Wisdom//

8 Powerful Thoughts on Birthdays and Aging

We were inspired by the insights of our community.

Shelby Ross/ Getty Images
Shelby Ross/ Getty Images

These were such insightful comments sent to Arianna after the publication of her recent birthday piece that we wanted to put them together with the permission of the authorwho shared.

“I’m 64 and I am loving my life more than ever. My friends (many of whom are retiring) ask me when I am going to retire. I tell them that I would love to die on a Friday night, knowing that I got to finish another week doing what I love. What a blessing that is. I worked for The Gallup Organization for 13 years and they have a question they have been asking in workplaces for almost 25 years: At work, I get to do what I do best every day. Sadly, only one person in five answers yes to that question. Twenty percent of us. And over time the numbers have never changed, as I understand it. We are the lucky ones, the ones in the 20 percent who get to do what we do best every day, to dream big, to keep going.”

—Dennis Welch, president at Articulate PR Communications, Austin, TX

“I am grateful to be alive, I am grateful to have reached the age of 36, and to have great relationships with my parents who I love very much… Through various practices and studies, I work towards letting go of my material attachments and fears related to death, but at 36 years old, I mostly understand Krishna’s words to Arjuna via the Bhagavad Gita intellectually at this point: ‘While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief, those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead,’ but I am hopeful that I will internalize his words as I age.”

—Ajani Charles, professional photographer, director, and producer, Toronto, ON, Canada

“I follow the teachings of the Buddha who reminded us all that our earth was truly an empty place devoid of all things for which many of us endlessly and relentlessly craved throughout our life under illusion. Psychoanalyst, sociologist, and philosopher Erich Fromm, who was not a Buddhist but who had in his later years been briefly ordained as a Buddhist monk, classified humans into two main groups: Unproductive and Productive. The former consists of those who live to eat while the latter represents those who eat to live, or to be — to be alive and to be productive for oneself and all humans. Dr. Fromm’s view of humanism was aptly summarized by your astute remark: ‘The paradox of the good life is how to be detached from worldly things while being fully engaged in the world.'”

—Dhanarat Yongvanichjit

“My mother used to say: ‘Si la jeunesse savait et la vieillesse pouvait.’ (‘If youth only knew, if age only could!’) Healthy aging is not limiting in terms of what one can or not do; on the contrary, it is freeing!”

—Agnes M. da Costa, head of the regulation advisory office at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Brazil

“70 is an incredible number to have achieved. In all the ancient Jewish texts, the number 70 is associated with strength and is a combination of the number 7 which represents perfection and the number 10 which represents completion. What an auspicious occasion for you to celebrate! Looking forward to watching you soar into your next decade.”

—Sharon Ufberg, co-founder of Borrowed Wisdom, Hermosa Beach, CA

“Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote his own epitaph: ‘He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.'”

—Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

“I think this is what Maslow meant when he wrote about self actualization, reaching that point in life that offers a 360-degree perspective with the beauty of hindsight to help us view and experience the present and the future from a new vantage point that is truly beautiful and filled with excitement.”

—Jerry Kitchel, consultant at HEART, Upland, CA

“I’ve always believed that in our 20s, the world is our oyster, though we don’t know it; in our 30s we’re focused on approval; in our 40s we have the confidence but not the wisdom; in our 50s, if we’re lucky, we have the wisdom and the confidence; in our 60’s the world is our oyster, and we know it!”

—Nicki Anderson, director of women’s leadership program at Benedictine University, Naperville, IL

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