Consult not your fears…my mother on aging

I recently attended AARP’s “Innovation @50+” event in Palo Alto, where Pefin, Inc was a finalist in their FinTech competition. I heard Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP speak there, and have since read her recent book “Disrupt Aging”- which is a profound look at how the entire world of aging is being revolutionized and transforming what it means to be old on its head.

It all made me think about my baby-boomer mother who some of you have been introduced to from previous posts (https://medium.com/@catherine.flax/school-of-hard-knocks-dc0958c371fc, and The Multi Career Life). I have gotten a lot of questions about my awesome mother, Simone Girard- who clearly takes no guff from anyone, and at 77 is strong, beautiful and full of fire. Rather than me telling you about her, here she is in her own voice:

Catherine: Mom, thank you for being willing to be interviewed! You recently had a birthday- what is the biggest surprise to you about being 77?

Mom: Emotionally , I don’t feel very different from when I was 35 years old except that I feel calmer and more optimistic about the future. I have been retired for 10 years. In the beginning retirement meant that I have time to do things that I couldn’t do when I was working, such as traveling, gardening. But now 10 years later, I am looking for new adventures and new mental challenges. Now I am very excited about directing myself toward other interests - like maybe a new career.

Catherine: In one of my previous blog posts, I talked about changing careers numerous times over the course of a lifetime. What was your favorite job, and your least favorite?

Mom: My favorite job was teaching. It was very fulfilling, it was creative and exciting. It challenged not only my intellectually abilities but also my interpersonal skills — I learned more from my students than they probably learned from me. My least favorite was commercial real estate. Chasing the deal was not enough and became boring. There is a better way to make money for me.

Catherine: What is next for you on the job front?

Mom: This is one of my biggest concerns now that I enter a new chapter in my life. What have I learned by living 77 years? There is so much that I don’t know. I want to explore some of the many avenues that interest me. Whatever I will pursue, I need to develop my knowledge base to prepare myself. It’s kind of like thinking what I want to be when I grow up even though I’m all grown up and stepping lightly inside this “golden age” of the old lady. Maybe Law would be interesting to me as it applies to the elderly…so many issues: elder abuse, elder care, medical and social ramifications of the elderly. Or maybe I go back to address issues in education which are still so profound in this country.

Catherine: Where do you find your strength, and what guides your life?

Mom: Naturally, my spiritual life gives me strength and guidance. But I know I need a good diet and exercise if I am going to function at my peak and a good night’s rest. I also have to get some gardening done in the summer and sewing and knitting and some oil painting but especially music to keep my being happy. But most of all, I get a lot of joy from my family.

Catherine: What was the best book you recently read?

Mom: As I get older I am drawn to history and biographies of great leaders. Recently I red Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly. I think it’s the best book he has written so far. I also recently read Plain Speaking, an Oral biography of Harry S Truman.

Catherine: John Glenn, when he was 77, went back into space. When asked about doing that he reportedly said “dreams are not just for people who are 20”. What are your dreams for the next arc of your life?

Mom: I guess I always wanted to be a musician. I think it would be awesome to play music with my musical grandchildren. Maybe an occasional jam session would be fun.

Catherine: Who have been your role models in your life?

Mom: For sure my parents. Both of them were self educated. They were strong and eager to learn what interested them. They were successful and self made. How could I not be influenced by their attitudes, by their thrifty way of life, by their appreciation for education (even if they did not spend many years in school)? They encouraged us to pursue our dreams and get an education that would provide us with a way to make a living that would be meaningful to us and to our children.

Catherine: Any parting thoughts for our readers?

Mom: The best thing I learned from living this old is that you can never give up, you have to strive always to make your life better no matter what age. Most important that you stay close to your family and enjoy them for the unique people that they are. I consider myself a very rich lady. Most people define wealth as lots of money and lots of possessions. I really truly believe wealth is defined in family.

I would like to leave you with a quote from Pope John XXIII that really summarizes how I think about life:

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams.
 Think not about your frustrations but about your unfulfilled potential.Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

Thank you Mom- Awesome as always!!!

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