Embracing our changing purpose

Graceful AgingWhen I decided to move to the area where I live, I spent several weekends travelling to the area to look at homes. One weekend, I’d nearly given up and was taking a drive through one last neighborhood. Tired, a little defeated, frustrated the “right” house hadn’t jumped out yet. Driving through that area, I noticed a semi-truck with a livestock trailer. Suddenly, out from the trailer came sheep after sheep, I think nearly 200! Honestly, it was so delightful I simply sat at watched them, curious about their presence.

What I’ve since learned, now that I live in that same neighborhood, is that my town uses sheep to clear weeds from the open green belt spaces.  Each year, the sheep are brought in and within a day or two, the grass and weeds are gone. I take time to watch them and when they were recently in our area, I was thinking about the herd. These are not the young, sexy sheep. Quite the opposite. They’re older, their coats are in various states of falling off, some are white, but others black, brown or spotted. Most definitely, they are past the prime of their life, but have found a second calling. They serve a purpose.

Each year I watch the sheep, I think about the purpose they’re serving. At the same time, I ponder the purpose each of us serves as we grow older. I read a quote that we start living at 40 and up to that point we’re still doing research. I can attest to that, and would stretch it closer to 50, now that I’m there and can see the lessons continuing to unfold.

There’s a tipping point that I’ve noticed happens somewhere around the late 40’s early 50’s where you take stock. It’s the realization that the “building” that we focus on when we’re younger…build the career, home, family…is maybe not done, but no longer requires the attention we previously gave it. And many of us ask, what now? What’s next? My big question is “how do I want to ride out my life?”

I now understand the reinvention that happens in middle age. It’s more of a redefinition, one which is still in the works for me, but has involved reading and reading and reading some more to figure out how I got here. It’s not a searching, it’s an examination, looking at what works and what doesn’t to decide what to carry forward.

That examination has also shifted to looking at what I bring to the party, what do I know. It’s a question each of us can ask. After a lot of living and experience, we have homed in on our talents. We know what we like and don’t and can drop the parts that don’t work for us. There’s a quiet confidence that emerges in middle age. Not blustery or ego driven. A confidence that allows us to ask harder questions about the systems and beliefs that were handed to us. We might find that some of what we’d been taught doesn’t make sense anymore or requires additional thought. The careers we pursued because they made sense, but do they anymore? Maybe. Or maybe with some tweaks.

Each of us continues to have a purpose, but the values which drive it may have changed. And that’s ok. If we don’t continue to grow, we’re dying. I was accused of changing a few months ago, to which I simply replied, yes, I have. It’s part of life.

What about you? Is the focus and purpose you established earlier in life still on point? If you’re following the same one because you feel you must, you don’t. Especially if it’s the path someone else laid out for you. It’s our journey, friends. One that leads us to unexpected places, discovering ourselves as we go, and living out our best lives. We have the wisdom, are brave and courageous and are moving down a new path together.

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