By John Bonanni
You think you are ahead of the game, having dutifully sat on your 401 k like a plump chicken anticipating a mother lode hatch. You delude yourself, thinking you are the new thirty, at sixty plus years. You associate with those who could be your children; forgetting that your accumulated years have stored a wealth of experience and priceless advice. You plunge into new and contemporary environments, revel in brash viewpoints, spontaneous exploration, indulge in every youth-enhancing activity and feel good medication. You buy all the over-the-counter help you can get your hands on.
Not satisfied with that, you coerce your doctor to prescribe a myriad of medications to alleviate depression, breathe easier from your lungs, urinate on schedule and perform on demand. Thanks to creative advertising, you have discarded the unhappy mask from your face, the overweight elephant off your chest, the billowing balloons of urgency that accompany you everywhere and the acquisition of a motorcycle to impress a potential date with your significant other.
What’s next? You understand hipsters. The younger generation’s world is now your new trendsetting oyster and you enthusiastically plunge into the world of Amazon, Spotify and await delivery of the razor of the month. Not bad. You even read Urban Dictionary. You, who smoked defiantly at Grateful Dead concerts, reclaim your story as relevant. Some listeners respond politely, giving you confidence to continue. With your steadily increasing medical needs in check, your grey hair is a brilliant auburn, your purchase of bargain vodka by the half gallon rather than an expensive liter of trendy potato juice reveals your age-related thrift. Your connection becomes more significant every day. The things that move and shake are money, youth and beauty; all of which you are steadily managing graciously. That immature, dismissive irreverence you had in your youth telegraphs to others.
Beyond your successful transition from hardworking adult to pleasure seeking retiree, you realize something is missing. Your wisdom tells you that there is more than the chardonnay at five and the grilled grouper at six. You realize that relevance is expressed in humility and not egalitarianism with youth. It is time to give back, to provide a lasting impression upon those not yet well-versed in life experiences as you are. You help them to avoid mistakes you made in your own life by this wisdom of yours. You can assure them; delivered without criticism. They may not immediately acknowledge your contribution, but they will heed your advice in the privacy of their own thoughts. This is effective only if your actions and words are without accusation. Think of your contribution as an investment; one that you may not live to see come to fruition. This does not serve you. It heals you. It serves the future and because of your actions, their life will be more meaningful because they realize value in each other. If you can convince them of their own worth, then you are indeed ahead of the game.
Don’t fear your age. Be free to quit the need to prove everything, to purchase the promise that sustains youthful prowess and monkey boy virility. You’ve been there, done that. Bring encouragement to everyone you meet. Humility is an act of confidence in human dignity. Now is your defining time to give back. Then go and have your chardonnay.
John spent a career in theatre management on tour, Broadway, Radio City Music Hall and many places in between managing every sensitive personality he encountered. He now writes about them. He is currently in the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing program at Western Connecticut State University.