Sunél's Blog | Who will you be in the future

Sunél Veldtman, | 18 August 2023

One of the biggest stumbling blocks, as we age and transition into the final stages of life, is the fear of who we will become in the next phase.  This fear prevents us from moving forward.

We ask ourselves, “Who will I be if I’m no longer the CEO, entrepreneur, or full-time mother? Who will I be if I am no longer a colleague or mentor to younger colleagues? Who will I be if I am no longer the breadwinner or the carer?”

We are repelled by the labels of retiree, widow, or senior, not to mention the aged. The truth is, as we age, we will lose many of the labels we have carefully constructed around us. We will hand in these badges we have worn with pride.

Our reluctance to let go of our badges is not irrational.

In our culture, we attach so much value to labels associated with productivity and progress. We turn away from the labels brought by age such as wisdom gained from experience, patience forced by ill health, or the appreciation of the present and blessing of time. In other parts of the world, especially ancient Eastern cultures or in African cultures closer to home, the elders are respected and have stature in society. That’s not quite the case in Western societies.

In our culture, we are encouraged to never stop dreaming and to continue pursuing productivity. Even I have written about my long list of dreams I still want to achieve – places I’d like to go, people, I’d like to meet, ventures I’d like to start, books I’d like to read and write. I have spoken with pride about never wanting to retire; that I want to stay fit and involved, and that I’d like to leave a legacy. I sometimes fear that I’ll run out of life before I get to live these dreams.

 I am challenged though to consider that even these dreams and future endeavours may just be ways of idolising a productive version of myself. These dreams may be driven by fear rather than an acceptance of the reality that I too will age, and don’t control that process. Of course, we should strive to age vibrantly, keep fit and live with purpose, but the key is to hold that striving lightly.

We must also actively work to separate ourselves from our labels so that we can move through the necessary transitions with grace and acceptance. And when we meet old age's frailty, which will prevent us from doing much, we will still believe in our own worth.  


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Kind regards,