On my 65th birthday a few years ago, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a book titled Where Will You Be Five Years from Today? The inscription read that they were wishing me an awesome next five years.
I used to look at my life in terms of decades. How was I going to make my mark with each decade? That was easy until I retired and left me wondering what my 60s would bring as a decade. It had certainly started out brilliantly with my first grandchild being born on my 60th birthday.
Then I looked at what my next challenge could be. Writing had always been a little dream I kept tucked away. But one day I started writing. Just picked up a pen, bought a notebook and started writing. I had no idea where the writing was going to take me and had no idea what my quality of writing would be. It didn't matter. It felt marvelous and I just kept writing.
I had to duel down the negative comments that had been made about my ability to write by an ex-spouse so many years ago. It was a minimal memory but like any emotional scar, still there.
I believe that the only difference between a writer and someone wanting to write is that the writer writes. Consider all the variables in today's writing world. Also consider all the writers that were soundly put down in their career only to find infamous writing stardom at some later date.
It was cathartic to put life's right turns in the form of words on a page. There were people I admired in the arts who encouraged my writing. I am forever grateful.
Before I knew it, those first five years of my 60s were over and other than writing I seemed to have no clear direction of what I would make of this time. Then along came the book.
I started sending out submissions to writing contests. It was exhilarating, pressing send. My writing, that typed piece of my life, that appropriately named attachment went spinning out into the ether. Writing is attached to you, it clings to every fibre and the more you write, the finer the texture of that fibre.
Through a series of serendipitous situations, I find myself where I am today with my writing. To my surprise and much like Sally Fields all those years ago at the Oscars, there were some readers "who really liked me."
Now I am midway through these five years after my 65th birthday. I have some idea of what needs my focus. Five things.
The love of my family. A favourite epitaph " To live on in the hearts of others is not to die' has proved to be true in my own life. My father died over 45 years ago and is as much alive today in my heart as he was back then. That is a parental inheritance not measured by dollars and cents. I like that. It is the standard for my own family legacy.
Plan one major adventure a year. It doesn't have to be around the world. It can be around the block. 'If wishes were horses beggars would ride'. Think of all the places in your own backyard you've never visited or want to visit again.
"If you don't have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?"
Delete all the things that don't matter. The negativity that can weigh us down is always there for the asking. At any given point in our lives we can find lots to be negative about. Let go of it and move on to what is most important for you.
Change the things you can. Whatever part of your life doesn't fit anymore, change it. It could be a home, it could be a partner. Opt for 'living your life' and not for just 'existing' or doing what others expect.
Give back, pay it forward, however you want to describe the altruism of putting yourself behind the goal. Last year I started volunteering and it proved to be one of those life changing times. After six years away from education, I started volunteering at my local school. The benefits were beyond what I could have imagined. I made new friends and worked with students using my background in social skills and guidance training. Just like riding a bicycle, it all came back. Volunteering in the school gave me the distance from the educational politics and the opportunity to work with students again.
"What do you care about? If you think somebody should do something about it, be that somebody.
"You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose,
You're on your own and you know what you know
And you are the one who'll decided where to go."
So... "Where will you be five years from today?"
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