Who Are You At 80?

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Steph Castelein overlooking the coast in Portugal.
A picture of my 80 year old self minus 50 or so years

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Do something with me, imagine yourself at 80.

Imagine your wrinkled hands and your graying hair.
Imagine the new lines that have formed on your face and all the places your feet have been.
Imagine yourself sitting in a chair. Mine’s a wicker rocking chair on a porch, yours can be whatever you like.

Take a look at yourself. Who are you?

For real, take a second with me and think. Who are you at 80?

What stories can you tell?
What are you most proud of?
What have you seen?
Who have you loved?
Where have you been?
What impact have you made?
What makes you look back and smile?

It may sound strange, but I think about my 80-year-old self often.

Because one day I’m going to be 80, and you’re going to be 80. And here’s what you need to know, being 80 doesn’t just magically mean we’ve done these great things or we’re suddenly the person we’ve always dreamed of being. It’s not some right of passage where ‘poof’ we’ve lived the life we’ve always dreamed of.

No, who you are when you’re 80 is something you build. Something you experience. Something you do and are today.

Who we are today, is who we are when we’re 80. Oh I know that we will change and grow and learn but you don’t become your 80-year-old self by turning 80, you become your 80-year-old self now. Today. Tomorrow.

Your 80-year-old self is built in your 20’s. In your 30’s. In your 40’s. In your 50’s and 60’s and 70’s. Whatever age you are, you’re writing the story for who you are when you’re 80.

When I first did this, I saw myself sitting in a wicker rocking chair surrounded by my grandkids. They are sitting bright-eyed, excited, a sense of wonder amongst them, asking one question after the other. Obviously, they are fascinated and listen well and ooh and ahh a lot because they are perfect and I’m a cool grandma.

I told stories of traveling, of adventure, of being bold. Of the time I loved hard and it failed, of the time I loved even harder and it was real.

I told them stories of all the people who helped me along the way. Of the times I had a wild and crazy idea and it just so happened to work, and the times I had a wild and crazy idea and it didn’t. Of the things I tried, even though I was scared. Of the far off places I’ve been and the crazy foods I tried but how some of my favorite memories are the times I went back home.

I had this vision of the person I want to be, the person I want to become. Me at 80.

I can see my 80-year-old self and think, “Man I really wish I would have…” and then realize I CAN STILL DO THAT THING. That I should do that thing. I should do that thing ASAP actually. I might fail, but I won’t have the regret of not trying.

I know we can’t predict the future but we can look forward and realize that who we want to be someday, is determined by who we are today.

We live in a predictable world of go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, yada yada. But what if you took that trip? Or you took a gap year? Or you were single and ok with it? Or you said yes? Or maybe even more importantly said no. Or you left your job and started chasing your dream one?

Who would you become? I think you’d become someone your 80-year-old self says, “Heck yeah!” to.

See, too often we get caught in the when/then cycle.

When this happens, then I’ll do this.
When I have enough money, then I’ll…
When I get that promotion, then I’ll…
When I put in my time, then I’ll…
When the kids are done with school, then I’ll…
When I meet someone, then I’ll…
When I don’t have so much going on, then I’ll…

Do you know what happens when we live like this? All of a sudden we’re 80 and we’ve waited our whole life to do the things we’ve wanted to do.

My friend, the timing will never be perfect. The perfect time is now.

Actually, I take that back, sometimes the timing isn’t right. Sometimes you have to be patient for things. I’ve been there too, and it’s confusing.

But if you feel called to do something, called to help or change or do something totally different than what you normally do, don’t ignore that. You’ll only wish you had started or made a change sooner.

Steph's passport and passport holder in the window of the airplane as she began her first trip.
The first picture I posted when I started traveling. I think my 80-year-old self will be proud.

Here’s the other thing; we’re not getting any younger. Life gets harder to change the older we get.

We start having routines.
We have more responsibilities.
Our bodies and minds get slower.

If you want to do something, now is the time to do it.

Now, instead of 80, think of yourself 5 years from now. What will you regret not doing? What will you regret not starting sooner? What will you look back on and say if I had only tried?


Holy cow, don’t you see it? Your 80-year-old self is looking back saying “Heck yeah!” Your 5 years from now self is saying “I wish I would have done that thing.” So freaking DO. THAT. THING.

The world needs more of you doing great things, things you’re passionate about and love.

Do it for the 80-year-old you sitting in your chair, surrounded by your grandkids, telling them stories of failing and succeeding and loving with all your heart and trying new things. Tell them all about how you lived a life you are proud of.

I believe in you. I think you should too.



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