Past Your Prime
For better or worse, we all have a shelf life in this world. Right now, the average American lifespan is around 80 years old, which isn’t too shabby. We’ve made significant progress in personal health over these years.
There will come a day when you are no longer good at what you’re doing. It will come sooner or later. We may be great at one thing, but that usually doesn’t last forever. Age inevitably catches up to all of us.
Even the great professional basketball players have a period of time when they are dominating the sport. And generally, as they reach their mid to late 30’s, they slowly begin to fade off into the sunset. And a new crop of young and hungry 20 something players take the torch from their hands and become newly minted dominant players.
It’s a cycle. All of us are no different. Maybe we were great pianists at a time. But as we age, our eyesight or hand coordination may leave us. Maybe we were great athletes, but father time eventually caught up with us. Maybe we were great CEOs or businessmen, but old age eventually robbed us of our ability to make coherent decisions.
There will come a time when we realize that we are past our prime. It is different in each industry. For professional tennis players, it may come when you reach your 30’s. For CEOs and politicians, that day may not come until we reach our 70’s or 80’s. But eventually, that day will come. That day will come for all of us.
And when that day comes, how will it affect us? Will we cling with all our might to the good old days? Or can we respectfully accept that it is time to move on to other things? To pursue other hobbies and interests. To adapt to the changing landscape.
I recently watched, The Wrestler, which talks about an aging wrestler that is unable to leave behind his passion for wrestling. That’s all he knows and all he’s good at. But once his body begins to break down, he struggles to make ends meet through other means. Eventually, despite his doctor’s warnings, he goes back to doing the only thing he knows how to do well. And that is wrestling.
The movie provides a nice snapshot of the human condition. Of our desire to seek status and recognition and purpose. And how when our body or abilities betray us, we struggle to find a new identity or a new purpose. That happens to a lot of people I must presume. It’s important to know when your time is up. When to let the new blood roll into town.
For me, I’m in my late 30’s. If I were a basketball player, I would be past my prime. If I were a President or CEO of a multi-national corporation however, then my work is just getting started. Your prime really depends on the industry you’re in, the environment you’re working in, and your own abilities.
But as of now, I do feel my hair thinning out a little bit. I do feel like I’m getting a slight pot belly. I don’t feel as flexible as I used to in my 20’s. I’m starting to feel this beauty that we call impermanence. And there are certainly some things that I can’t do as well in my late 30’s as I did in my early 20’s. And that’s alright.
At some point, life moves on. And we need to move on with it. We need to come to accept that the good and bad times simply don’t last. That when the time comes for us to hang up our boots, to retire off into the sunset, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. Maybe we can find more purpose and peace in our next venture. In our next goal. In our next iteration, wherever that may be.
Find the means within you to accept and let go. And move on to other pastures. For me, I’ve been trying to accept the fact that I will approach middle age soon. I’ve heard about people going thru mid-life crises. And I hope that when the time comes, it’ll be easy on me. But you never know. All you can do is accept that time will continue rolling forth. And it is up to us to enjoy this brief life that we’ve been given.
It’s easier said than done. Just like in the movie, the wrestler couldn’t put his past behind him. He couldn’t let go of his declining skill set. And he pushed on despite his doctor’s orders not to. Letting your prime slowly slip away is certainly not an easy thing to feel. And it could lead to anxiety, sadness, and despair.
I guess it’s important to have a strong support system that you can fall back on. Rely on people that give you some hope and optimism. And just find ways to come to peace with what you have in the present moment. If we can rely on our internal compass, rather than external whims, we’ll find that we can move past any stage of angst or grief or discomfort. It just takes practice. Baby steps at a time.
Enjoy your prime when it’s here. And find the strength to let go and move on when the time comes.