I passed an age milestone this week. On November 29th, I hit Full Retirement Age, which for me, is 66 years old. The years keep coming faster and faster. While aging has its challenges, it also has its benefits, and many would add Social Security benefits among those. There isn’t always agreement among Americans regarding when it is best to begin receiving Social Security benefits. But regardless of one’s decision regarding this, reaching Full Retirement Age is a rite of passage. I made it; I am there.
We only have one more month left in 2017. Another year will soon pass. 2017 has been challenging for me. In March of this year, I had a serious car accident. Although the physical effects of the accident are almost gone, the emotional effects are not. I still do not enjoy driving and my confidence about driving has not returned. In early August, I had another car accident. Thankfully, there was no physical damage from this accident, but I was shaken, nonetheless. Soon thereafter, I was a passenger in a car with a friend when something flew off of a truck in front of us, flattening the right front tire. We were not hurt, just delayed, and thankful that the only damage was to the car. Then on September 6th, my husband, Mike, and I were in St. Maarten when Hurricane Irma struck. The worst hurricane recorded in history. We were not hurt, just inconvenienced, but this event had a life-changing effect on me.
As I think about the challenges of 2017, I feel the pain of those events all over again. I also feel gratitude that none of those events resulted in permanent damage, not even lasting emotional damage. Even from the hurricane experience. For a month after experiencing Hurricane Irma, I was depressed, the first time in my life that I was depressed. I had friends tell me that I had classic signs of PTSD. For the first time, I truly understood being depressed. For the first time, I had empathy for those suffering with depression. While I thought I had understood and empathized with those dealing with this previous to my own experience, I felt the difference when it happened to me.
Then, the fog lifted. I did not need medicine to get through what was for me short lived depression. I am aware that some people do need help from medication and other resources when dealing with depression and other emotional challenges. When such is the case, it is important to take advantage of those. But that was not my experience. I needed, and received the love and caring of family and friends. I learned first-hand the power of loving relationships. I am so thankful to those who were there for me. I am thankful for the calls, the emails, the texts, and the visits. I am also thankful for the conversations and the patience, and that no one told me to “just snap out of it.” The love and caring of others during my time of need taught me how to be a better friend. To all of you who were there, and you know who you are, I express to you my sincerest gratitude.
Being 66 is a gift, a gift of life that I do not take for granted. Even in the midst of our challenges, we can always find others who are not faring as well. Many reading this feel the loss of a loved one who is no longer alive. Some reading this are suffering serious and life-threatening conditions, even at much younger ages than 66.
The benefits of reaching Full Retirement Age extend far beyond Social Security. The greatest benefit is being alive and healthy.
Given the gift of aging, it is my responsibility to take better care of myself. I have written about the extra twenty pounds that keep finding me. It is now time to do more than write about them.
I am ready for 2018. A new year, and a new me!