“I wish I’d done these things all my life”

A reader, T., writes:

This past year, at 57, I’ve taken up learning to ride English style, learning to row (sculling and sweeps), and improving my archery skills in the back yard. I ride twice a week, and row at least 3 times a week. I wish I’d done these things all my life, and I am beyond grateful that I am getting to do them now.

Comment: Interviewing people for my book, I was struck by how many stories I heard like this one, of people in midlife and late adulthood discovering joy in new hobbies and pursuits. One woman was making jewelry; another was rescuing raptors.

Notice, though, what’s happening here reflects change in who we are, not just what we do. As we age, we gain capacity to find satisfaction in pursuits and relationships that might have seemed trivial or time-wasting to our younger, more ambitious, more status-oriented selves.

That’s part of why the relinquishment of social ambition in later adulthood—the chase for big achievements—does not seem like a loss or impoverishment. As we become more able to find hidden depths in simple things, we let go of the burden of grandiosity.

“I wish I’d done these things all my life,” says T. But chances are that if she had done the same things 25 years ago, they would have felt different. To some extent, she is experiencing the upside of aging.

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