Columns, Patient Care

Life at the Halfway Mark

The older I get, the faster life seems to go by. Before I know it, almost another year is over. To top it off, I got an application for AARP this week-just two weeks after I reached “the halfway point in my life,” which is how I referred to my last birthday to friends who insisted on reminding me of the milestone. For clarification, my halfway mark isn’t 30 or 40; it’s the big 5-0. I have the goal to live until I’m at least 100 years old. As jam-packed as life can be, I know I need at least another 50 years to accomplish all the things I have in mind.

So I figured now was a good time to consider my life and pass along recommendations, reflections and thoughts of making it through the first half-century and looking forward to the second one.

When you look back on your life, and in particular your career in EMS, will you see more good memories than struggles? As the saying goes, life is often like a roller coaster. Sometimes, you feel like you’re trudging uphill, trying to get to the top. As long as you keep moving, you eventually reach your goal. But sometimes when you get to the top, your life takes off in an unexpected direction and you speed toward a new goal or another hill to climb. The key is to enjoy the ride while you’re riding, and not save the enjoyment just for your memories. Life has its busy times, and you often don’t get the benefit of recognizing all the little things in life that make it special.

When people are asked if they have any regrets in life, no one says they wished they had worked more. We all want to be successful, and for those of you in EMS management, you know it takes a great deal of hard work and long hours to be effective and productive. It’s especially hard on managers with family members who get limited time with them. If time with family isn’t easy to fit in, schedule it. Include quality time and personal events in your daily or weekly calendar. Don’t spend the next 20 years consumed with your career and neglecting the most important part of life-your family.

Do you have a plan for where you’re headed? The old adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter where you end up,” is probably not what we envision for our lives. To keep us on track, we need goals and plans for all the things we want to accomplish. Think about where see your career and your personal life in the next five or 10 years. What will it take for you to accomplish those goals? Have you set the bar so you have to stretch yourself some to reach it, or are you just on cruise control?

Part two of this point relates to long-range plans. My wife works with senior citizens who are looking to move into senior retirement communities, and before that she worked with seniors who needed to move into a nursing home. She used to give classes during which she would ask people what they planned after retirement. When no one mentioned getting sick and moving to a nursing home, she would relate to them some important facts about life as a senior citizen and the need to consider what will eventually become a reality in most of our lives. It’s never too early to ask this question. Have you thought about the later years of your life? Do you have a “what-if” plan for you and other members of your family?

It helps to have someone pushing you to meet your goals. In my case, if a good friend had not been pushing me to finish my degree, I’m not sure I would have taken the effort to complete the programs when I did. He finished his degrees before I did, which motivated me to get started on mine. It helps to have a role model encourage and sometimes push you to get started on the development of your personal or professional goals.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan. I mentioned the benefits of mapping out your future, but you should remember that things in life don’t always work out according to plan. How flexible or determined are you to adjust or move forward when things don’t go the way you planned? If you’ve ever faced serious adversity-such as losing your job or losing a family member-you know the difficulty in getting through a tough situation. Your determination to get back on track, with the support of your family and friends, allows you to take the necessary steps to pick up the pieces of your life and move forward-one day at a time. Life may lead you in a direction away from where you had intended to be, but it’s important to overcome disappointment or difficulties in order to be successful.

What are you waiting for? Not everyone gets involved in EMS issues at a national or state level, but participation in your local community is just as important. The key is making a difference in as many ways as your time and talent allows. Perhaps it’s being a leader in a community scout organization or local church group or volunteering to serve on a state EMS committee. Maybe it’s being an EMS or fire department volunteer in your community. Most of the time, you won’t have tangible results from your involvement. But you should know on a deeper level that your contribution makes things better than when you found them.

These points are only the tip of the iceberg when I reflect on where I am today and the journey of my life. We often wonder how our lives would be different if we had taken, or not taken, certain steps. But every one of those steps put us on the path to who we are now. Had we not taken them who would we be-or not be?

I hope you’re happy with who you are today, but if you’re not, why are you waiting to change things? Get busy. The clock’s ticking.