Who do you want to “be” when you’re 80?


When all your desires are distilled you will cast just two votes: to love more and be happy. Hafiz

Years ago, my husband, son, and I visited some old family friends —and native Irish speakers — who live in a fishing village outside of Dublin, Ireland. We took lazy cliff walks and farmer’s market trips together; we fed the seals in the harbor; we ate fresh mackerel, sea bass, and Irish soda bread with Irish butter every night; and we enjoyed conversations with some of the warmest, most soulful people I have ever encountered. Like many Americans who have traveled in and romanticized Europe, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much simpler life seemed there. Yes, sadly, Ireland is becoming “Americanized,” but still, the people seem more connected —taking time to enjoy one another in simple day-to-day interactions, treading more lightly on the earth, and eating more whole foods. There seemed to be a strong sense of vitality and vigor in people of all ages, who walked and rode bikes everywhere.

But the thing that stayed with me long after the trip ended was how engaged the elderly were and how they were treated and revered for their wisdom. The Irish seem to give special love and care to the very old. The older generation was integral to and active in their communities, and they modeled how I’d like to be when I’m eighty: loving, present, and grateful to be alive.

Our trip made me realize how quickly time passes — both how swiftly my first fifty or so years have flown and how fast the next forty-fifty will go. It reminded me that I am making the choices right now for how I want to be and live when I’m eighty. It’s up to me. Living an awakened life calls us to go against the grain, — to step off the “go, go go, do, do, do” tracks — challenge the ideals of our culture and create a life that nourishes us from the inside out, regardless of the opinions of others.

I’ve been swimming in a sea of exploration lately around this stage we unglamorously refer to as “middle age.” To support me on my personal journey, I’m facilitating groups and retreats around Embracing the Wild Unknown, devouring books on how to soulfully navigate the “fertile void,” (thanks Katrina Kenison, Richard Rohr, Carol Orsborn and all the wonderful mindfulness teachers who write on this topic) and becoming increasingly curious about this fascinating and pivotal life stage. Right now I have more questions than answers, but the truth that sits as solid as a 200 pound anchor in my being every time I explore this theme is: I care much more about who I want to be than what I want to do in the decades to come. And having that clarity of purpose feels really good.

Exploring our thoughts and feelings around aging is an incredible portal for personal, professional and spiritual growth. But it’s not for the faint of heart. Find a tribe that supports you in having rich, meaningful dialogue, curate and prune your friendships, take life in baby steps, keep inviting in self-compassion and as my Irish friends say in Gaelic: Tsg go bog I (pronounced toogguh bug ay), or “Be gentle with yourself.”

P.S. I’d love to hear how you want to “be” in your 80’s in the comments section below.

TAKE ACTION: Are you in career/life transition and asking, “What’s next?” One of the most supportive things you can do is find your tribe and be around other like-minded people in a supportive/nurturing enviroment. Join me for my Austin, TX Embracing the Wild Unknown One Day Self-Renewal Retreat (only 15 spots; for women 45+), grab a spot in my July 10-12 New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu (rooms are going fast!) or join or facilitate a Personal Renewal Group for women.

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Offering speaking, custom workshops, training, books/telecourses and individual coaching focusing on self-renewal for women, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning curriculum.  She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 13 year-old son. More on her background here.

Photo: Me and my sweetheart playing around at Big Bend National Park this past March. One quality I want to keep cultivating as I grow older is the ability to be silly, laugh at myself (and life) and keep a robust sense of humor!



  1. This is the heart of it: “I care much more about who I want to be than what I want to do in the decades to come.” And one of my true goals is to keep the older generation engaged, and to be that when I get there as well.
    Another of my goals is to get to one of your retreats!
    You’ve mentioned some of my fav authors as well.
    Thank you again, Renee!

    • Thank you Susan–I love your goal and I love your interactions. Hope you can join me for a June or July retreat!

  2. Julia Hix says:

    When I am 80 I want be dressed in a silly way with bling and sparkles and have loving big eyes with which I take in those generations after me and hopefully be there witnessing their paths. And enjoying nature on my bike as I cruise through this world! No longer in a hurry and not worried about the future. Relaxing in having experienced that life is bountyful not scarce.