Ship's Wheel

WHAT IS AN AGING HERO?

The media's depictions of people going through the second half of life are overwhelmingly negative. We are characterized as less attractive, bright, able-bodied, and ultimately less relevant than our younger counterparts. Consider how often aging is associated with being slow, sickly, frail, forgetful, or needy. Such stereotypes tend to burrow into our unconscious minds and become self-fulfilling prophecies. Fortunately, with introspection and conscious effort, we can root out destructive myths and embrace the reality that growing older can be a terrific, life-affirming adventure!

 

The difference between an aging hero and the average person can be captured in one word, courage. Courage defines heroes. Aging heroes have the mettle to rail against the confines of conventional attitudes. We embrace opportunities to create meaning in our lives and to improve the lives of others. Prisoners of the social constructs of modern culture are unaware that the key to freedom is always within reach. That key is the courage to step out of assigned roles and live authentically. In a world so often governed by fear and negativity, aging heroes gaze on the future with confidence, enthusiasm, and wonder.

 

Aging Heroes is a lifestyle. Adopt it as you navigate the waters of middle and late adulthood. You express your lifestyle in everything you do. Your work, habits, attitudes, choices, how you interact with others, and what you do for fun are all expressions of your lifestyle. As an aging hero, these expressions fall into a harmonious rhythm flowing from your truest, most genuine self.

 

Fair warning, though, this voyage is not for everyone. Older does not always mean wiser. It isn’t difficult to find people of all ages stuck in unhealthy patterns, unwilling to do anything about it. Some live with their eyes closed, never recognizing the harm they cause or the wonderful opportunities they waste. They lack the courage, insight, and maturity to become aging heroes.

 

All aging heroes are committed to moving beyond the status quo. The number one regret of the dying is that they did not live lives true to themselves but instead tried to conform to what others expected of them. Aging heroes refuse to be defined by others. We create lives marked by self-discovery, adventure, service, and personal growth.

 

The old saying, "the whole is more than the sum of its parts," is fundamental to the Aging Heroes' credo. Think of a delicious chocolate cake. The cake is more than the eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and butter used to make it. With the help of the baker, the cake has emerged from these ingredients as something altogether different. You are, likewise, more than your physical body, more than your thoughts, more than your experiences, and more than your relationships. You emerge from all of these a singular and ever-transforming entity.

The components that create you are dynamic. That is, they are constantly interacting with each other. These interactions result in the change and progress you experience in your life. Likewise, you are a dynamic component of a greater system. Your interactions with the environment around you ultimately influence change and progress in the world! Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Everything is interconnected. The people, things, and events in your life affect you as you, in turn, affect them. In my family, we talk about how moods can be contagious. If one person in our house is irritable, the rest of us may soon follow suit. Every action you take in life creates a ripple in the fabric of the whole. The action may cause a tiny ripple, as when someone does you a small kindness, and you pay it forward to others. Or, it may cause a big ripple that impacts history, such as when Rosa Parks chose to sit in the front of the bus.

From you, me, Erica, and others like us emerge Aging Heroes. We are works in progress, ever-improving. As we take on the challenges of this quest, we are also creating positive ripples that affect the world around us. By living our best lives, we ignite that passion in others.

~Randolph (The Professor) Harrison

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