You were happiest when…

Reflection can be redeeming. Believe it, because it’s true. While the youthful (yes many of us bloggers) remain predominantly a future-focused group, reflection is a concept widely embraced by the senior community.

I always questioned why we wait until our golden years, when the car is closing in on the 100,000-mile mark, to look in the rear view mirror and reflect.

Think about all that we could learn from the past. Think about all that we could learn just from the pasts of our friends and family members. Perhaps we could even course-correct and avoid repeating prior mistakes in the years to come.

Sure, we all have the introspective flashes when someone you love passes away. The fond memories spent with a lost loved one can quickly flood the brain. In large part though, it’s primarily seniors that actively relive the past.

Through stories, jokes, and what sometimes may feel like history lectures, our parents and grandparents talk to us about their most special memories. Selflessly they offer us their past.

My grandfather is now nearing that dreaded 100,000-mile mark on the life odometer. While he would love nothing more than to keep going as long as he can in the life he’s built for himself, he’s keenly aware of his own mortality. The steering column is a bit off-balance. The grill is beginning to rust. Even the headlights just aren’t as powerful as they once were.

Defiantly, the man I’ve come to love and admire keeps his foot on the gas. As his tires rack up the miles, my grandfather continues onward, focusing his energy on enjoying family time and big dinners.

When I am fortunate to spend a day with my grandfather, he uses his innate power of reflection to impart wisdom on me. Last December I went to visit him in Florida, and I was grateful to once again venture through his past with him.

We had many conversations (prior to this December vacation) about setting life goals, and about how he wants me to follow my true passions. My grandfather decided to tell me a quick story about his former boss and dear friend, who for privacy purposes alone, I’ll just call Joe.

A tough, business-savvy leader who was unafraid to make the difficult but necessary decisions, Joe was a natural in the art of running a business. Joe loved every day he spent working on building the company he founded. My grandfather helped Joe grow his pharmaceutical business. Eventually they became one of the largest distributors of pet medications in the country.

The friendship between my grandfather and his boss became stronger as the decades passed and their successes multiplied.

When Joe became ill in his mid-seventies, my grandfather realized his friend was not going to survive. He went to the hospital for what ended up being a final visit. As Joe sat in bed and the two talked, the old boss said that he wished he had done so many other things.

He wanted to travel more. He wanted to spend more time with his family and friends. He wanted, what we all want at the end: another go at life.

My grandfather paused to comb his fingers through a full head of white hair as he recollected the exact words he said to Joe so many years earlier. Smiling, my grandfather told his old boss, “You can’t lie to me Joe. You were happiest when you walked into the office in the morning.”

Now isn’t this what we all strive for? There should be that moment when the final grains of sand are slipping through the hourglass, and we can reflect on a career and life that resulted in pure happiness.

So when you’re trying to find a career path or discover your true passions, I implore you to take my grandfather’s story to heart. Find what makes you happy. Some may offer advice based on the practicality of a particular profession. Others might advise that you should focus on making money.

Drown out the background noise, and ask yourself what makes you happy. If you haven’t discovered what brings you the challenge and the joy that you seek, then keep looking.

When you’re approaching that dreaded 100,000-mile mark, you will inevitably tell your good friend that you wish you had more time to do things differently. If you do what makes you happy though, that friend will smile back at you, contesting those standard untrue sentiments.

“You can’t lie to me. You were happiest when…”

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