A friend of mine was in town on business and we were able to get together for lunch.
I first met him at a party when we were in college.
It was a fraternity party where the "brothers" were all engineering students with severely enlarged cerebral cortexes.
[I only went to the coolest parties.]
Anyway, it was the mid 1980’s and John had on a skinny, leather tie.
I was instantly IN LOVE.
I stalked this poor boy for several years until he finally quasi dated me and then broke my heart when he told me that, while he liked me very much, he did not LOVE me back.
[Only it took him a really long time to say it because he used a metaphor about setting off forever in a canoe with just one person and how I might be the person for the canoe, but… (??)]
Years later, after staying intermittently in touch, we actually became friends.
Both of us ended our starter marriages around the same time.
One thing I like about John is the way that he has always, even when we were in college, known what to ask people.
Anytime he meets someone new, he produces a miraculous question – one that draws the person out of themselves and seduces them to share something personal, interesting, or unusual.
John has a talent for that.
Today, in the heat of the mid-day, Georgia sun, we decided to walk to lunch.
On the way, John told me that he often asks older men what they would do differently if they could go back in time.
He asks them what they would do differently if they were him.
The two answers he’s received that he likes the most are: 1.) don't buy things you don’t need; and 2.) plan for a second career.
John talked a lot about the second one.
He talked about the balance we strike between ambition and parenthood.
Sometimes we’re content not to climb the ladder for awhile as long as we can balance our family lives with our professional ones.
Some older men have told him that they then found themselves at the end of their careers having achieved something far less than what they dreamed of achieving when they set out.
“It took a long time to figure out that I should have prepared myself for a second career – something far less lucrative, but far more fulfilling.”
I thought about my Grandfather.
He worked for years as an engineer for a company that made elevators.
After he retired, he spent the next fifteen years gardening and doing woodwork.
He didn’t make a living at either of these, but he grew much of the food he ate and he made furniture and gifts for all the members of our family.
Most importantly, he seemed happy with all of it.
John’s questions made me want to start asking older women what they would do differently, what they would do if they were me.
[I know, I know. Moisturize.]
It also made me think about how I’ll spend my days when the children are grown and I am retired.
What will be my “second career” as John's advisor called it?