On Turning Sixty

Last month, on November 16, to be exact, I reached what many people consider one of the notable mileposts on the journey through life: I turned sixty.

What do I know at sixty?

My life is very different from what I’d imagined a man’s life to be at this age. When I was much younger, I figured sixty was pretty much the beginning of the rocking chair years, marking time until the grave. Instead of the end, however, what I see before me is a door opening onto a whole world of new possibility. In the last year, I’ve hit the NYT bestseller list (a first for me), finished writing two novels, and signed a contract for more. The last thing I want to do is sit in a rocker and stare into space.

But the question remains: What do I know at sixty?

Not as much as I’d hoped I might. I don’t feel wise at all. Life is still a knot I struggle every day to untangle. I’ve always been a worrier, and I still am. I worry about everything. I have more money now than I ever did, but I worry that it isn’t enough. My children are grown and out on their own, but I continue to worry about their well being; and I have grandchildren now to add to my worries. I work out regularly, but worry that I’ll never be able to get rid of that extra ten pounds that’s settled around my middle in the last couple of years. I worry that no matter what I write, it’s not good enough. I worry that I don’t do everything that I should to make life better for all of those in desperate need. I worry that whatever it is I’m supposed to have learned at sixty I’ve somehow missed.

What I don’t worry about is happiness. At sixty, I’m a pretty happy man—despite all my worries. And a lucky man. I’ve realized a life-long dream, which was to make my living doing what I love most: writing stories. And I know that although the Grim Reaper and I are speeding toward each other on the same set of tracks, before we collide, I believe, quite happily, that I have a great many more stories to write, love to give, and lessons to learn.

So, what do I know at sixty? Simply this: Life is a journey and there is no destination. No matter how fast I run, I will never arrive.

7 thoughts on “On Turning Sixty”

  1. Well, as long as you keep writing your stories, I will keep reading them. Reading is a big part of my life, so good writers make it even better. Looking forward to your next book!

  2. Bravo! You are a lucky and happy man.
    I have just completed my first reading of your work. I happened to join a local book mystery book club and “Iron Lake” was this month’s reading. I read it in a couple of days; that is the kind of book I love to pick up or can’t put down (which ever you like). I look forward to reading more of your work.
    PS I really wish you had not killed Molly off. She was my kindred spirit.

  3. I enjoy your “rants” as much as I do your books … and I’m very much looking forward to Ordinary Grace.

    I’m not to 60 yet, but my two favorite words in the last few years have been “surrender”–to the moment, to what life brings you, to all joys and sorrows–and “hope”–something that’s always buried in me, and pops up even on the dark days.

    Your books have enriched my life–I want to be Cork’s next door neighbor!!

  4. It is with some self interest that I read your commentary on turning 60 last year. I, too, was born in 1950 and my birthday also led to similar reflections on a life, principally, that I had been viewing myself, in my minds eye, at about half my age for the last 30 years. Keep on truckin’, guy. Love your stories.

  5. As a minnesota boy, and almost sixty myself,Many ask me if I grew any wiser with age,I tell them the older I get the more I realize how much more there is to learn. I enjoy your books and wish I could live there again,who knows maybe someday.The Cork OConnor series never fails to amaze me, I just finished Vermillion Drift for the 3rd time,love it. Love all your books and am looking forward to the new ones. Thanks Kent

  6. When you view life as a journey, you do open your mind to what life has to teach you. I find myself just a few years past sixty and realize that there is so much more that I want to do…more places I want to visit…more life that I want to experience. Your books are new to me. I have just moved to northern Wisconsin and discovered your writing. I just finished Iron Lake and found Cork a wonderful character. BUT I agree with Susan…I was heartbroken when Molly died! She seemed a wonderful partner for Cork. BUT I’m curious about other relationships you have in store for him. I’m headed to the bookstore for more.

  7. Having just finished Iron Lake, I will read more of this series. I, too, love to write and thoroughly enjoy blogging (though I don’t do that much), so I understand where you’re coming from. That you earn a decent living doing what you love is wonderful and the essence of a happy life.

    As I am approaching 60 in just over a year, I find your comments so interesting. A retired US Army officer, I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I’d love to write, as well, but simply cannot craft stories. So thanks for yours.

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