This week I was very blessed to have the opportunity to listen to Jane Goodall in person! Imagine that! All my life I have read about this amazing woman and here she was, standing less than 3 meters away from me, talking about her work and her life. Jane Goodall is slim and petite in size, yet she exuded this quiet confidence and depth of character. I am sure she must have delivered the same talk a thousand times over, but the delivery was done as if it was fresh off the oven – the mark of a professional speaker and for someone who is 81 years old to talk for 1 hour, without even taking a sip of water – that’s something.
I went to talk thinking about how to does one age well and continue living life well into their 80s. It’s been a pet observation of mine for the past few years – everytime I meet an elderly person who is happy and living life to the fullest, I unconsciously try to strip everything into the bare basics and try to understand what are the traits that are serving them so well into their later years.
My reason is selfish – I want to grow old living life to the fullest and I don’t think one can simply turn on a switch when you hit 65 and decide – hey, I am a happy old woman. I see a lot of older people simply going through the motions of life or feeling neither happy nor sad or worse still, quietly unhappy. These people have seemingly happy families but yet contentment and peace are not with them which brings home the message that first of all, we are responsible for our own happiness. It is not the duty nor responsibility of our love ones to do that.
So here was Jane Goodall, all 81 years of her, standing straight, walking tall, talking without a pause. She may have been rehashing the same talk for the 1000th time but from the Q & A session, I think her intellectual faculties are still sharp and with her.
So here’s the deal, I believe having a passion for something or some cause helps you to embrace life and that passion should not have to end when you retire. Most of us work tirelessly, looking forward to holidays and short breaks. I think we need to do something that can extend beyond retirement age, not a save the world hobby or passion – how many Jane Goodalls are there ? 🙂
Let’s start small – hobbies and interests can carry us through and with the hobby comes a circle of friends who share the same interests. We lead busy lives – children, spouses, work take up our day, not that it is something that I am complaining about but I think as individuals, we need to set aside time for ourselves, something that we do for ourselves. Not easy I think, especially for Asians (coz we have this sadistic mentality that sacrifice is way up there with the rest of the other qualities like nobelness etc). Heck it, we have to make sure that our emotional and mental well being is healthy before we can be a good spouse, parent, sister or friend.
So I consider myself lucky. I have a great start to my week with my friend R every Monday morning with a 6 km fast hike around Bukit Timah (and yes, I also consider myself privilege in that I have flexible working hours). We try our best to make that time sacred and the hike invigorates both mind and body (even when the body is pain – this week I did the hike with 6 medicated patches on my aching back). So that’s my hobby that has carried me well, I am happy to walk with an old friend. Sometimes we walk in silence, sometimes we crack jokes – (the type only an old friend would understand with a shared history of 20 years) and sometimes we disagree or tell each other off because R and I made a pact the we are going to nip any traits that will result in us growing into cranky old women. So, it does take a good friend to be able to tell you off and yet be secure in the knowledge that you are not going to jeopardize the friendship. I am glad a have a few good friends like that, not many but you only need a few whom you can be absolutely honest with and they still love you warts and all.
So since this Saturday is Valentine’s Day, here is a Happy Valentines message – love and take care of yourself and you will find that loving others will be a lot easier.