notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Meaning Of Life

You know what really sucks (so far, anyway) about getting old?

LOOKING FOR THE DAMN MEANING!

I’m at the last third of my life.

The first third went by very very slowly. As a kid, a year took forever. Not only was the school day endless, but so was each wonderful summer day.

The second third, however, flew by. Each day was over so quickly I can hardly separate one day from another. In great part that is due to the fact that, at work. one day mostly was exactly like the others. But even summers and vacations and weekends sped past me in one big thirty-three year blur.

Now that I am retired, I figure it can go either way. Without the monotonous job and fewer home responsibilities, my days might slow down again, and I will again have the long idyllic days of childhood. But on the other hand, maybe the swift days of the more recent past were not the result of a boring job, but of the aging process itself – that the older you get, the faster your days go. And if that is true, I am facing a very rapid old age.

And so – What does it all mean?

I was never much for the “Meaning of Life” and all that philosophical shit. But now that I am old, and well…

In truth I am desperate to know that individual life – my individual life – matters.

I spent about twenty years in school. I believe in knowledge. I believe in Knowledge for Knowledge’s sake alone. But does it really MEAN anything? I took courses from Life Drawing to Human Resource Management. From Bookkeeping to Beekeeping. From Investment Finance to Mark Twain to Sign Language. I think it might have made a difference in my own life if I had never studied French or Poetry or Typing. But how about Plane Geometry? In high school, I liked Plane Geometry, and I was really good at it. But I can’t imagine I would have been a different person had I not taken it.  Especially because now I don’t remember a thing about it. But I suppose the sum of all that knowledge – whether I ever found a practical application or not – makes me who I am. And I suppose it taught me to think. To consider new stuff.

Then there’s Work. I worked for more than 40 years. Mostly I liked it. Not every minute of course. Not even every year. As a kid, I worked for the phone company (boring). At a company that made sandwiches for vending machines (tasty). At the local amusement park (terrible work but very cute boys). I also had a few jobs here and there in retail (I’m great at running a cash register, but it is dangerous for me to be anywhere near cool merchandise, as I will spend my whole paycheck.) As an adult, I worked mostly in Accounting and Finance. An English Major in college, it surprised me very much that I had a knack for budgets and cash management. After 10 years in Health Care,  I rose up the ranks in a male-dominated industry (ESPN), but burned out after 15 years, and spent the next 10 at a mail-order nursery (White Flower Farm).

I had a good measure of success, and those jobs compensated me quite nicely. I was a terrible manager of people, but a good manager of information. I was well-enough liked.

But here’s the thing that haunts me.

The Meaning.

I was a fine accountant, but what difference does that make to the world?

If I had been a nurse (which I actually attempted for a short while), I might have helped someone back to health. If I had been a teacher (which I actually attempted for a short while), I might have filled a little mind with wondrous ideas.

But debits and credits? Imagine 20 years from now, when someone at ESPN stumbles upon an old filing cabinet and pulls out some wrinkled yellowed paper. Do you think this person will gaze at my work and say, “Wow. That is a hell of a present-value analysis!”

So I have spent forty years paying my bills with work that has no long-term meaning.

So What? That’s true of almost everyone. What we do is just not important. No one will remember us in a hundred years. Still, we carry on.

But again – it haunts me.

Because I want to do something important. I want to be remembered.

I have no children. No grandchildren. I have many sweet relatives, but the memory of my life will fade for them quickly. I love them and they love me, but I am on the periphery of their lives. Children make your life important. But I have none.

I write though. I leave my words behind. Many of my words – most of my words – are trivial. But a couple here and there …I hope a few of my words are lovely.

And I have many years left, I hope, to write more words.

Perhaps something I write will be found in some old file someday.

And someone will say, “This is beautiful.”

So I carry on.

me 5-11-16

44 Comments

  1. really good and thought provoking post –

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  2. Doris Kennedy

    I, like you Nancy, was a numbers person. Auto Dealerships as bookkeeper and then Office Manager. I know I did well and had very family oriented staff and owners. Yes, we were like family. But leave a mark on the world, no. I never thought I could NOT work. But, as I was laid off at 59 years old at my last job, on Connecticut unemployment for nearly 3 years, living in South Carolina (very inexpensive cost of living, so on Ct. Unemployment, I lived like a queen) I found volunteer work, working in Hospice Care, Vacation Bible Schools, Camp Happy Hearts for children in trauma, visiting Nursing Care residents and watching movies and crocheting with them, and most of all being the Servant Leader for a very vibrant Prayer Shawl Ministry. I love it. I have found the true Purpose in my Life. Helping others that need comforting and caring. I am busier than ever and am so grateful to have the time and my health to do this. I have been blessed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the meaning you have found is stunning. I hope I am as lucky in finding some worth in my life.

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  3. I was watching an episode of a show once and the main character made the following statement: Life is just one senseless distraction after another until you die. That statement hit me in the gut pretty hard? It wasn’t just that was it? I didn’t think so and I don’t think I still do, but sometimes I do wonder as you what is all for? The one thing you said that struck a chord was that you write and, from a writer who believes that is a gift, the words are not trivial. Once they are there, they have a chance to be there forever. So keep on writing. I, too, hope you have many more years. Any less I think would be a loss for all of us.

    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Tim. I plan to continue to write for a long time. I think most of life is senseless distraction, but every now and then – WOW. That moment of WOW keeps us all going.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the way you moved through your life in the post. I find it quite engaging to see how a person thinks of their days past. I know your life has meaning and I hope the memory of you lives on in your words, perhaps with a backup hard copy 🙂 Carry on with many more words and live each day with meaning for yourself!

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    • Thanks. I hope this last third of my life brings happiness to me and those I may touch.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am a lot like you — no children, retired, no Pulitzer Prize, not even a Nobel Prize, haven’t cured cancer or world peace. Recently I went back to my old company to teach a 6 week class. I’ve done it a bunch of times before and after I retired. Every time someone comes up to me to tell me that I made a difference. Just one person (and sometimes it’s the same person twice). Settles me down for a while. Then I start wondering what my purpose is. I wonder if George Washington felt like that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I studied to be a teacher way back when. I remember my student teacher… those days when everything clicked – how wonderful it felt to share knowledge and see it embraced.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As a fellow traveller in the ‘last third of my life’, I share your amazement at how fast it all goes now. My husband found a great metaphor for this. Life is like an old record album (remember?) The first several circuits of the album take a while. The needle has to go all the way around the edge. But as you get closer to the end of the album, the circle grows smaller and the circuits really are faster. But when you listen to the music, you don’t hear a difference.
    As for the “meaning of life”? The older I get, the less I care what it is! I think the meaning of life is to have lived it and to have lived it as well as we could. I think that is what propels on to our next adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Life seems to go by faster and faster the older we get, my mum only said yesterday to the doctor that she has days when she is getting around like an old woman then she loved and said I guess at 76 I am an old woman but I don’t generally think of myself as old even though I am 76, have to say I don’t think of mum as old either at 76. Me I am 53 and I am in no way getting old even though Tim says to me I am on the top end of middle aged but me I think I am on the lower end of middle aged. As for the meaning of life, well for me it is living a good and happy life not stressing over the little things that pop up and feeling loved and wanted by those around me.

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    • My mother is 92, and she says the same. That it surprises her that she is old.

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  8. I love reading your thoughts, thanks for sharing them with us.

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  9. I think everyone wants to feel as though they are worth something to others in some way. By that I mean our caring is required by someone, or our time, our thoughts, our advice. Writing is one way of making a difference, and leaving something of yourself in the world. But it’s how people remember you that means the most; how you affected their lives, the difference you made to them. That’s why so many retired people become involved in voluntary work I think – it’s about giving and making a difference, and expecting zero in return, other than a sense of having done something worthwhile with a slice of spare time.

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    • Thanks. I hope that there is something worthwhile in my future. Not just worthwhile to me, but to someone who needs what I can give.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m sorry you feel like this. I’ve also felt that way, but don’t any more. (I’m 53 and without children.) You are important to the people who love you, and you don’t know what impact you may have had on them, or on any of your readers, or any of your co-workers. Just writing this post will have meant something real to more than one person. They read your words and think, “I’m not alone in this.”

    I wrote my thoughts about my legacy – in the absence of children – here: http://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/if-we-are-childless-what-is-our-legacy.html

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    • Nicely written – thank you for sharing it with me.

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  11. My gram lived to 100 and she often told me a year flies by like a minute. I firmly believe that we all make a profound difference in our lives in so many ways. Ways we might not even realize. This post you wrote for instance. It’s honest and real and has made a lot of us readers think about our own lives. My mom is 82 and she still has a big impact on the people around her. Never underestimate your worth.

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    • I hope I at least touch someone for a moment once in a while. Thanks.

      Like

  12. Ray G

    It’s been a little while since this first appeared. I hesitated to reply because I didn’t want to hijack anything you wrote. And I won’t. Instead, I’ll say that regardless of what you think about your “legacy”, relax, because something will naturally occur which will be meaning enough.

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  13. I love the honesty in your writing. You manage to capture and express complex human emotions, which in itself is a gift and of great value! I retired almost 3 years ago (at age 55). I was so looking forward to traveling and spending time with my husband, which has been fun. But I also found myself yearning for more value, activities that would mean something. For me, that has manifested itself in starting a nonprofit with a friend. I think those “yearnings” keep us open to new opportunities that we may have been blind to when we were too busy working on ourselves. Another good piece of advice I got was to explore volunteer opportunities, but don’t commit to anything for a year. The other danger is over committing and finding yourself on the hamster wheel (without pay!) I have no doubt you will find some great activities that speak to your heart – just keep your eyes and heart open!!

    Like

    • Thanks. I love that I have written one novel, and touch people once in a while with my blog. I am hoping that as I continue to write, I can write something – even one sentence – that is lasting. That can be my mark. Proof that I was here.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Granny

    Ah the meaning of life ! Funny but that’s
    where I find myself now trying to
    discover ! We had 6 kids and now have
    7 grandchildren … Our daughters grew up
    fine … Our 3 sons are Prodigals stuck
    on mostly bad decisions and the legal
    system … I continue to wonder how they
    turned out so different being raised in
    the same home ! My biggest problem now
    is I can’t walk very well … I would love
    to volunteer maybe as a court appointed
    advocate for kids in foster care or at the
    hospital or something … But I can’t because
    of the walking ! So mostly I pray for people and
    try to encourage people with problems and I
    try to always be kind because”all the things
    I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten “I think
    you will live on in your words and in the
    hearts you’ve touched along the way … God bless
    you as you travel your journey … And may
    it be long !

    Like

  15. Pam

    Nancy, I think the meaning is in the little things we do, not big things. It’s the smile, the kind words and actions, and the love you give that matters to people and that’s what they will remember about you. I’ve decided that the meaning in life is that you raise your children, or at least influence children (your nieces and nephews, etc.) positively, and just by being a role model for the next generation. Plus, you have already given me joy in reading your terrific blog. That counts for something! I come here frequently just to see what you’ve written and to find out what else we might have in common, or just for a good chuckle. Your writing has touched my life in a positive way. Please, keep up the good work!

    I’ve often thought my job as a court clerk was meaningless, but there apparently is a need for what I do and I am filling it, just like there was a need for your expertise in financing at your job. We all play our part in the world. Not much chance I will be remembered for doing anything great, but that’s okay with me. I played my part and did my best. I’ve loved and been loved in my life. Good enough.

    I feel a little of your pain about being childless. I have two grown children, but neither is planning on having their own children, so that leaves me without grandchildren. I really would like to have grandchildren; I can’t help but feel disappointment. Every holiday, every occasion is just so much more fun when you have children around. Like you, I envy other people with grandchildren. I just have to be content with enjoying my little grand-nieces and nephews, but like you were relating, I am only on the periphery in their lives. I do have a grandpuppy, though, and that helps.

    I’ve always heard: Once you get over the hill, you pick up speed. I must be over the hill because my life is flying by, too.

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  16. Hi Nancy
    Loved reading your post, an interesting and entertaining read. I am nearing 50 and have no children either. I’ve often wondered about my own legacy, what I will leave behind in the hearts and minds of others and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s something I have no control over and I’m good with that for now.
    Age, yes it is something that seems so far away when younger, and races towards us as we get older!

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  17. I had some terribly dark times in my late teens that led me to a place where I was suicidal. In surviving this and learning to love life, I learnt how to live with meaning. I am actually writing a book about this currently.

    You are entirely right to pursue your writing, and I commend your honesty.

    We won’t be remembered for anything but the love we share with the world. If your love can be expressed through writing then that is a beautiful gift and legacy to the world.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words. I wish you much success in reaching your goals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Many thanks, I certainly hope to help others. In that, I will find success.

        (I didn’t realise you were the famous woman from Twitter 😉 .. For that too, I commend you.)

        Keep up the good work

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        • Ha ha. I am hoping that particular Twitter fame will be fleeting!

          Liked by 1 person

          • As with most social media phenomenon, it most certainly will.

            But, a good piece of writing is timeless.

            Forgive me for my ignorance, but do you also write books?

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          • I have one novel, “Just What I Always Wanted”, available on Amazon. Working on a second.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh amazing. I’ll have a peek next time in on there. Any tips for an aspiring author? I’m 40,000 words into writing a book outlining how I survived suicide attempts, learnt to be a human and eventually found gratitude.

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          • I think my best advice is to keep at it and believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone discourage you. (And here’s one little piece of practical advice…read your writing aloud to yourself. Make sure it sounds natural — and “like you.”

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thankyou! Very good advice. I started reading my writing aloud a while back and realised I was coming across like a pretentious twat. Completely changed the way I write as a result.

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  18. Jay

    As King Solomon said ‘ Life is Vanity ‘ . Then best thing is to try and enjoy every minute of it irrespective of the situation .

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  19. I’ll just tell you now. I find your writing beautiful and enjoyable. I look forward to reading your latest posts. Now that you know that, you know you’ve affected at least one person. Please keep it up. Good job.

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  20. Writing a novel is Moran most of us accomplish. Do so volunteer work at you local school or library read or teach them to write in sessions once a week. You will feel so much better. Get in a pool and exercise to help you walk, visit a physical therapist, they will teach you how exercise in the pool. Never give up in yourself, someone needs you, that is why you are still here. I believe this.

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