One of the issues we all struggle with as we age is becoming a “has-been.” We tend to have a lot of moments over time were we become “has-beens” (were single, were raising children, were married, were young, were thin, were superior at sports, were healthy, etc) but none is more jarring than “were employed as…”….when we become retired “has-beens.” Does this mean we are no longer who we were? In a way, yes, and this is a good thing.
Think of all the past “has-been” stages you have been through and how traumatic each one was at the time. Remember when you were about to get married and you though, “How is it going to be to never be free again? To never have sex with another person again? ” And then you got married anyway and found a new adventure and you thought, “Well, I was getting tired of being single, being lonely, hanging out at clubs…” In other words, you had been single long enough and were in a rut, a rut of dating and playing the field. Then you had kids. And two decades later, you got hit with “empty nest” syndrome. And you thought, “How am I going to deal with the this? I was a hands-on parent for so long and now it’s all over.” And you struggled, until you found the extra time you had has led to new and exciting experiences. Suppose you got divorced and you thought, “How can I live without my partner?” And you suffered for a while until you found that the unexpected freedom led to a new career or new friends or even a new love. Have you ever had a job you really loved but after ten or more years doing the same thing, you really felt bored? Remember how hard it was to make a decision to change jobs? Frightening, but, once it was done and you moved on, you looked back and we’re thankful you had gotten out of the rut you were in (even if it was a great place for many years) so you could have new challenges and new experiences.
This is what life is really all about; change. Change leads to knowledge and wisdom, change leads to freshness and excitement, change leads to life. When we stop changing, if we stay in whatever rut for far too long (and not everything we do for a long time is a rut, so please don’t think I am advocating dumping your spouse or a job you truly enjoy going to everyday), we start living a sort of early death.
So, if you have retired, become a “has-been” in your field, don’t think of it as some kind of failure; think of it as a great success, that you have completed that phase of life, done enough there, and, rather than become stale and lifeless in a position that offers nothing new, you have moved on, on to new possibilities.
The most difficult thing about becoming a “has-been” in any part of life is being sure that you fight to become something new again, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. The biggest challenge at sixty and beyond is finding those new goals, especially in a world where we seniors are often considered of the age where we should stop having any, that we should sit back and do “senior” things; play golf, read more books, play bridge, travel….all fine and fun things but the idea that we should no longer want to be challenged or contribute to the world is a terrible concept, that we should just want comfort and to be cared for, well, that we should accept being “has-beens” with no future – this is unacceptable. All humans need to be able to look ahead with some degree of possibilities….or we fall into the rut of old age and we never get out and then we are truly “has-beens.”
I just read about 99-year-old Lillian Weber who makes a dress a day for poor African girls (she is in the photo above); here is a woman who found something new to do, a new goal and challenge and she no longer is just a “has-been.” She has added meaning to her life and sets a great example for all of us.
Being a “has-been” is fine – actually a good thing, something we can look back at and be proud of – because that means we did something worthwhile while we were capable and inspired; hopefully, we have been “has-beens” many times over. And now we have moved on to do more awesome things. Life should be full of “has-beens,” even into our sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties….you shouldn’t be a “has-been” who hasn’t done anything new in the last two decades. Life needs purpose, life needs meaning, and you need that kind of life.
So, move on, you wonderful “has-beens” and start working on the next part of your life, your next adventure… start truly living again…find something, or create something…..and don’t dwell on the past, don’t keeping looking back …. or you will become a permanent “has-been” and that is not what being a “has-been” is all about. Being a “has-been” should be but a chapter in our book and unless you have come to the very last page (which should be a surprise), you still should have many more chapters to go. Go write them.