By Patricia Harrington
I saw my youngest child off to university a couple years back and the empty nesting began for me. Part of the empty nest time of our lives is figuring out what new or renewed purpose we want to take on in life. A part of me recognized the ambition of wanting to succeed in life and to continue to work very hard. Another part of me recognizes the importance of making sure that time is spent doing things that I love to do. I am fortunate to have been blessed with work that I love and the fact that I work with people I greatly value. Life is more than work alone though, and it is more than keeping up with teenagers, grown children and grandchildren, although this definitely is another highlight for me as I love the times I get to have with my grown children, when we are able to get together. What makes us happy can change over time and sometimes it is difficult to figure out what brings happiness. Finding our own happiness may include letting go of others’ expectations of us. This can be a hard thing to do if a great deal of one’s life has been wrapped up in working toward something that someone else wanted us to do.
I have read that being open to our own change and being flexible to set our own path might be what ambition looks like as we age. Oddly enough, this view may lead us to be better at what we do than when we did just worked at something to be able to pay the bills. It has been shown time and again that if we do what we love and enjoy what we do, we become better and better at it, at any age. Living each moment doing what makes us feel good inside and not solely to make money or gain power can help us age well and feel healthy. Many studies say that when people strive for basic goals like giving back to the community, learning more about something of interest or doing something just to enjoy it, they are happier. When goals are set for the purpose of getting something back, like money, happiness is harder to reach, even if lots of money is earned.
It has also been shown that combining play with work actually enhances the work achieved - that makes me think of the time I heard of some big computer companies providing fun things like ping pong tables for their employees. Research has shown that, overall, people experience the happiest times of their lives both when they are younger and when they are older. For people who are having the time of their lives through their middle years, they probably live the philosophy of truly enjoying where they spend their time.
As the empty nesting settled in and I gained the positive aspects of it - like more free time, I also did some soul searching to fill this additional time with people and activities I love. I attempted to make a creative space in which my artistic self of many years ago was found again, apparently it needs more time to appear. Geocaching my way across the Maritimes also brings great delight and exercise. I have taken more time to play golf, a new-found sport for me and I enjoy the beautiful surroundings at the golf course. Ambition at any age can help motivate us to find those joys we seek in life.
So take the time to ensure you have happiness in your life; it is good for your health to do things that bring you joy and warms your heart, be it a new hobby, volunteering or doing more of what you enjoy. As the Nike slogan says…”Just Do It™!”
Patricia Harrington is executive director at Westford Nursing Home in Port Elgin. She believes it is important to share information on everyday concerns as we age and enjoys promoting these important aspects that will help our older population in aging well. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 506-538-1301.