. I had dreaded it for a whole year and was still in denial when I finally crossed the threshold. Nothing in the past had fully prepared me for that moment, not those once-inspiring self-help books and famous quotes, which, all of a sudden, seemed to become useless and meaningless to me.
I had no interest in getting older, or getting wiser or mellower for that matter. I felt resentful and helplessness when I noticed what happened to my physical being over the last decade, gray hair slowly and silently creeping upon me, the skin, I was once proudest of, literally turning from blemish-free peach skin to potato skin. The sad thing is that nothing else about my look will get any better or even stay the same in the future.
Turning 50 isn’t the end of world, but it was like a quantum leap transporting me to another dimension, and I had to reset my mind and shift my thinking completely. Facing yet another crossroad in my life, I asked myself: what is next? Shall I continue to work hard or to slow down to smell the roses? How will I spend my allotted time from now on? Shall I spend more time on maintenance, a vain attempt to turn back the clock, or on mental activities to fend off Alzheimer’s? Shall I continue to work on my English, even though I would probably never have the chance to deliver a speech to a large crowd or write a book that sells?
Trying to push those mind-boggling thoughts out of my mind, I watched several movies, including The Shawshank Redemption and Julie and Julia. I had watched those movies before, but this time I watched them with a fresh pair of eyes, sharpened by my newly acquired reading glasses. I had a few “light bulb” moments while watching them. These movies inspired and enlightened me in a new way. I was so touched by The Shawshank Redemption that I want to be like Andy Dufresne, the main character in the movie, to “get busy living”. I want to be like Julia Child in Julie and Julia, finding something I am passionate about and keeping tremendously interested in it till my ripe old age. And finally, I read Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours with WenQing, which triggered an enlightening epiphany for me: the meaning of life is to live EVERY HOUR to the fullest, no matter how old you are, and the pleasure of life can be found in THE HOURS when you feel happy and satisfied, regardless of your age.
Yet another inspiration came to me a few days ago while walking with my friend and colleague on the new rubber track on the campus. It sure felt good to walk on a springy track, the sun shining softly and breeze blowing gently. My colleague is one year older than me, and we have been friends for over ten years, growing together professionally and personally. She told me that she just started to take guitar lessons as well as spend 15 minutes writing each day. She said she always wanted to learn how to play guitar and finally she has time to do it. She is a good writer, teaching Technical Writing, writing grants and papers, and editing her graduate students’ theses/dissertations on a daily basis, yet she still wants to keep improving her craft. She said that she does not want to lose her edge as she gets older. Her words struck a chord with me, because I was feeling that I was losing my edge to younger people with a creative mind, an eager spirit, and a new set of skills. The fact of life is: we either keep moving forward or we get left behind, like what the Red Queen said in Through the Looking-Glass: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Yes, I will.