About what’s important in life – wisdom from a senior

“To survive, to keep on living is the most important thing in this world,”

said with low voice Peter, a 71 year old bush walker, driving his car to Eureka Camp on a Friday afternoon. Babak and I were going with Peter for the weekend to do some group bush walks at Yarra Junction. We did not have a car, Peter was kind to give us a lift there, where we were meeting the other bush walkers.

After some small chat about where are we originally from, about Uber and its costs, about the high way, cars and fuel, about the enjoyment of work, Peter said he was at a moment in his life when he was taking some time to plan the next 20 years of his life.

“I need to focus on what is important at my age”, mentioned Peter.

We wanted to hear more. We asked Peter what was it he appreciated in life, looking at it through eyes with more than 70 years of experience in seeing the world.

“Health is the most important thing.”

Then he paused. There is no fun in growing old. Whatever issue we used to have – stubborn or bad knees, cold limbs with bad blood circulation or sudden change of moods – they all grow stronger with age, while our body gets weaker and weaker. “Use it, or lose it” becomes more relevant than ever. Peter was prioritising going to gym at least 3-4 times a week and taking time for bush walks on the weekend. Giving our body the food it needs to be properly nourished and the exercise it needs to say active and fit is the absolute minimum we can do to stay healthy. And this is not really just for seniors. It applies to every single one of us.

“Having good relationships, dear people around you is the way to enjoy your health. Sometimes I think it is even more important than health.”

There was sadness in Peter’s voice when saying this. He has never been married. But this does not mean he could not enjoy the company of the bush walkers, of his friends for Christmas, Easter, or just for the weekend or an afternoon at the next door cafe. When it comes to our happiness, relationships are crucial (I wrote a LinkedIn article about it here a while ago). We might be tempted to prioritise money over relationships, career over spending time with our dear ones, saving up rather than going away for the weekend to visit a family member. Money will not support you with kind words and hot chocolate when you are down and feeling meaningless. Your career will not hold your hand when you are sick either.

“I want to write and publish three novels I have had in my head the last 20 years. And I want to write these novels for the joy of it.”

Peter didn’t like fame, so he wanted to publish under a pseudonym. “When you are famous, you don’t know anymore who is your friend and who is not.” Maybe it is writing that we do just for the joy of it. Maybe it is music, art, gardening, reading, walking, cooking. Whatever it is you always wanted to do, just go and do it now, while you have the time.

We’ve got to Eureka Camp a little wiser than we left Melbourne, grateful to Peter for sharing with us. After all, what seem to be important in life at 70s is highly relevant in our 30s, 40s, or whatever…

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