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Wiser eyes

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My job is one of the many things in my life for which I feel deeply thankful. Beyond the obvious (getting paid, health insurance, retirement funds, paid vacations and maternity leave, etc.), what is really cool about my job is the population I work with.

I coordinate a study on memory and aging. Seventy is the minimum age of enrollment. The oldest lady in our study is 112. Most are in their 70s and 80s, fewer in their 90s, and a handful are over 100. Working with this segment of the population has given me a really interesting perspective on life, I think, and I am grateful for it. I mean, here I am, 32 years old and spending my days talking to and interviewing people 40-plus years older than me, about their lives, their health, their families and experiences. It's really fascinating, and life seems so much longer to me now.

I mean, the years I'll be in the workforce are only a part of it; I could retire and live another 30 years! The years one's kids are children is a blink of the eye. Most importantly, what I have learned from my job is that the folks who are the happiest in their later years are those who accept life, as screwed up and confusing as it might be. Those who do more than that, even--those who revel in it. Those who don't waste their time hating, regretting, carrying grudges for decades, wishing they had made different choices to the point where that is all they can focus on. Those that found love and somehow made it last. Those who love their families. And most importantly, those with a sense of humor.

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