When I was newly married, starting a new career, and in the final semester of my master’s program, I came home one night from class to find my husband waiting for me in our garage. Our family was in our small condo, but he wanted to tell me something before I went in: “Your father died,” he said.
Dead. At 54.
In my mid-20s, I still believed that moms and dads lived forever. I was just getting to know my dad as an adult. He wasn’t supposed to die. He wouldn’t be there to see me graduate as the first in our family to get a master’s degree. He wouldn’t be there to meet his grandchild. He wouldn’t see me grow and change. It all came to a screeching halt.
And suddenly I felt like I had an end date, too. What if my life was over at 54?
My dad died of a heart attack. I went looking for an explanation — and very slowly, a new me started to emerge.
This year, I’ll celebrate my 54th birthday. I write about it frequently.
Am I obsessed with my age? Maybe. It’s difficult to not think about it as it inches closer. But I’m different from him in so many ways.
When he was alive, he didn’t question. He just did. He ate steak and potatoes because that’s what he liked. He spent half a lifetime smoking because that’s what he liked. He didn’t do a lot of exercise because that’s not what he liked.
But I read and researched and discovered that heart disease can be prevented. And so I made some changes.
Aging is something we do every second of every day of our lives. I can’t wish it away — and why would I? Aging is by far the most wonderful, thrilling, and adventurous thing I do. It’s created me. Me. Exactly whom I am. Right here. Right now.
I can think of many times I fell down and couldn’t get up. I can remember the worst days of my life. But even at my worst, I was creating me and living every day to the best of my ability.
Aging gracefully is to age in an elegant and dignified way. I can think of many times I fell down and couldn’t get up. I can remember the worst days of my life. But even at my worst, I was creating me and living every day to the best of my ability.
Every second of every day for the past 54 years, I’ve been a work in progress.
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been born to a newly married couple who landed in Colorado as a part of my father’s military career.
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t lived a middle-class life in a middle-class suburb, going to a middle-class school.
I wouldn’t be me if my mother hadn’t pushed me to go for the degree.
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t won that award, or chosen that job, or made that friend, or said yes to that trip, or fallen down the stairs at that exact moment, or bought that dress, or moved to that house, or become a vegetarian, or started that company, or sold that website, or jumped on that particular train.
That’s why everything I do today is so powerful. My passion, my desires, my business, my writing are all built on what I’ve learned, including from my father, not so long ago.
All of it — every last second — has made me who I am. There is absolutely no one else like me. I am a puzzle that’s slowly taken form. Each piece has its place. Without the one before it, the one today wouldn’t have the same meaning. Each piece has helped me be my best. To live strong. To learn. To thrive.
And to have the opportunity to share it. With a friend. With a reader. With a stranger.
To impact everyone I touch.