Fifteen years ago I was talking with a doctor. I knew him fairly well, so when he asked me how I was doing, I gave him a meaningful answer. “I am living my golden years right now. My children are seven and five. I’m the center of their universe and I love that. I fiercely love my wife. I love the work I do and where I work. If I have not struck gold, then I don’t know what it is.” It felt strange calling my early forties my golden years, but that’s how I felt.
I was thinking earlier last week that I’m still living the years of gold – it just looks different. My girls are off at college. Jan and I are remembering what it was like when we were first married. We have more time to pursue our passions. If that’s not gold, then I don’t know what it is.
Of course, there are always difficulties and nothing is perfect – just like the traditional notion of the golden years when I may have the time but not the money or maybe the health to enjoy life to the fullest. Or the years when my girls were seven and five – I deeply miss that time. Playing with them at night as they run around in their footy pajamas, reading their favorite bedtime story or a kiss that takes all the hurt away. I will never get those days back, but I can think of them and feel my heart warm and a smile cross my face.
Every phase of my life contains gold that other times will not yield. What I did in my younger years I may not be able to do anymore – having hair to comb or fitting into a pair of 30 x 30 jeans. The freedom that comes from fewer possessions: putting everything I own into my car when I moved after graduating college. Carrying my backpack for six months as I traveled Asia and the life-altering effect it had on me. Being married before having children gave us the freedom of time alone together. There are so many unique experiences that each stage in life afforded me. But the truth is I would not trade yesterday’s gold for today’s.
Striking gold is hard work. You need to dig to change and grow as a person. Like realizing that if I want a deeper relationship with my wife I have to understand that a “good defense is a strong offense” should not apply to a marriage. As my daughters became teenagers that I needed to increase my ability to keep control of my temper if I wanted to be a more effective and happier dad.
And not every shaft that is dug strikes gold, mind you. My greatest achievements did not happen sitting in a chair and watching TV. Many happened with great effort, required painful introspection and pushing through my fear of failure and the uncertainly that comes with change.
What gold is there in your life today that you didn’t have 10 or 20 years ago? What shafts are you digging or maintaining to keep finding gold? What times in your life do you fondly look back at and what do they symbolize?
Who knows where todays vein of gold will take me tomorrow? I don’t know. But I do know I need to keep mining, whether it’s a well-worn shaft or a new one. I’m going to keep looking and digging because I want to keep striking gold.