Let Me Get This off My Chest

I’ve been putting off writing this for weeks, maybe months.

I’ve been reluctant to admit that I’m going through a tough period right now.  For the first time in my life, I’ve been having something similar to a “mid-life crisis,” but that’s not it exactly.  I’m not sure there’s a name for what’s been bugging me.

You see, even now, I’m beating around the bush.  Why can’t I go ahead and just say it?

So, here it is:  I’m struggling with the idea that I’m getting old.  I’ve never before felt my age like I’m feeling it now.  And I’ve been trying to make sense of how to handle this transition.

Such a difficulty is not absolutely new to me.  I recall struggling mightily during that period of my life when I was moving into adolescence.  At that time, I felt awkward and ugly.  I wanted to know girls but felt romantically inept.   There were changes going on in my body and in my thinking.  I wasn’t a child, but I wasn’t truly a man either.  I guess you could say I was caught between two development phases.  That “caught” feeling is something I viscerally understand now as I again go through a difficult transition.

The difference between my adolescence phase and my current situation is that I’m so much closer to the end of my life now than I was earlier.  So, even though I often felt miserable as a teenager, I knew that I was just getting started in life.  I hadn’t yet finished my education or had a career.  The sky seemed to be the limit because so much was unknown and incomplete.  Today, I’m at the end of my work life, and I know how it all turned out.  Much of the story has now been told.  Most of my life is done.

Today, I observe myself in decline.  I’m not ancient—although, technically speaking, I’m old enough to have grandchildren—and I’m certainly not young.  Everything about me has changed, and not necessarily for the better.  I even find myself having “senior moments,” an innocuous-sounding euphemism for the cognitive decline many of us will eventually face.  So, even my intellect, that part of me which was always my greatest strength and my most reliable asset, is losing some of its vitality.

It’s not all bad news.  I’ll be retiring soon.  Once I free myself from the tyranny of the workplace, I expect to experience a kind of personal renaissance. 

Thanks for reading, and I’m very much interested in hearing from those who’ve had similar challenges.  How have you faced them?  What are your recommendations?

By the way, if you’d like to participate in our podcast project, let me know.

69 thoughts on “Let Me Get This off My Chest

  1. I have been struggling with the same feelings. I recently resigned from my position after finally coming to the realization that regardless of the time or effort I exert, the organization will still be struggling: I made the choice not to struggle with it but to embark on a search for a position where I can work in my “sweet spot”, training and developing others.

    I immediately felt a sense of relief. The process of deciding was agonizing and I’m happy I made the commitment to myself, to my health and well-being. I will take a break to recover from too many years of waning budgets and organizational stress that took its toll on my 60+ year old self. But I am not done, just recalibrating.

    Thanks for being vulnerable.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I will be celebrating my 77th birthday tomorrow…..and like you have had ‘moments’ in my life that have both surprised and confused me….however, I must say that I am in as good a place as ever these days. My work has always sustained me throughout – I am an artist…maybe when you retire you can get involved in the creative part of your life or start something totally new – While there’s breath in our. body and we have relatively good health, anything is possible:) By writing about how you feel, you will help others. Janet:)

    1. Congratulations on having found something that sustains you! It occurs to me that the most important thing any of us have is time. Unfortunately, someone else owns a lot of my time. I’m certain that I will have that creative renaissance I mentioned once I disentangle myself. I hope what I’ve written has helped others. Thanks so much!

  3. The reward of aging is being able to look back at life and say, “Oh thank God that part’s over!” The slowing down of body and mind brings a blessed increase of wisdom, along with an abundance of unlimited nap time. Sure, it would be nice to enjoy the energy of more youthful years, but I wouldn’t trade any of these golden years for a minute of life in the past. The golden years bring joyful gifts. You’ll see!

  4. I love what Julia shared, Troy! It’s hard to see the opportunities that await when you’re still ‘in deep’ with duties at hand. But I also recognize, as you said, it’s a time of transition and I think it’s longer — the runway to retirement – than most folks realize. Take care! 😊

    1. Thank you, Victoria! Speaking of being “in deep,” tomorrow is Monday which means I’ll wake up at 5:30, get myself together, and then join the collective rat race on the various highways and byways of this city. I’m so happy that I’ve got only a few more months!

      1. Hang in there! I love that you received such wonderful input as a result of your post — good stuff from folks who are thinking/feeling the same about ‘the big transition’!

      2. I guess I struck a nerve with this post. It seems like many are feeling similarly. It’s always helpful to find out that you’re not alone in your trials and tribulations. I’m blessed to have readers who are so open to sharing and offering advice.

  5. We decided that when we have a major birthday we turn it into a festival that can last months. A combination of different family and friends get togethers and a holiday. Planning your festival gets the brain working through what it will look like. All about doing it in style. Had to smile the other day when a friend sent a photo of the cocktail they were drinking in Hawaii.

  6. I think I understand where you’re coming from. I’m not sure if it’s as Victoria and Julia said, that life is so busy that you don’t notice the transition happening, but last year my age hit me like a massive brick. If felt like I still saw myself about 20 years in the past and then suddenly I was brought to the current age … that I aged 20 years overnight and left wondering when did this happen. I guess I’m not old by today’s standards, but I’m not 37 any more either. What helped me was actually writing about it, hopefully it will help you too. I think its a journey we need to go on, to find acceptance at the other end. Then we can move forward.

    I would say at the time I felt very alone, and vulnerable. Others seemed to cope … why not me? As I said, writing (in response to another blog on WP last year) helped me – feel less alone and reassured that I wasn’t going crazy.

    I hope that makes sense, and not the ravings of a lunatic.

      1. My husband retired last year … I’ve probably about 10 years still but I find myself thinking about what I could do if I had the free time 😆

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Brenda. It’s becoming more and more clear to me that ageing is an art form. Some do it well. Others, not so much. I’m trying to learn to age well. It sounds like we’re working through similar sorts of issues. I wish you all the best!

  7. At first, congratulations on gathering the strength to write it out, to let it out of you and sharing it here. Your experience has taught you well that sharing worries and sadness surely helps in lifting the unnecessary weight from one’s heart.
    Secondly, I know what lows in life feel like, I have myself faced a damn worse one last month, but time taught me to appreciate the life you have now. Age and ultimate departure are just trivial transactions on earth, what you can be happy and proud of is your present.

    So be proud of how you recovered your previous transition and take power from it to face this one too, rather more gracefully! All the best 👍

    1. Thank you for such fine words of wisdom and for sharing your story. I guess we’re all here just doing the best we can. May we all find the best path! All the best, my friend!

  8. There’s a great book by Arthur Brooks called From Strength to Strength in which he talks about the cognitive differences after we turn 50. Turns out we are much better at synthesizing information than in our early years when our fluid intelligence (quick recall and calculations) was at its highest. Hope this serves you well as you move towards retirement!

    1. Thank you, Wynne. I’ll check out the Brooks book! I’m not surprised to learn that we get a bit better (in some ways) in our thinking as we age. There’s lots of truth in the old saying “youth is wasted on the young.”

  9. I hear you, 59 is looking at me. I aches from the simplest things. I used to love backpacking & hiking but now fear that engaging in either may be a mistake. As a young man I was excited about turning 20 – I hated the teen years. No interest in birthdays until 50. Felt like I accomplished something. I look forward to retirement but also dead it (backpacking and hiking I’m sure will continue to call me). Maybe the real issue is not getting old, it is a mental thing; accepting life happens and there is a reason why youth is wasted on the young.

    1. Yes, the greatest challenge is mental. I recommend that you read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It’s a great book for those who are working through the “acceptance” bit of ageing. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. I have been going through something similar. I’m nearing 40 which is still young in a way but also isn’t young in many ways. My friends have been dying off, my circle is getting smaller, and I feel now more than ever the weight of my mortality.

    1. Forty is a kind of “in-between” age. You’re no longer a child, but you’re not “old” yet. I wish you all the best as you work through these feelings. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I’ve been dealing with the same thoughts lately at 53. I know for me, taking time to take care of myself, eating right, exercising and keeping stress in check, makes me feel better physically and mentally. I think when you leave your job and take some time recharge, you’ll feel better.

    1. Hey, Todd, nice to hear from you. You’re absolutely right about the importance of living healthy. I’m months into a major change in lifestyle. Less food, especially meat. No more alcohol. Daily exercise. I’m certain that I’ll feel better when I finally free myself from working for someone else.

      By the way, I read your email and will respond. Congrats to the Eagles and to all Eagles fans! The Vikes were too weak on defense, but Philadelphia seems to be a complete team.

      Thanks for the uplifting message.

      1. Good luck navigating the big change- I predict it works out great 😎 The Eagles looked outstanding last night- can they keep it going? We’ll see….🦅

  12. Hey Troy, thank you so much for sharing. I hear you loud and clear, here what I have been thinking of lately. I am old enough to have teenage children, but somehow they never happened. I feel like I am so behind most of my peers, yet I am not going to compete so that I could win there, you know. Anyways, I feel old although it’s not an objective reality yet, it’s all in my head. This is what I have been doing lately to perk up about my miserable age: oh, where should I start? I got a bit obsessed with it actually, first, I started art making like crazy, I paint and teach art class and sell my designs. Also I went online and joined all kind of groups on Meetup.com for photography, meditation, language learning group, jazz, knitting… I signed up for events and festivals that I always thought were weird or just boring, some of them are fun, I discovered. I also signed up for tutoring kids and adults as I am an ESL teacher. I signed up for substitute teaching to be on call, it might sound awful but I had some really awesome experiences subbing before. A lot to write and think about. I love learning from kids, they have such great energy. The thing that’s important for me in all this is hitting the right balance between being on your own and hanging out with people. Opening all these opportunities kind of give you the choice between staying at home writing or going out to get inspired. Best of luck in all your beginnings and endings!

    1. Hi. Thanks for sharing your story. Are you from Ukraine? If so, I want to tell you how sorry I am for what’s happening there. (By the way, I lived in Poland for about 2.5 years.) Or maybe you live in the US? I like how you got involved in lots of society groups with people who have similar interests. That gives me ideas about how I might go forward.

      1. I am from Ukraine, you are right. I live in Oregon right now, it’s pretty cool here. I do all this stuff to cope with all the negative emotions due to inability to fix things back at home.

      2. By the way, I lived in Poland for about 2.5 years and have traveled extensively in that part of Europe. I love that part of the world and would live there again in a second.

  13. I think what you said at the end is key for me. I’m not as young as I once was, but still trying to keep up with everything and more, plus work and life. It’s all more challenging now.
    Hoping retirement will give you the freedom to engage in all of the things that bring you joy. And then you can write about it and encourage the rest of us. 😊

    1. I’ll throw the biggest world of all time when I finally retire. And, yes, I will try to encourage those who still have a way to go. A few decades in just about any sort of work can wear a person down. Hang in there!

  14. Well Troy, we say that at our age the most important is keeping our spirits high. And I am sure that when you free yourself from the tyranny of the workplace, you will experience personal renaissance. So, try to resist to the last months of tyranny and you will find a younger Troy!

    1. Thanks! I cannot tell you how many creative projects I’ve got lined up as soon as I actually own more of my time. Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe you should write a blog that provides some specific advice for those of us who are old, tired, and trying to make it to retirement. I was a bit surprised by how much interest this blog generated. A blog like the one I suggested to you would also be very popular.

      1. I’m shocked by the number of responses to my post. Given what we know about the demographic of our readers, a post like the one I suggested would really be much appreciated.

    1. I mentioned this earlier in another comment. I strongly recommend that you read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. He write a lot about the thing you mentioned: How the body says go but the mind has act more soberly. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s one that resonates with me.

  15. Age catches us faster than we were told. I also look at those younger than me and realize I’m lucky to be old now versus young. The world is getting harder to navigate and I’m not sure I would be happy having 70 years to navigate the mess versus 20-40. It doesn’t mean aging is all roses, but it’s definitely not all thorns either. Keep sharing and exploring though! It’s better for your health, and others, when you do.

    1. I totally agree with you. I’m glad I’m not coming into this world as a child. With climate change and all the other huge problems facing us, I’m not sure the future is going to be very bright. In fact, I feel worried about those who are just coming of age at this time. Thanks for the comment.

  16. Oh my Lord Troy I am sorry that you are caught in a mid life crisis that must feel horrible. Life is unfair and hard at times but I am glad that you have chosen to open us about what is eating you and the key is to talk and find help better than to die silent especially if t affects you tons or in a huge way. We all get old and this thing of you being in two development phases is weird, I suggest talking to a Therapist or someone close like family👏

    1. Thanks for leaving such an insightful and helpful comment. It’s true. I do feel better now that I’ve finally gotten this off my chest. I’ve always been the sort who needs to get things out there–to make confessions about those things that are worrying and disturbing me.

  17. Troy,
    When my wife was injured decade ago, I ended up moving into a line of work I could do from home and with a flexible schedule in order to care for her and shuttle her to medical appointments. The work is life and health insurance. It turns out that I can do this a few hours per day indefinitely, and enjoy it because I enjoy helping people. Like the artist who posted above, boredom is anathema to a healthy and happy “second life.” Time spent at a gym or other physical effort and work at something you truly enjoy really matters.

    1. Thanks for sharing the story about your wife’s health condition. Believe me, once I quite working for someone else, I’ll “work” for myself. I’ll be retiring from the tyranny of the workplace but not from life itself.

  18. What do you think retirement looks like for you? Do you have a set of goals or something to keep you driven when you no longer have the Jon aspect in your life? I always wonder about this. When work is removed from everyday tasks, what is there left? Hobbies? I guess that’s what really matters is how to successfully fill one’s time

    1. All very good questions. I’ve got talents that can be both enjoyed and monetized. I’ll never spend a minute being bored once I finally own my own time. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  19. I’m not sure if this will help but something that always stood out from Marcus Aurelius’ book Meditations was the idea that all we ever lose when we die is the moment. That’s all we ever have. A lot of Buddhist philosophy teaches the same thing. The present moment is all you ever have. Looked at like this the shortest life is no different to the longest. Another way to look at it is, not everyone gets to grow old. Provided you have your health – relatively speaking – I would say that’s something to be grateful for. Even in my mid 30s – I have my senior moments! Take it easy Troy. I thank you for opening up – it’s an important topic. 🙏

    1. Thanks for the reassurance. By the way, your mentioning of the Meditations reminds me that it’s about time to dust that classic off and give it another look. Here’s a thought that is somewhat relevant to some of the points you made in your comment: Death is in no way a scary idea. I think the thing that terrifies many is dying, not death. Transitions are often some of the hardest experiences in life. I can think of no transition more intimidating than moving from being to nonbeing. Nonbeing is the only experience I’ve never had, right? I’ve never not been me before. I wonder what that transition is like?

      1. I think the issue we have as human beings is this. We are biologically hardwired for survial and yet we know death is inevitable. You’re right the real fear isn’t death. I’m not even sure it’s the suffering before hand. I think the thought that terrifies people the most is the idea that they might get there and realise they didn’t live life they believe they should and could have.

        To you point about transition. My reading on many people who have had near death experiences or even been clinically dead for a number of seconds often stop fearing death. They don’t see it as something to be scared of – having come face to face with it. I think we can all take comfort in that.

  20. God yes. I like being retired but the thought of losing my intellectual abilities is scary. I find myself losing words, for instance, which for a writer is not good. Plus my daughter is waxing bossy… also not a good sign. I’d like to have a cutoff stash, some easy but fatal drug, for when I’ve had enough. Which isn’t yet

  21. Changes are needed and as I see it getting old is something so precious. You realise how much you have put in to reach so far. I know you might not be as energetic as before but what you are is something so wonderful to experience. Age as all say is just a number but what is that number made of, it is all the highs and lows, if the smiles and tears, of all the courage and fears that you put together to reach that far. You should live now for yourself, do what you like and see how wonderful it is to read this that you have shared, it only shows that you have understood and spent well every phase of life. I always say I count myself not in number of the candles on my cake which reduce in time to one as we grow just to tell you that what you have achieved is far more than can fit on a cake as I count more memories that I did make.

  22. I’m reminded of the phrase, “Aging is inevitable; getting old is a choice.” We all bear the burden of time, but as we age, we also share in wisdom, experience, and the joy of having lived a full life.

  23. Getting old physically can be no fun, but there are compensations. As you say, many of life’s milestones are behind you. Your time is your own, and you are your own boss. As for the mental decline, it may be related to stress. My recall is getting slower and I have to write down things I need to remember. I am not sure if that happens to everyone, but I think it is pretty common. Fatigue exacerbates these problems for me.

    Anyway, Troy, I hope you will enjoy your retirement! I have been retired for ten years, and have found it to be a rewarding time in my life. <3

  24. I feel that! The mind is willing, but the body . . . well that’s another story. I still tell my body, “I love you.”
    Grateful for my years of yoga and to be able to still practice on another level. My soul is excited for this new phase of my life. I’m going with that. I’ve seen and read for, too many who have waited for “retirement”. Don’t wait. Feel now what that would feel like. Life is for feeling . . . Sending Love, for love is all there is.

  25. I envy the time when I can “become old”. To use my knowledge to help the younger generation instead of being told I need more knowledge. Or to have enough wisdom that people come to me or ask me for guidance. I envy when my now beautiful hair will turn wifey and old. I can truly become the witch in the woods.

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