You were in IT. You worked with networks and devices. Your daughter had grown up and had moved on. You were happy to have your parents near you at the end of their lives. But your mother recently died of heart failure, and it was not pretty. Your father died of a stroke (which was faster) a few years before that. Single, you were keeping an open mind.
Alumni weekend was different this year. You were anxious about going. The last time, people “stayed on the surface.” This year, people seemed to be “present.” The theme was adversity, and you said by this point in life, everybody had their story. You repeated, “Everybody.” You shared yours with me, and I asked you what I would need to do to weather something like that.
You said the worst thing to see at a reunion is a person who is in the fourth quarter of life and still “hanging on” to status. I asked you what you meant, and you said, “Schools, neighborhoods, brands, firms. An image. I mean come on. Still? Who are you? I mean who are you, alone, and really?”
You are going to retire in a small village in France where things are walkable, and where there’s a river. You heard that it’s nice to live near a river. You don’t need much – just enough to make it to the end; but of course, you don’t know when that will be. I asked you if you would consult or do some remote work. You said, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore.” You will look for jobs teaching English as a foreign language, though. You will buy your bread at the baker, your meat at the butcher, and your vegetables at the grocer. You will ride a bike. You will meet students for coffee and take dance classes in the evening.