Tuesday, September 16, 2008

When I'm Old

I've been thinking about who I am today and the kind of person I'll be when I get to my 50's and 60's - when I'm an empty nester and a grandpa. I don't think it's something that suddenly happens when your kids leave the house or you become a grandparent. I think I'm on a certain trajectory right now with all of the decisions and priorities I make now shaping who I'll be at that point. But hey, I could be way off. I'm not there yet. These are based on no one person in particiular, but a cross-section of people I've seen do things really right, and really wrong - all probably doing the best job they know based on how they were raised and the card's that life has dealt them.

I figure I'll pull this list out in 20 years and make sure I'm still on track. Here's what I'm pretty sure of so far:
  1. I'm planning on never trimming my already vast ear hair so I'm one of those old guys with a shrub on the side of my head.
  2. I will wear lots of plaid shorts, goofy hats and hawiian shirts. No big change there.
  3. I want to use the extra time to serve others. I want to use the knowledge and wisdom that I hope I'll have attained at that point to make the world a better place. I want to value the downtrodden, the least of those.
  4. Instead of dying with lots of money and stuff, I want to go out having been generous and helped as many hurting people as possible.
  5. I want to continue to stay connected with my family and make my siblings and nieces and nephews a priority. We get together for any conceivable reason right now and I hope that never stops. I want to still call every family member on their birthday, and continue to call all of my siblings on a regular basis.
  6. I want to have lots of great traditions in my family and honor and prioritize those.
  7. I want to be very connected with my kids. As my kids are older, I want to have the kind of relationship with them that is deep and mutual. Friends of mine talk about their relationship with their parents being one of the closest in their lives where they talk on a regular basis. I want to have that with my kids. I want to call my kids often and have them call me. I want to be involved directly in their lives and not think I'm connected just because I know what's going on in their life through a blog.
  8. I want to make my grandkids a priority. I will not get so busy in my own life that my grandkids become an afterthought and I end up disconnected from them. I don't want to be the grandparent whom my kids say to their parents, "Do we have to go over to go see Grandpa Kurt?" Cathie's tells me stories of how much time she would spend with her grandparents growing up, including Saturday breakfasts, and even now you can see how much she loves spending time with them and they love spending time with her. That's the way I want to be.
  9. I will stop driving when I'm the guy going 55 in the left-hand lane.
  10. I don't want to grow old mentally just because I age chronoligically. I want to be the old guy who still lives life to the fullest. I want to keep doing new, exciting things and pushing myself to the limit, even when I'm old.
  11. When I die, I want to go out big rather than aging gracefully.
  12. I don't want to live in a self-centered universe. I'll never be that important or that interesting and I'm not worth being the center of my own universe. I want to be other-centered, seeking to serve and offer grace to those around me instead bitter condemnation to others.
Most importantly:
I don't want to let my life get so "busy" with stuff that seems important (and in the big picture, really isn't) that I lose sight of the truly important things. Check out Pancreatic Cancer victim Randy Pausch's last lecture on Time Management for a great perspective on this.

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