Sunday, November 13, 2016

Holy Smoke! -by Libby James

 I feel lucky. My four children are now AARP eligible, ranging in age from 52 to 57, and all of them have arrived at incredibly interesting intersections in their lives and careers. I feel so fortunate to be able to watch as the action unfolds. 

All are married.  Each family has produced three offspring, now between the ages of 27 and 11. Their parents currently have satisfying, exciting jobs that are keeping them challenged and engaged.

But, as the song says, “The times, they are a changing.” And before very long, it’s a reasonable gamble to say that all or most of my children will be doing something different. It will happen because of outside forces, such as company buyouts and changes or it will happen because they decide to make a change.

My kids worked hard and have been successful enough that they are now in a position to make some life decisions based on factors beyond simply generating income. All but the very youngest of their children will be out of high school by this time next year. Five are already college graduates and another will be in 2017. Three are in or contemplating college, numbers 10 and 11 will graduate from high school in 2017 and the “caboose” will be a middle-schooler next fall.

I believe these parents of my grandchildren are in enviable positions. Yet they are at a time in their lives that while invigorating, are complicated and possibly terrifying. They have spent decades in their careers but are at least another decade away from retirement. Three of them have years of experience in the business world. In varying degrees, because it is impossible to generalize about any of them, they are ready to broaden their horizons, to do something different, to put to use their hard-earned skills and expertise in new ways.

They have the luxury of making their own choices. But before they do, they will have some nitty-gritty decisions to make about how and where they want to live and work. Big house? Small house? One house? Two houses? Big city? Small town? Travel frequently? Stay close to home?  Based in the U.S? Based overseas? Work for someone else? Start a business? Become a consultant? Get involved with volunteer work? That’s only the beginning of a list I think they are going to need to make.

When I turned 50, I remember thinking, “Oh. I guess I’m getting old.” But now 50 seems young to me and I chuckle as I hear my kids talk about aging. It seemed strange to me when Jamie Lee Curtis, age 57, was congratulated by a radio interviewer who praised her for the way she was handling “the aging thing.”

My children all have a zest for life and—to a greater or lesser degree--a gambler gene that will influence what they decide to do with the rest of their lives. The rocking chair isn’t even close for this crew.

I’m staying tuned.