The Art of Life

leadpic_susanMy day-to-day life feels constantly busy. Between work, relationships, housework and other commitments I feel like I’m constantly running without an end in sight.

For many seniors, their daily pace is much slower and more purposeful, which is very representative of their generational values and goals. For someone like me, a slower pace of life doesn’t always feel like an option. However, as I’ve come to learn, it should be a priority rather than an afterthought. Through thoughtful introspection sometimes the greatest ideas are had and talents realized.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with a resident, Betty, who was honored as “Volunteer of the Year” at her community. She is a retired art teacher and teaches various art classes to her fellow residents once a week. Nearing her 90th birthday, she is still as delightful and active as ever. Just last year she won second place in a statewide art competition of more than 200 seniors. As she told me her story of becoming an art teacher, which she did later in life, it struck me that it is truly never too late to start over, and you’re never too old (or too anything) to give back in some way.

Betty Nellius, posing with her 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award.

At 45 years old, she became certified to teach and used her fine arts degree and lifelong love of art to land a job at the local high school after her husband needed to retire early. As she explained to me the various projects the residents did and how talented they were, she just lit up. I can tell that she truly feels each person she teaches has talent and knows how to bring it out of them. Betty had already found her life’s calling, but didn’t realize it until the middle of her life. Her dynamic personality and graceful demeanor are not only reflective of how she grew up, but how she chose to live her life; taking each day as it comes.

As a 20-something with much of my career ahead of me, I take her life experience to heart. What she didn’t explicitly say in the interview is that it is never too late to start over or try something new, but I heard the message, and I think that it’s something that members of my generation need to hear. Many are so focused on getting ahead now they forget about the big picture. But looking to our elders, who have taken many risks and lived to tell amazing stories, gives me great hope that I don’t have to have it all figured out right now. I know I’ve got much of my life left to learn, create goals and dream, while working hard along the way.

I always look forward to the chance to speak with our residents because sharing their stories of courage, determination and drive is truly an honor. So while I may complain about how busy my life is and why I can’t take a moment to appreciate the little things, I’m beginning to learn what it means to “stop and smell the roses.”

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