Friends for the Ages

I’ve always enjoyed connecting with people who fall outside of my age group. I’m a tail-end “boomer” but I’m not fan of painting entire generations with a simple moniker.

It’s a convenient way of describing a group of people who happen to be born within specific dates in history but also a practice that slots people into groups with a behavioral theme based solely on age.

In reality, we can all benefit from crossing over our “assigned” generational group and getting to know people are much older or younger than we are. There’s a wealth of wisdom to be gained from others at different life stages and I’ve made some amazing friendships with people who are decades different in age.

Naturally, many of my friends are close to both my age and stage of life. We met while our kids were in school together or at various social events that “same-aged” people attend.

We have a lot in common but there’s something special about having friends who are experiencing life events I’m either done with or have yet to encounter.

Case in point; I am a casual golfer and have played in a nine-hole group on Wednesday mornings for over 20 years. At my current age of 58, I am among one of the youngest players in the group. Many are well into their 70s.

I love my Wednesday morning golf ladies. They are wise, funny, empathetic and not afraid to say what’s on their mind. They are good listeners and have given me great advice over the years.

They show up with a level of confidence and self acceptance that is often lacking in younger women. Many of them have retired from successful careers and are a wealth of knowledge on many topics.

They are, for the most part, content with their life. They’ve been through (and survived) many things: the death of a spouse, serious illness, issues with children or grandchildren and countless other challenging life events. They persevere with wisdom and humor, give me hope and make me laugh.

My younger friends have a completely different perspective. Their children are still in school. They are at the peak of their careers. Much of their life seems to be ahead of them and they much to look forward to.

And they worry. They worry about not being “enough”, about their work/life balance, their kids education and how they stack up to the other moms/career women/wives. They often feel the pressure to compete. And I’ve been there and can relate and hopefully offer some wisdom they can use.

These younger friends are beautiful but often don’t know it. They don’t yet have the dreaded batwings that seems to appear overnight sometime after fifty – things we lament but also laugh about. They may wonder, “why can’t I look great in a bikini in my 30s or 40s? when we older women are wondering; “where do I find the skirted suits and caftan cover-ups?”

I love these ambitious, smart, energetic women. They remind me of all I’ve been through, accomplished and survived in my younger years.I want to tell them to let go of the worry and comparison and enjoy the present and their youth.”

And then there are those wise, wonderful friends who seem to pop up to teach us the important life lessons. A few weeks ago, I got two nearly simultaneous emails that were shocking reminders of just how unpredictable life can be and why we do need to live in the present.

One was an automated Facebook birthday reminder for a longtime friend who died of a brain tumor several years ago. It was to be her 55th birthday.

She had found her soulmate in her second marriage and they had many years of happiness together before she was diagnosed. While there is no doubt she lived her life to the fullest, she died way too soon for those she left behind.

The second email was a blog post from a friend I met while we were both speakers at women’s event. She spoke about living the last third of your life to the fullest. I spoke about struggling with comparison and the perils of social media. We developed a good friendship and I consider her a wise mentor.

When we met, I immediately admired her ability to look at life circumstances, the good, the bad and the just plain unfair, and learn from them. Her email was a blog letting readers know the reason for her lapse in posts.

She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Terminal. And yet she found the strength to write about it. I read her blog several times (shedding a few tears along the way) and as usual, she was articulate, informative and yes, wise.

Forming a true connection with people doesn’t always coincide with age or life stage. Often, the best connections (and friendships) are made when we step outside our comfort zone and engage with those a little (or a lot) older or younger than we are.

We all start out young and with any luck, we will all live to be old. With age comes wisdom, and with youth comes hope. We need both in this world.

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