How successful will you be in your 50s? When you’re younger, you might look to older alumni from your university to glimpse into your future.
When I was a Masters student at MIT, I worked at the call centre appealing to alumni for scholarship donations. I had the chance to learn about how past students were doing in their 30s, 40s, 50s and into their retirement years.
The first sad realisation is that lonely retirees are just looking for anyone to chat with while non-retirees cannot wait to hang up on you, implying a lifelong rush that abruptly flips into a long sigh of boredom.
The second sad thing is to hear the anger in the voices of people who have trouble finding new jobs after getting fired. Part of the unhappiness stems from assuming that an MIT degree assures a comfortable and smooth career path.
The third story is how I discovered the wisdom age brings. We live in a world obsessed with youth and staying young. We are more excited to listen to teenagers explain Snapchat than to hear the elderly share about history. But people significantly older than us can teach us a lot too.
There is always anxiety looking forward, wondering what our lives would bring. Indeed a degree from a famous university isn’t an ‘iron rice bowl’ or a destiny.
What I have learned so far is to
1) cultivate joy within and outside of what I do of work
2) continue learning even when it is painful to start from square one
3) be thankful for older mentors
And as Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy.” Graduating from the same university does not mean you will lead similar lives.
This post was inspired by the healthy discussion on Hacker News about MIT alumni in their 50s.