What I want to be when I grow up…

This post has been brewing  for a really long time, but somehow the act of  putting it all together cohesively kept eluding me.

We all have role models. There are on-screen personas, leaders, writers and so many heroes inspiring our thoughts and actions everyday.

But apart from these, there are are also heroes we meet everyday who do the same thing for us, but without much fanfare…

I’d like to talk about three such heroes who have been and will be my inspiration on growing old…

Yes, it is a long way off and we hardly talk about it, but I’m sure I’ll get there one day and want to remember the lessons I’ve learnt from these fantastic people.

All three of them are seventy plus, riddled with all the ailments faced by people their age, but to me they are shining examples of humanity.

One thing all three have common is, they never retired.

They have cut down their time at work to accommodate an afternoon nap here, outing with a grandchild there, but they’re still in the thick of their careers.

The reason – their work is their passion.

If I compare them to all the other people I know in the same age group, I find a stark difference.

Others, long retired, seem to thrive on pastimes like how-to-drive-daughter/son-in-law-up-the-wall, watch all the soaps back to back everyday (and pick up useful tips for the afore mentioned pastime!), complain endlessly about their health issues, lecture grand children on how life used be so meaningful during their times, call/video chat with their peers to complain about how they’re treated by their families, etc, etc.

After observing hordes of them, I came to a logical conclusion.

All these people are reasonably energetic, mentally alert but have no purpose to their days. There are no deadlines to work for, no jobs to finish by the end of the day and since they’re reasonably well off, they don’t have to earn their daily bread.

So their days are pretty aimless. Just imagine. We relish our holidays and vacations for their utter joblessness only because they’re contrasted by our jam-packed schedules on a normal working day.

I took a sabbatical for a year from work. My son wasn’t even thought of then, so I had endless hours all to myself once my husband left for work.  And this was before I had a mobile phone and was connected to the world wide web.

I loved it in the beginning. I could really appreciate the lull after those hectic years in advertising with absolutely no personal life. But after a month or so, I started getting restless.

To get over it, I started painting again, enrolled myself in a pottery class twice a week, threw elaborate lunches for my friends, watched lot of TV, but I just couldn’t shake off the restlessness. My self esteem was hitting an all-time low and my fuse was getting shorter by the day. Things worsened after a year, when we moved in with my in laws. Now I had no household responsibility whatsoever and not much of cooking since my mother-in-law is phenomenal in the kitchen. So I ended up doing nothing but eat and sleep away most of my days.

Then one fine day, thanks to my husband’s insistence I took up a chance offer by a friend in a just-started ad agency and I was back in action after almost 2 years. The adrenaline flowed once more in my blood and I was suddenly oh-so-busy even to have a proper meal during the day.

In hind sight, a lot of things became clear. By going back to work, I was connecting with lot of like-minded people on an everyday basis. And during those 2 years, I had been kind of isolated. Sure, I caught up with lots of friends and family, but it felt so different to have purposeful interactions with people. Exchange of ideas, working as a team towards a common gaol, why even bitching about an irritating colleague to a friend during a break made me so alive. I guess we need a healthy dose of both professional and personal interactions to have a meaningful day.

Now let’s get back to those retired senior citizens. They’re facing what I faced for 2 years for the rest of their lives!

But sadly, some of them have never had a profession. And most of them looked at their professions as just a means to earn and never had a passion for their work. They seldom had friends. Most lost touch with their classmates after marriage and didn’t bother to make new friends. They met their siblings, cousins, etc only during a wedding or any other family function. They preferred to spend on their children and neglected themselves. They never connected with their kids like we do these days. They were more the authority figures than friends.

So once the children flew off the nests, they were lost. Hell, I’ve seen couples who could hardly relate to each other after their kids moved out!

So they turn into bitter, insecure individuals who feel the need to assert themselves in someway. Either to assert their dwindling dominance or sheer usefulness in some cases they resort to all the pastimes I referred to earlier.

In contrast, the three heroes I worship are so full of life, they have no time to indulge in petty politics. One still works full time and is so full of energy. On a regular day, he injects his daily dose of insulin, goes to work, catches up with friends and family over  some fabulous dinner parties he throws often &  chats with his grandchildren in various locales around the world regularly. A few years ago, he single handedly brought together a warring couple who were on the verge of a separation by meeting them often, ordered them to talk to each other everyday and he’d call both of them every night just to make sure they did. His commitment to his profession and family only seem to grow with his age!

The other gentleman just turned 80. He’s passionate about the environment and is still consulted or many projects. He’s involved with NGOs dealing with environmental issues and meets them regularly. Oh,and he joined facebook recently and keeps in touch with all of us too.

The third is a lovely lady in her seventies who is a design consultant. She is very creative, an avid reader, globe-trotter, keeps an impeccable house with all her art collections from around the world and can talk for hours on any subject with great clarity. And I love the way she dresses. I have seen a lot of women who so violently refuse to grow old gracefully, but this lady has done so with so much panache. She pins up her snowy hair with a gypsy pin, wears such lovely sarees, co-ordinates them with various simple, but breath-taking jewelry that I find it so hard not to gape at her every time I meet her.

They have all have had their fair share of struggles and heart breaks in their lives. But they’re always ready with a smile only because they found themselves through the passion in their lives. No experience have left traces of insecurity or bitterness in the evening of their lives. They’re basically very content with themselves and welcome each day with a lot of enthusiasm.

So if you ever see me when I’m in my seventies griping about my life, hit me on the head with this post!

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