Author Topic: What advice would a 70 or 80 year old person say low life should be lived?  (Read 1349 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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What advice would a 70 or 80 year old person give about the way the life should be lived?

I am a 70+ year old man, so I can answer this, while knowing full well that a much younger person will  not benefit from my answer at all because one of the main things I have learned is that each person must learn his own life lessons from his own experience.  Many things that I learned in my life to be true, I had already heard many times from older folks, but these things did not benefit me until a day came when I suddenly realized their truth for myself - I finally felt these facts in my inner self.

At many stages of my life, I would have given many different pieces of advice.  At this point, I think I can sum up the one thing that worked most in my favor and brought me the greatest reward.  It is something I would have rejected completely as a strategy in my young days when I was obsessed with right and wrong and what others should do and how I should respond.  My best advice is “Act happy”.

I thought in many parts of my life that I was inadequate, selfish or had other negatives overwhelming me.  Once, though, someone repeated to me a remark my brother made about me to another relative, “Oh, you know how lucky Dan always is!”.  It made me think.  I realized I have been lucky in my life, not in the lottery-winning, discovered by a producer sort of way, but in the way of things working out well in the end.  And I got to thinking why this had been; I certainly did not feel lucky much of the time, even when things were going pretty well.  Then, not long ago, I was looking through my old high school yearbook before attending a reunion and I came upon something a fellow student, not even a close friend, had written, “You were always happy!”  And it clicked.  Happy people, or those who seem happy to others, draw good luck to themselves. 

Consider if you found there was an opening at your company and you had two friends who were qualified.  Let’s say one was usually happy and good humored and the other complained much of the time and seemed angry at life.  To which of these friends are you most likely to mention the job?  The friend to whom you mention the job may well feel he was lucky to hear of it.  He was lucky, because he acts happy around you and he is the one you would prefer to be around all day every day.  People, I find, are not happy because they are lucky, but rather lucky because they seem happy.  The optimistic person tends to ask, “Why not?” when an opportunity arises to do something interesting. 

A small percentage of the time we have events which cannot help but make us happy: a raise, a promotion, our wedding, our children’s birth and so on.  A small percentage of the time truly unhappy events occur: deaths, illness, loss of a job, etc.   The majority of our lives is pretty much an every-day type of life, only happy or sad because we define it that way.  Happiness is not a function of good luck or beneficial birth conditions or anything that “happens”; happiness is a decision.  No one avoids some sadness, some unfairness, some disappointments.  A man would be numb, indeed, not to feel very unhappy at such times.  But feeling unhappy and taking it out on those around us by complaints, raging or whatever are two different things. 

When you really want something, give it a shot.  Never let anyone tell you why not.  I lived on the periphery of a war zone for a while.  Everyone and his brother told me why I shouldn’t do this.  But many of the best things - including some good friends that have lasted - stem directly from this time in my life.    It is one thing to be an idiot, walking around a dangerous area waving money, but it is entirely another thing to avoid all risk because someone counsels against it.  At least one great moment in your life will almost certainly stem from doing something you were warned against. 

Believe your own eyes and do not let other people interpret life for you.  Your truth and your happiness stem from what is unique to you.  You will not be happy achieving other people’s goals; you will be far happier achieving your own goals even if they are far more modest - or if they are far more extravagant and ‘above your reach’.  You have probably heard many times that one regrets more the things one didn’t do than the things one did.  This is entirely true in my experience.  You don’t know what anyone is like until you meet him or her or them.  If you haven’t been somewhere, do not write off the people there as ‘wrong’ or 'dirty' or ‘crazy’ or ‘angry without any reason’.  Crazy cultures do not endure. 

Do not think I came to this conclusion because my life was rosy.  I have suffered from depression, I have lost two brothers I loved deeply and the person who was the love of my life (so far).  My childhood was chaotic at times, one parent suffered from bipolar disorder and alcoholism.  I was not in the popular crowd at school, which hurt, but people did like me well enough.  Should I have then made everyone around me miserable to pay the world back for these things? 

If you act happy, you are far more likely to BE happy.  Resist the temptation to vent freely.  After a few minutes of hearing about the viciousness of someone’s ex or the unfairness of someone’s boss or competitor, the listener tends begin to sympathize with that ex, that boss, that competitor.  The worse you speak of your ex, the more likely a new prospect is to think that is what will be said of him or her somewhere down the road.  I don’t say to suppress, to refuse to admit or experience negative feelings; what I am saying is not to spread them around.  I am not saying to indulge in platitudes - “everything is for the best”, “what goes ‘round comes ‘round'”, etc.  The wicked DO often prosper.  Are you willing to let your life be ruined by that fact? 

So when I was about to turn 71, I was thinking that nothing much new would turn up in my life.  I wasn’t unhappy, but though largely content, I was kind of bored and restless.  And one day someone reached out to me on the net and everything changed.  I could have said, “No way!”  I could have assumed it was a a scam (and I certainly gave out no private info or spent any cash).  But with Skyping and talking and seeing each other, I began to trust and soon we spent three months together.  I will soon be leaving for half a year to spend with my new love.  We are planning a life together.  I presented myself as a happy content person and now I am one.  No one has to believe me or act on my advice.  But somewhere there is an old guy humming a tune and performing happy little dance steps and what good does it to you to believe it ain’t so?
Written 11 Aug.