The Joy of 47: Your Life Is a Story You Have Lived to Tell
When friends lament their glory days receding in the rearview mirror, their soon-to-be empty nests, their feelings of Now what am I supposed to do with my life?, I tell them about my father. He sometimes said, "It's heck to get old," but even when he couldn't take the stairs two by two anymore, he still had products to patent and safaris to embark on. And tales about "the olden days." As a child, I begged for these stories. "Tell me about Sunday drives in your Model T," I'd say, "or the time at the Folies Bergère when the dancing girl pulled you up on stage!" He'd smile and say, "Not bad for a boy from Granite City, Illinois."
My dad wasn't the only senior citizen in the house. One of my grandmothers, a farm girl born in the 1800s, lived with us; the other, a flapper in the Roaring Twenties, lived nearby. My friends found them strange, these old women sitting at our Steinway spinet or baking in the kitchen, but I loved curling up next to Mimi and demanding, "Tell me about heading to Chicago to become an opera singer!" I'd volunteer to serve as egg separator while Gogo made lemon chiffon pie. "Tell me about drinking Champagne from your dancing pumps!" I'd say.
Growing up on these stories, I felt woven into a dazzling legacy. As if my family members were passing the baton—now it's your turn. I, too, wanted to live a life worth recounting in rapturous vignettes.
So I danced on Greek island beaches, climbed 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, sang in choirs in majestic cathedrals, lived on both U.S. coasts, and landed, for now, in the wilds of Montana, where I am raising my children, galloping on my quarter horse through mountain meadows, hiking in Glacier National Park, and making bonfires. It's no surprise that I also became a storyteller by trade. Stories give us permission to dive bravely into our lives, to let the pluck and perseverance of others guide our own adventures. At 47, I have stories to tell. And I'm hungry to live many more.
In some ways, sure, it'll be heck to get old. But I hear my elders whispering, "There are mountains to climb, meadows to gallop." So I will.
Laura Munson is the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.