As a newly minted octogenarian, and as a reprise to a brief memoir that I wrote in 2013 about my first 7 decades of learning, I felt a desire to offer a few words about this present 8th decade. You will first have to indulge me in a quick, tip of the iceberg review of the 7 decades preceding the 8th which will take less than 2 minutes. 70 years in 2 minutes, fairly quick!
The first full decade, the 1940’s, was mostly about going to school, being in an active family who kept me busily engaged beyond school with work, extended relationships, and an enthusiasm for living fully and well. All of this in spite of WW II.
The second ten years, ages 10-20, was also filled with school activities but much more on my own, a sense of growing independence, friends, team sports, more work, first love, leaving home to go to a university, and the importance of reading and studying. I loved what I was doing.
From 21-30, the 3rd decade, milestones included a first marriage, the births of 2 of 3children, 3 years of graduate school, more work, moving 4 times to 3 different states, beginning a professional life, getting caught up in being a social activist and causes that were, I believed, important to communities and the world at large. Ah yes, the 60’s.
The 4th decade was characterized by more changes, the addition of a 3rd child, leaving a profession to return to another graduate school in a different field of study, two more academic degrees, and an internship in Washington, DC. Then it was yet another move and starting a new practice in another state and buying our first house.
In 1979, I moved again, this time to accept an appointment as a teacher, department head, counselor, coach and chaplain at a New England boarding school and that fixed a trajectory which I had actually begun with teaching part-time back in 1964. It was a big move for me, three children and their mother. After six years in this role, I was invited to accept a position as head of a K-12 school in suburban Philadelphia where I served for 7 years. Children were growing, learning, graduating, moving on. Same for me.
The 6th decade had a rocky and challenging start with another leaving and two, successive, one-year contracts & professional commitments in different states, followed by an invitation to help start a new school in New Mexico in 1994. This involved yet another move, a distant one, where I put the pieces in place to launch something important that will outlast me, a kind of legacy to the community. It was also the decade of divorce & remarriage, of starting over, of trying to hold things and myself together while moving forward, learning and growing.
The first decade of the new millennium was my 7th decade, an opportunity to work and live in London for two years, remodeling a dream house and property in northern New Mexico, becoming much more independent from working as an employee and my self-employed work was for the benefit others as much as myself. It became a time to see the children and grandchildren in their own growing families and to plan for the continuing changes and growth that lay ahead.
Now, almost seven years into the 8th decade, where am I, what am I making of it and what’s ahead? We cannot know for sure and YES, I am enjoying every day in spite of little, annoying setbacks here and there, nothing significant although in one’s 70’s there is an increasing possibility of health-related issues. The key to staying healthy, besides diet and exercise are a positive attitude, family and social relationships, travel and continued learning and growing – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I would call it a continuing maturation process that makes life rich with meaning and purpose.