Cartography For People In Their 50s In The 21st Century

woman in her 50sWhen I was in my 20s I was trying to figure out my next steps in life, often feeling bewildered and doubtful. How would I know the right moves for me? I had notions of my own criteria for what I wanted in my life and I saw that some of my ideas seemed different than those of my friends. Nonetheless, I found that I was measuring myself against others to chart my progress. It seemed like I was working hard at keeping up, or catching up,  and then worked hard to surpass my friends in my own fashion. That’s a lot of evaluating progress. A lot of pressure. Over time, I did find my own path, my own rhythm, and I came to trust myself and my goals. I gained confidence in my strengths and life journey no matter how unique.

Keeping score is something we all do, regardless of who we are, right? We tend to mark our progress in life, work, and relationships by comparing ourselves with our imaginary (and sometimes real) jury of peers. As we age, we have the potential to see through the comparison trap; however, certain events—birthdays, anniversaries (or lack thereof) and career transitions—compel us to take stock of where we are.

Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people in their 50s, both friends and clients, who are at this rather loaded checkpoint. The 50s decade has traditionally been a time to make retirement plans, schedule golf games, and scout good weather locations. I mean sure, retirement sounds attractive in the abstract; however, many of us are invigorated by the interesting work we do and too much leisure time just sounds boring. Many of us recognize our need to work for financial reasons and are even content to do so, but want the next two decades to feel different from the last three. And then also, some of us find ourselves unexpectedly single and dating (!) which wasn’t necessarily part of the plan. As our culture shifts, the 50s seem further away from retirement age; instead, many people are planning their next career move, making decisions that will potentially take them well into their 70s.

Where is the map that charts this territory in the 21st century? While comparing ourselves to our peers is no longer the goal, it does help to see how others are mapping out their future. Damn the negative self-talk I hear so often that says ‘I’m too old to do anything new,’ or ‘you have to know coding to do anything these days.’ The way I see it, the new “younger old-age” is up for grabs. Using our knowledge, connections, creativity, and the blessed internet we can create a new vision, in short, for our very own map. So, if you’re awake at 2:00 AM thinking about life in your 50s and beyond, call or email me; I’m probably up too. I’m investigating. I’m clearing the terrain to navigate new paths. Cartography is, indeed, in progress.