Today, I had one of those moments when I had to face the possibility that I might not be able to do something I have my heart set on doing. To celebrate turning 60, I really wanted to hike Wainwright’s Walk in England next summer with my husband and daughters. It is a beautiful hike from the Irish Sea to the North Sea of 192 miles, and people complete it in around two weeks. The sports medicine doctor I saw this morning said I might not be able to do it because of a physical limitation!
I feel great at age 60, and can still do splits, cartwheels and backbends. I have tons of energy. I exercise every day.
The visit to the doctor got me thinking about what it really meant to be old. I believe that age really is more of a state of mind than a physical thing. You know how some people seem old even when they are in their twenties, right? Their outlook is old.
I concluded that we are old is when we stop having goals and dreams.
I love having goals. Big goals and small goals. Long term and short term goals. I love dreaming about achieving these goals and how wonderful it will feel. I enjoy working towards my goals and becoming the best version of myself.
This past New Year’s Day, a woman in her 80s told me she didn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I asked, “Really? I mean, I can see if you don’t want to do it on New Year’s Day, but you mean you don’t set goals for yourself?” She responded, “Not really.”
I was speechless. If we don’t have goals, we stop growing. At least on purpose. And when we stop growing, aren’t we essentially dead? All living things have to grow, right?
This has nothing to do with age, though. I have an 80-year-old friend who still works as a landscape architect, has the most beautiful gardens in town, still travels all over the world with her 86-year-old very active husband, and is pretty much unstoppable. She has lots of goals and dreams and keeps living them.
So back to Dr. Dexter. I broke my ankle 20 years ago, and now have some arthritis in it. I am still very active and walk a lot, although nothing approaching 14 miles per day. I wanted his expert advice on whether I could physically do this hike (say yes, please!) and if so, what I should do to prepare for it.
His answer was maybe, but it might not work out. He thought it was a better idea to do it in smaller parts or over three weeks and to have a backup plan. Oh, and I should get trip insurance in case I can’t do it. I was crestfallen. It was the first time in my life that I might not be able to do something I really wanted to do because of my body! Plus he told me that for most people, arthritis from a traumatic break just gets progressively worse. I realized that I’ve only got so much mileage left on this body that has served me so loyally for so long.
Now I have to decide what to do with this information. I will do a bunch of longer hikes and walks this summer and see how it goes. Head down the street to L.L. Bean and buy the perfect hiking boots for supporting my ankle. And so on.
I agree with Benjamin May, who said, “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
If I can’t achieve this goal, I’m not going to give up on hiking or challenging myself or stop setting goals. I’m too young and have got too much life ahead of me!
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