At a certain age, you start recognizing the unfinished business in your life, and either resign yourself to it never being done, or frantically try to play catch-up. A few are obvious, and come to you in your twenties: you’ll never be president, you’ll never travel to Mars. Others come to you as the decades go back: the realization that you’re unlikely to ever have children, you’ll probably never write that great book you thought you had in you when you were twenty.
You realize there’s more life behind you than there is in front of you, and that if there were a way for you to live to a thousand, or even two hundred, while keeping a reasonable amount of your health and dignity, you’d jump at the chance (that after all is the main appeal of the vampire myth: you buy immortality with a kiss, but at a terrible price.
Now, I’m 68 years old. At this age, death ceases to be an abstraction; it’s walking up the drive to your house and you don’t know when the knock will come. You’ve gone from going to friends’ weddings and graduations to hearing regular news of family and friends who have passed on, and begin to understand why old people like to read the obituaries. Having put off many things over the course of a life, you’ve run out of time to put off anything else. You know you might not ever make that move back to the South that you’ve desired for nearly three decades.
If I could do it over again, what would I do differently? I’d write that novel, or many of them; I’d take better care of my health; I’d focus less on what I should be and more on what I am; I’d do a better job of preparing for the end years of my career as well as the end years of my life. I’d laugh more and complain less.