If You’re a Falling Leaf

Ideas for the autumn—even winter—of life.

Posted Nov 09, 2019

Wikimedia, CC 4.0
Source: Wikimedia, CC 4.0

A leaf starts as a bud, swells, billows, then dries yellow or red like traffic light warnings, then drifts down, molds into the earth, mother’s milk for a new plant.

Many people, as they drift downward, close the shades, watch TV, and wait. But some people, even those clearly in decline, may want to do more, especially something that will enhance their legacy.

Might any of these ideas intrigue you?

Mentor. You needn't mentor someone young. Sometimes an older person could well benefit. Indeed, many people go through life never having found a mentor. And your protege needn’t necessarily be at your current or former workplace. For example, might you want to be a volunteer business mentor at SCORE? Or advise a neighbor, friend, or relative on work or life?

Record something. Sure, you might write your memoir, but your legacy potential may be greater if you write, audio- or video-record on YouTube something related to your career: for example, documenting your workplace's unspoken cultural linchpins. That can be valuable to new and even existing employees.

Or might you want to write an article or do an audio or video recording on an area of your expertise? For example, a psychotherapist might create something on the art of engendering client candor, money issues in private practice, cognitive-behavioral tactics for clients who’ve had psychodynamic therapy, or clients who want to terminate counseling prematurely.

Join something. Should you use your lifetime of experience to enduringly improve an organization you believe in? For example, a techie might upgrade his or her favorite local charity’s website and social media. A psychotherapist might develop a model for his or her congregation’s peer support network. I know a retired handyman who directed the remodeling of his favorite community theatre’s bathrooms, creating a more pleasant experience for countless people for years to come

Start something. Notwithstanding the media's cherry-picked inspirational stories, most people at and beyond retirement age don’t start something earth-shattering. They do something modest yet beneficial.

For example, a counselor who specialized in anger issues might convene a monthly live or online case review group. An arrowhead aficionado might sell arrowheads on eBay. A retired teacher might tutor for free at a local library. A hobbyist musician might fulfill a long-dormant dream of starting a band. When I'm older, I could see myself starting a Meetup for dog-loving senior hikers.

Just chill? Or forget about all of that. One of this blog’s readers wrote to tell me that underappreciated is spending one’s last years simply enjoying. For her, that is closing her shades, watching TV, reading, knitting, or listening to music with her dog on her lap.

Do any of these ideas intrigue you, whether just chillin' or some way to plant yourself in a fecund forest floor?

I read this aloud on YouTube.