When ever change happens in our lives it is challenging and frightening. It is often thought to be better to wrap yourself up in the familiar rather than setting off in a new direction. This becomes even more the case as people get older.
One of the reasons for this is that change may involve much more than it would for a younger person. As we age we collect more familiarity, whether it be friends, property, or other material things. We get used to doing things in a particular way and almost do it on autopilot.
Cultural norms also help to form guilt feelings that we use as excuses not to change. If we are thinking of uprooting, should we leave the children or the aging parent? Is it our responsibility to put our own lives on hold for the sake of others or is that the excuse we use to resist change?
We also use our age as a reason for resisting change. We tell ourselves that we are too old to change direction. We see risk and adventure as the province of the young. And yet these days fifty takes us about halfway through our life since starting work. Are we really expected to repeat the last 30 years for the rest of our lives?
Unfortunately, we have failed to recognise the longer life span that we have compared to our parents and grandparents. We see fifty as over the hill and sixty as joining the queue for the cemetery!
In the last 20 years I have decided to make a living from international consultancy, have written and published business books, have moved to Turkey 14 years ago, started a second home in Malaysia three years ago and published my first children’s book one year ago. (Twenty years ago, I was fifty-five, so you do the maths!)
But work wasn’t the only change that had to be made. Change brought a whole host of new cultural experiences as well as new friends who were also adapting and benefiting from widening their horizons. It allowed me to see so many new places and to learn so much more than I had done sitting in middle England or going on short touristy holidays to beach resorts.
As to children, they too are in their forties and the paradox is that we get more quality time with them when we visit the UK than we ever did when we lived there. Moving away we discovered that once they grow up they survive much better without mummy and daddy!
Recently I spent some time talking to someone who is experiencing all those guilt feelings of leaving the children, despite not being able to identify what these now-adults need from them. They also worried about having given up their career and losing their individual identity.
And yet they had things in their life that they had always wanted to do but had never had time for. They did not realise that a job did not define them as a person. A person is who you are, not what you do.
I realise that the person is a few months away from 50 and that people place far too much emphasis on numbers with a zero at the end! But if only they could see that only just over halfway through their life the slate has been wiped clean. With perhaps thirty or forty years ahead of them they can experience so much more than by repeating the last thirty or forty years.
Now is the chance to go to new places, meet new people, experience different cultures, do those things you have been dying to do but never had time because of work and bringing up children.
You have done your bit. You have contributed through your employment; you have done your job as a parent and now you should be grasping the opportunity to do things for yourself and to grasp this chance to change. Don’t let the young have all the fun.