Sharkie Zartman is a friend of mine. She is an ex-professional volleyball player, author, teacher, yoga expert and so much more. She is not the TALL women you might expect of a pro volleyball player…but she made up for he normal size with her abnormal skills and work ethic. One of her books, Shark Sense (with a cool forward by…me) tells about how she managed to succeed despite discouragement from others and despite her not being that TALL athlete we often picture as a volleyball pro. Sharkie was and is a winner because she decided to be…and then did the work to bring it into being. I am always proud of her.
Sharkie has a new book out...Empowered Aging…available at Amazon.com starting today. She did not let me write the forward this time…but did let me write one of the opening chapters…and I made good use of the opportunity. I think you will like the book and hope you like my chapter. So…here are the final few paragraphs of the chapter…leaving out some good stories that you will find if you buy a copy for yourself or for someone you love. Here goes…
One Last Thing: You Are Not One Thing
I grew up as a corporate guy. I wore suits and sports coats. I was important. I had things to do, people to meet, goals to accomplish. I had to look good, speak carefully, and I had no time for “fun and games.” I put my head down and worked. Yes, I made time for my two great kids and my wife who has now been with me for almost y years. Yes, I kept in touch with friends and neighbors and even tried to play an occasional round of golf. But mostly, I did business meetings, business travel, and worked. And my mind was constantly working—kind of playing a never-ending chess game that was my career and life—always trying to figure out how to survive and maybe even win in the end. And then one day, I got old and retired.
Who was I now?
At first, I was “golf guy.” I played golf until my hands bled. Got down to a nine handicap, then slowly watched the handicap climb until I was a twelve and higher. The more I played, the worse I got. I gave up on the idea that I was going to get good enough to play on the Senior Tour. Golf was fun, but I wasn’t good enough at it to make me feel important or admired or any of the things I used to strive for in my life. It turned out, for me, to just be a game, and that was not enough.
Next, I was “author guy.” I wrote my second book. I went on dozens of TV and radio shows to promote it. The book won a gold medal for Best Career Book of the Year. I was in every newspaper, on lots of websites, all over the place. Sold a few books. Wore myself out promoting the book, and in the end, broke even at best on the book financially. I still love to write, but the reality of the publishing, promotion, and distribution end of that business is more than I want to deal with today. My future writing efforts will be low-key efforts that will be fun, take little work and cost me next to nothing to promote and distribute. And that will be just fine with me.
And then my wife and I moved to Hawaii. I got rid of every suit except one all-purpose black suit, got rid of all the sport coats, gave away maybe fifty dress shirts and about fifty pairs of shoes. Downsized the house and our belongings. Put the Rolex away for someone to inherit down the road. Now I dress like a slob. Get up when I want to. Have no calendar to check. Cannot tell you what day of the week it is, unless the weekly cruise ship is in the harbor below our house. (“Oh, it must be Wednesday.”)
I am fairly unreliable. I go out in the surf at sunup, come home to process wave photos and then to take a nap. Go out each night to shoot sunsets at the beach. Several times a week, we travel to the active lava flow to photograph it at the crater, its entry into the ocean, or somewhere in between. We travel when we want to. We just took our twelve-year-old granddaughter for a three-week trip to Europe. I have several galleries that sell the images that Linda and I manage to get.
I am not important in any way that used to count for me, but I am still important to those I love and who love me. People have no idea if I am rich or poor. As I age, I spend lots of time with dentists and doctors because I am falling apart slowly and want to do my best to stay in good operating condition. For the first time in my life, I am happy to take a back seat and let others drive or make decisions or do real work. I am very comfortable with dangerous situations and with doing things that are new to me. I do not care what others think. I am what I am and my life is what it is. My wife and I are happier than we have ever been in our lives, even though we would both like our eighteen-year-old bodies back.
That is why I say you are not one thing. There are people out there in the world who will accept you for yourself; they don’t care who you used to be. You can survive and thrive in a new place, with an added set of diverse friends, without being a serial volunteer or the leader of the group. You can be exactly what you want to be, not an extension of who you are now. It is all up to you.
The only things that are important (aside from your faith) are these: Are you happy with your life and are you fulfilled? If you are completely happy and you’ve done everything that you ever wanted to do, more power to you, and I hope you keep rolling along with a smile on your face until that last moment. If not, go for a new you. You are not just one thing.
So, yes you can! You can make your dreams come true despite your advancing age. You are the one who will make it happen. If you are afraid to try, no problem, do it anyway. If you chase a dream and that dream is not really what you thought it might be, dream up another. Expand your life. You deserve to have your dreams come true.