You are one hundred years old.
Your hands are old and frail and difficult to keep still.
Forty years ago, on your sixtieth birthday, you saw the old person looking back at you in the mirror and you did not recognise yourself. You saw someone people had stopped paying attention to years ago. What you did, simply did not matter to anyone else. Everyone was too busy focusing on their own self and insecurities. You spent sixty years worrying about being judged for what you had accomplished. About your acquaintances seeing your title and feeling smug they were more successful than you. About being judged for the people you were surrounded by and the relationships you were or were not in.
Letting go was absolute freedom.
When you are a hundred years old, you have some perspective on your life.
Your deepest regret is wasting your youth on indecision and waiting for things to get better. Things never get better just on their own. You need to change them. If only someone had told you that when you were young.
In your teenage years, you fell in love and you thought it would last forever. You had no real experience so you did not think it odd when your First Love did not treat you the way you should have been treated. Reality is complicated. We all need to compromise, you thought to yourself and moved the limit for what you thought was okay every time your First Love crossed it.
Every time Reason shouted at you, saying things are not as they should be, you silenced it. This was Love, and who was Reason to tell you what it should be like?
You were not the one breaking things off. Had it been up to you, you may still have been with your First Love, trapped, and a little less yourself with every argument and hurtful word. Or would you finally have done something about it?
In your twenties, you felt you had learned your lesson and you let Reason drive most of the time. You got a good education and a good job in a new city. You earned your security and fell into a comfortable life. Reason told you, if you just stayed on the path, you would have a bright future. In the next coming ten, maybe fifteen years, you could become Manager and even Director. If you just stayed on the path.
After only six months, your Heart tired. A new manager took over and started to suck the life out of you. Every day, you came home tired, drained and lacked the energy to do anything else. On weekends you slept and cooked dinner for the rest of the week. You never had the energy to make new friends or see the ones you had. Slowly, one by one, your friends stopped calling you. Their messages stayed unopened and saved for when you would have the energy, but they were never opened.
Your drive to be Good, to Perform, and to become Successful drove you right into unhappiness and loneliness. Would you have had the sense to leave your job if you had not been let go?
In your overworked depressive state, you forced yourself to believe your work mattered. Why else would you care so much? All you did was put numbers into a computer, but this was your life, the only thing you were good at, the only thing that defined you. The word Senior was added to your title and your pay increased. Recruiters contacted you with offers that never seemed good enough. You told yourself you believed in the future of your company. Your new title would open doors for you. Staying showed Loyalty, you were told.
Ten years, you spent waiting for things to change thinking If I just stick it out a little longer…
Then the recession hit, and the numbers you put into the computer were no longer essential. A manager whose job was safe told you they understood how it felt. They had no idea how it felt. You would have been better at their job than they were. Your Loyalty no longer mattered and the company you had worked for did not have any for you.
You fell into a depression. Too long a time had passed to get back to your friends now. You were too Proud to apologise and too Afraid to ask for help.
One hundred years is a long time.
Your depression did not last forever. You were treated and you got better. You felt a spark of life back in you again. Suitcase in hand, you headed to the station without a plan. A new, Spontaneous part of you was born. You travelled, far and wide. You were humbled by mountains and stunned by the world's beauty. You saw the wonders of the world and you felt happy. It was a different kind of happy than when your First Love had kissed you. You felt like yourself and you could feel your Esteem growing. You started to love yourself and the world again. Life is too short, you thought.
Then your parents fell ill and the money you so Reasonably had put away your whole life ran out quickly.
For months you searched for a job without ever applying for one. There was nothing that fit you and the expertise you gained. You could not apply for just any job. You used to have the word Senior in front of your title. You were not “janitor material”. As soon as you had shifted back into your work personality and frame of mind, Pride came creeping back. You had worked hard. You deserved better. You deserved a nice title.
When you buried your parents, you lowered your expectations and got a job. It was with a smaller company, a smaller paycheck, but you felt at home there.
You started to heal.
Your toxic standards for yourself started to dissolve in your fifties.
Your happiness drew people to you and you made your first new friends in a very long time. For what felt like the first time, you developed healthy friendships with people who listened to your words and who cared for you without agenda.
One day, Love struck you from nowhere. You realised you could both be in Love and stay true to your own values. You were surprised Reason and Love could be friends.
It took you sixty years to find this balance.
It took you sixty years to let go of Pride, misplaced Loyalty, your crooked view of Titles and Success, and fears of not being enough. You have no idea where they even came from or when they came to be. Yet you battled with them for the bigger part of your life.
None of those things seem to matter in the long run.
But you are not one hundred years old, are you?
You still have time.
It is not too late. What if you live to be one hundred?
A hundred years is a long time.
How are you going to spend it?
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Hi Audrey, I love how you described your life from young to old and I absolutely love your ending where you say 'How are you going to spend it?' It's really amazing. Also, I'm new to Reedsy so could you probably check my story out?
Hi Nirosha, thank you for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it. I'm happy you liked the ending, I wanted to urge the reader to think beyond the story and look at their own life. I'd be happy to check it out! I'm quite new myself :)
Totally deserved the shortlist; great work!
Thank you so much!
No problem! P. S. Would you mind checking out my new story? Thanks!!
Hello! This is so good. I love all the descriptions, they are all so on point. The ending is what I love the most. Also, since I'm new could you please check out my new story? Thanks.
Thank you Batool! I will have a look at your story right away :)
Hello! I was going through your profile and it says that this one was short-listed. So, could you tell how did you get to know that this one was short listed? Cos curious;)
Hi! Of course! I got an email from arielle at Reedsy saying it was shortlisted :) Since it doesn't say anywhere in the story, I just added it to my bio.
Oh okay. Btw, that's great that it got shortlisted!
Hi Audrey, loved this story. It makes you think... even if you live up to 100, life can be short if you spend it in unhappiness! Keep it up!