The Art of Aging Well: Navigating Friendship and Mortality

The Art of Aging Well: Navigating Friendship and Mortality

Who woulda thunk it? I’m a little over a year from turning 50 and I couldn’t have imagined that I would be posting about aging well! I guess time flies when you’re having fun, right?

And indeed, I have been having fun. Life truly is what you make of it and most of you know that we’ve done some unusual things that have opened up a new world that we never knew existed before…

These things might not be the norm, but it’s been an incredible journey and gives me such a feeling of pride. It’s not necessarily pride for the accomplishments themselves (though I am proud of them), but more so that I’m making my days on this planet worthwhile.

So what does any of this have to do with aging well? Well, there’s more to life than just taking life by the reins and creating new adventures – even though I think that’s a very important piece of things.

Here’s what’s been on my mind lately…

Taking in my mortality and reflecting

I have one of those minds that refuses to shut off. I’m always thinking deeply about things – sometimes too deep. I have an engineering mindset and I’m constantly trying to optimize and build a better mousetrap with everything I do.

That has its pros and cons for sure. It helps me figure out the best ways to get things done successfully. However, that also means that I’m always reflecting on what isn’t optimized in my life or could be better. It drives both Lisa and Faith nuts that I have a hard time just doing… nothing. I struggle to just sit and relax when I could be working on something.

That’s my life though for better or worse.

So those cool things I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I’ve done in my life? Yeah, those have been great and they’ve made me see that there’s an alternative to the conventional way of living, which I’ve been enjoying a lot. It’s kind of a rush to just do something different – and that doesn’t even include the experience itself.

But those experiences also tend to get me to reflect on what else I could be doing differently to better my life. Am I living a life that I can look back on and not think, “If only I had done this…” or “Life was good but if I could change one thing…”?

And, of course, these are thoughts for aging well that my engineering mind tries to optimize for all the time. Ugh.

My parents seem to be going to a funeral every week for someone close to them. I’m not yet 50, but I’m starting to recognize that I’m now at the age where I’ll slowly start seeing people I care about pass away as well. It’ll be slow at first, but gradually those numbers will climb with each passing year and decade. The longer you live, the more you’ll see loved ones go – that’s one of the penalties for growing older.

I recently started thinking about this during a time of reflection and it hit me pretty hard. Am I spending my time with others as wisely as I should? Am I going to regret not keeping up with some of the people I love in life if something should happen to them?

A surprise impact from visiting out-of-state friends

This 9-month road trip we’ve been on has had its share of pros and cons without a doubt. But one thing it has done is given me a few opportunities to see people that I don’t usually get the chance to very often.

When we were leaving Texas, we stopped to have lunch with Joe Saul-Sehy (host of The Stacking Benjamins podcast) and his wonderful wife. Joe and I aren’t super close but we met several years ago and I’ve been a guest on the show before. It was great to see them and check out the small town of Texarkana.

When we passed through Georgia, we stopped and spent time with Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto. Fritz and I had started our blogs right around the same time back in 2015 and we had chatted online before finally meeting at a FinCon conference back in 2017. We hit it off, had a great time, and became friends. So it was great spending time with Fritz and his wife, Jackie, as part of our trip.

We also got to get together with some old high school friends of mine for dinner outside of Atlanta, Georgia while passing through. We only had a couple of hours but it was awesome to see them again and learn about what everyone’s been up to.

The clincher though was when we were completing Loop 2 of our trip and heading up through Raleigh, NC. My best friend, Joe, from high school (and his wife and daughter) live in that area and we had hoped to spend a little time together. We talk a few times per year and see each other periodically but it’s hard. Everyone’s doing different things and life is just busy.

Funny enough, one of my other close friends from high school, Jim (who I just mentioned we had dinner with near Atlanta), decided that he was going to come to Raleigh for this as well for a weekend to be with us. Except for our dinner a handful of weeks before, I hadn’t seen him for I-don’t-even-know-how-many years so that was beyond exciting.

We all got together with wives and daughters for dinner and an evening together and had a great time. But the next day was extremely special for me. My two buddies and I went on a solid 5.6-mile hike together and then went out to lunch. Just a good chunk of the day doing some male bonding with old friends.

It was astounding to me how fast the three of us fell right back into our comfort zone together. Friendships are great, but friends you’ve built a history with from your childhood are in a whole different ballgame. You have a history together and it’s like you never miss a beat.

It was almost therapeutic in a way. We all talked about the good and the bad we’ve had over the years, reminisced about memories from the old days, and we all laughed a lot more than I have in a while… another key to aging well!

I missed these guys a lot and I’m so appreciative that I got to hang out with them again. It made me realize that even though everyone goes their separate ways in life, losing touch with them (and other friends) was a mistake. I apologized sincerely for letting time go by without being a part of their lives. It’s crazy how easily you can lose touch with good friends as you grow older for no real reason. They also felt the same way.

I miss our old group and I’m going to be sure to try to get together more with the rest of the guys who still live in Ohio once we get back. We’re also all going to try to get together this fall, too, which would be fantastic.

Seeing old friends like this was a game-changer in my mind. Aging well is hard if you don’t have the right relationships actively in place. This has been particularly difficult for me without having a lot of guy friends that I regularly get together with anymore on a routine basis. Apparently, this is a problem with men in general as they grow older…

The percentage of men with at least six close friends fell by half since 1990, from 55 percent to 27 percent. The study also found the percentage of men without any close friends jumped from 3 percent to 15 percent, a fivefold increase.

— National Review – American Men Suffer a Friendship Recession

I consider myself very lucky to have a lot of people in my life who I consider to be close friends. However, I’m in an odd time of life right now where I’m retired with a little more time while most of these close friends are working – and a lot of them raising their own kids. For the most part, seeing close friends is generally a once-every-couple-of-months event instead of a once-a-week event… and that’s hard.

Plus, I’ve talked about this more in my post, Wellness, Wealth, and Wanderlust: Paving the Way for 2024, but spending time with just your buddies is different. When we get together with our married couple friends, we always have a great time. But I do think that men also need “guy time” to just hang out with their male buddies. It’s just different and I feel like that comradery can be vital in life both mentally and spiritually. I’m sure “girl time” is important to ladies’ health, too (probably not as fun as hanging with us guys though, right? 😉 ).

Trying to master the art of aging well

Look, I don’t think that truly mastering the art of aging well is possible. You can become extremely good at it, but we’re all just people and none of us are perfect. Between the potential for unexpected health problems, emotional rollercoaster rides, and the elusiveness of figuring out spirituality, I think the best we can do is simply just to do the best we can do. How’s that for an interesting sentence?!

That said, here’s where I’m at.

One option would be to just shrug and say, “It happens” and just continue the path I’m on. I don’t like that choice though.

Call it a mid-life crisis if you want, but I’m getting closer to age 50 and reflecting more about mortality. I’m not focusing on the death side of the coin but instead on the life side and aging well as best I can. There’s no way to be perfect at this, but I want to aim to keep these relationships with close friends more active instead of just the occasional call or get-together.

I’ve already added to my bucket list to make amends with old friends I’ve hurt over the years. For the most part, I’d say that I’ve always been a pretty good person, but we’ve all been young and stupid before and I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years. It’s rare for me to regret things in life, but I do feel I should apologize for a few stupid things I’ve done in the past. I’ll be trying to rectify these things once we get back from the 9-month road trip that we’ve been on.

Additionally, I want to pivot in life to be sure that I’m routinely keeping in touch with people who mean a lot to me and trying to ensure we also see each other a little more often. If we’d stop moving and traveling everywhere, maybe we’d have a little more time to spend with people! 🙂

Making the most out of life isn’t just about focusing on your career, your family, and the adventures in your life. Cultivating the relationships around you is so vital to aging well – possibly more than anything else in your life. I sincerely believe that keeping those relationships strong can keep your happiness level high and help you live a longer life than would otherwise.

What do you think?

If this post strikes a chord with you, consider subscribing to my email list. I’ll keep you up-to-date with new posts and keep you in the loop on what’s going on in our early retirement adventures. I’ll also send you some cool spreadsheet freebies as a welcome gift, too, just to show some love!

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

8 thoughts on “The Art of Aging Well: Navigating Friendship and Mortality”

  1. So glad you wrote about this Jim, it doesn’t get talked about enough. Most guys have no problem talking about their accomplishments or appearing to be busy, or simply don’t want to make the effort to reconnect with friends because media is much easier. To you point though, how you felt on that hike with your friends is exactly what I’ve experienced, and everyone doesn’t want to let that much time go by again. I’m not sure there’s an easy answer, but making an effort and being transparent is key. Hope you get to see your friends a lot more often now!

  2. I’m in that 15% Jim. And we just buried a brother in law 3 months younger than me. Probably my closest friend. Relocating across country didn’t help relationships, though I’ve never been one to just hang with the guys anyway. Family is filling the space. Working to grow relationships through church. Wife talks about moving to 55+ community !!!!! Need to avoid that, though it would help with meeting people.

    1. So sorry to hear about your brother-in-law, Kev. I hope you and your wife are doing ok – I can only imagine how hard that’s been. Hopefully, the church has been somewhat helpful for you guys.

      I have heard some good things about the 55+ communities and how so many people enjoy the comradery they find there – maybe you’re wife’s onto to something!

  3. One thing I’m finding out about being 50+ is that my body isn’t as adaptable as it used to be. My joints are all achy from working out. I need to reduce the range of motion to minimize the inflammation or something like that. Ugh!
    I met up with a couple of college buddies during spring break. It was great to see them. Everyone is busy with their lives, but we’ll try to get together more often. It’s tough with the distance.

    1. I hear you on the body being not as cooperative as it used to be! 🙂 You just do what you can do without trying to push yourself past what your body can take. I saw that March was a good month for your workouts – nice job!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.