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Tom Rademacher Resized

The "Last Times" and "First Times" in Life

Truth be told, my teens and 20s  included more than one bout of aimless hitchhiking. 

I thumbed it from Michigan to Florida, out west to Colorado, and throughout our own state’s Upper Peninsula. I owned a car during those periods, but I was seeking adventure, and for reasons I’m even now not sure of, just decided it would be a unique way of traveling the country. 

I slept in everything from barns to beneath highway overpasses. I bummed rides in hot little convertibles to massive semi tractor-trailers. And I met people from all walks – including some into whose vehicle I decided in that moment not to enter. 

I never felt at risk, though, and in a pinch, I wouldn’t hesitate to thumb it again, though I no longer feel the same sense of wanderlust that helped define me some four decades ago. I can say with great assurance that it’s never again going to be the way I approach a vacation. 

As someone who writes stories for Encore, I’m always amazed at the chapters defining the lives of men and women who share their tales with me. They used to race cars. They used to compete in football. They used to work in a factory. They used to live elsewhere. 

For virtually every one of them, they can count “a last time” for something. Just like my hitchhiking. In fact, a gentleman by the name of Ron Wiggins authored “The First Book of Last Times” to commemorate all the “lasts” we indulge in without even realizing it. Like being carried to bed in your pajamas. Or playing hopscotch. 

What’s even more compelling, however, is how people re-invent themselves with “first times” that help sustain and propel them into new adventures. Some of these initiatives are as simple as taking up knitting, or learning how to golf. Others engage a larger circle of people, especially someone deciding to retire “into” founding a non-profit or heading up a neighborhood organization. 

In every instance, though, the Encore is a healthy exercise in moving forward, and the best of these seem to be deliberately conceived, created in moments of mindfulness. 

With nearly 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S., we’re experiencing an unprecedented “graying” of America, with more efforts than ever before focused on how this wise and capable faction of the population is going to continue contributing to the world’s tapestry. 

Here’s hoping that as you gain on your own milestones, that they be infused with purpose and power and the ability to harness the energy not only of yourself, but those around you. 

Life after 50 can be a beautiful ride. And it’s even better when you include someone else in the passenger seat to share in the journey. 

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