Being Over Fifty

Being Over Fifty

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Several years ago (never mind how many) when I turned 50, one of the first things I did was to join AARP. My motive was primarily to enjoy the discounts, but I also liked all the information they provided, and of course I was thrilled that at that age I could become one of the “youngest members” of an organization filled with people older than I! Somehow, instead of depressing me, turning fifty unleashed something within me, and I began to think of traveling (with discounts!), learning French, and retiring—not necessarily in that order. Little did I know where this kind of thinking would lead.

Learning French came first. As I have pointed out in other articles, learning this language is not a task to be undertaken lightly. At my age, actually being able to put together a coherent French sentence seemed a distant goal. I was fortunate to have very long-suffering instructors and supportive fellow students, some of who were my own students in my history classes. Whenever I would decide that at my age I just could not cope with learning French, some student would come along and invariably declare, “But you’re not THAT old,” which presumably meant that, like Auntie Mame, I was still somewhere between 50 and death. The students’ criterion was always that unless I had to gum my food, I was still in good enough shape to learn French. So I persevered and eventually I learned enough to consider a trip to Paris.



A trip to Paris! My knees knocked at the very thought. How would I manage? Where should I stay? How could I get from the airport? What should I plan see? How could I avoid eating horsemeat? Maybe I’d better not go, one part of me said. A trip to Paris seemed full of problems and pitfalls. But then, I remembered that I had felt the same way about learning French. I talked to myself sternly, arguing that the French reputation for being rude to Americans might be undeserved. After all, they had LOVED us during the American Revolution! Hmmmm. Well, OK, they had loved us during World War II too. There, that was better. Besides, lots of Americans went to France all the time and lived to tell the tale. I decided to go for it.


This is where BP came in. I started an extensive research project devoted to finding out everything I needed to know before arriving in Paris. After an awful lot of wandering around, I came across BonjourParis. Feeling very brave, I posted several questions on the discussion board. And I got real answers! Answers I could actually use (and understand)! I began to feel a whole lot better about the upcoming trip as I read everything on the site. I learned about hotels, food, and toilets—very important stuff. When I had a specific question, I went to the discussion page and asked, and voila, there came an answer.



Then one day I had an email from someone on the staff of BP. I was very surprised, figuring that it was unusually attentive of a site to correspond personally with those who merely posted questions on the site. I was even more surprised when the email asked if I would consider becoming a writer for BP. This led to a lengthy correspondence, with me protesting that my time was all filled up with teaching history and learning French. But I slipped up and mentioned that I had been moving along toward retirement. Back came the reply that this would be an excellent time to begin a new undertaking.



Believe me, the editors of BP are very persistent. So, as part of the newly emerging look-at-what-I-can-do person who somehow showed up as I turned fifty, I found myself involved in writing for BP. And then, I retired and went to Paris! I had a fabulous time.



I am not really sure there is a lesson here, but I am going to try for one anyway. Many old sundials have an inscription that reads: “Grow old along with me, The best is yet to be.” Once you fall into the “senior” bracket, consider how much there is to gain by your new status. Be adaptable and don’t automatically think you are “too old”! If you are too old for water polo, then just swim laps instead. Don’t decide that “you’ve done everything you are ever going to do”! Try something new and surprise yourself. Don’t believe that you are “too far along to enjoy life.” You are not. I know, because as part of the new me, I not only went to Paris—I also got married. So if you are 50 or older, read BP, plan your trip to France, then join AARP and grab all the (discounted) gusto you can get!


Bonjour Paris is pleased to have Jean England Freeland as a contributor.