Life is an interesting journey. Sometimes we have to work twice as hard to prove our worth, and as gay men we often get faced with challenges that most of the world will never have to know. Growing older in this day and age means dealing with the stigma of ageism as well as our own realizations of transition. But the thing we always need to cherish is that with every new phase we enter, we birth new knowledge, experience and growth.
The phases of life are vastly different from person to person, yet we have similar struggles. It’s an ongoing classroom full of lessons that will be missed if we don’t pay attention. There is no finish line, yet many of us struggle to find one instead of focusing on the race. The joy is always going to be in the journey, so let’s welcome every step we take.
We only have one chance after …
20’s – The Learning Years
In your twenties, you have the easiest windows to make strong choices. This is your learning time. You fall, you cut yourself, and you fail. It’s the people that pick you back up again who you should keep in your life, not the ones that kick you while you’re down and sally forth without looking behind them. If you don’t make tough decisions, you are going to be stationary and never grow to your full potential. Make the wrong choice? So what, this is what being in your 20s are about. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re traveling the road and don’t know what’s lurking around the corner, and it can give you anxiety. But be smart. When bad things happen, don’t repeat the same mistakes. Instead, learn from it. Learn from your friends’ mistakes so you won’t repeat their pattern. You have much life ahead – don’t fret. Enjoy these learning years, the adversities you experience now are always going to return as strengths later on.
30’s – The Associate Years
You are at last starting to become a part of “adult” society. Your friends are having babies, others have been married for a few years, and you’re still trying to match your fantasy life with reality. It’s okay. These are the years where you are still finding the pieces to complete your life puzzle. People that come into your life during this phase are usually the ones you will keep forever because your 20s taught you how to pick your friends from acquaintances – at least they should have. You also will begin to see your youth slowly disappear, but you should never let this affect your self esteem. You are a grounded person. The best years lie ahead. Now, finally, you can use the lessons you learned in your 20s to make sensible life-altering decisions to further your career and goals.
40’s – The Teacher
Your peak. Now you know what lies behind the trees. You’ve become the leader of your own world. Keep your head high and be a mentor for the younger generation so they can do the same for you. After , we often learn more from our students than our teachers. At this stage, you have proven to yourself you’re on the right path. The road to happiness is ongoing, and remember, you will never actually get there. The road is meant to be built, never finish. If you think of life this way, it will take a lot of the pressure off. It’s in the journey, so you need to do is ride the ride that you’ve set for yourself. You’re still able to make major life choices that will make or break you. Thankfully, you’ve had your 20s and 30s under your belt. Your experiences will now create a trajectory that is under your control.
50’s – The Time Of Your Life
Your life is now half complete. Consider this the intermission and you now can breathe, relax, and reflect. You’ve been there, done that. Allow the fear to leave you. Take comfort in knowing you’ve lived the best life you could possibly have given yourself. You’ve worked for what you have, you’ve struggled for the things you achieved and if you open your eyes, you will see the rewards that have surfaced as a result. It’s never going to be over until you say it’s over. In fact, at this stage you need to open yourself up to the possibility of more learning. Don’t let this phase keep you from growing. In order to successfully move on to the next phase in our lives, we must always allow ourselves to MOURN the previous one. Don’t dwell on the things you may have lost, instead focus on what you gained and the things you have yet to.
60’s – Contentment
Sit back and enjoy your life. You have experienced of life’s cruelties and you can share these stories with the world, educating the younger generation. Not only that, but you allow yourself to be content with the good and the bad. The regrets you hold on to are now looked at from a new perspective. Don’t allow yourself to be bitter. The past will always be the past and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Focusing on today and the future will open yourself to be more content. Never give an opportunity for the ghosts of your past to haunt you. Make peace with your decisions. Learn to measure your life on how much love you’ve given, not by how many things you’ve lost, how many people you have hurt, or how much time you may have wasted being jealous or cynical. Breathe in the sunshine and let it resonate. You deserve it.
70’s and Beyond – Wisdom Makes Peace
There’s little things that bother you now, and it’s been a long road to that point. People of branches of life look to you as a wise soul. Offer yourself to give back to the world that’s given so much to you. As you watch your friends pass away, the gratitude of knowing that you were a part of their own journey, as they were to yours, will make the mourning easier. Every moment is precious, you know this now more than ever, and it’s nearly impossible to not see the good things in life without smiling. Life is a gift, and you have embraced it. Love the good. Love the bad. It was part of the journey, and it’s never over until it’s over. Till then, keep on being curious. You’ll never know the answers, but it will give you peace to know that there are more questions.
This article by Bill Sarter was originally post on gayguys.com