I've long had this idea that I will live to be 112 years old. I'm not sure where this notion came from, but I've tried to live my life as if it's true. This has done a couple of things. First, it's made me a bit more patient with my own development. So what if I don't finish my undergraduate degree until I'm 36; I've still got three-quarters of a century to build a career. And big deal if I don't start a family until I'm almost 40; even if my daughter is as slow to get started having kids as I was, I'll still be able to see my grandkids graduate high school.
Second, imagining that I'm going to live to such a ripe old age has completely disabused me of the idea that I'll be able—or even that I would want to—retire at age 65, or even 72. After all, if I'm going to be around for another 60-some years, I'd better have something more interesting to do than sitting on the porch, whittling.
Of course, I have no real idea whether I'll live to be 5 score and 12; it's probably fairly unlikely, to tell the truth. Still, I have every intention of continuing to live as if I will. That means that, as I approach 50, I'm only just beginning middle age. I won't be old until I'm in my 90s. It's not as if I'm going to try to remain a kid forever, I'm just going to slow down the process of growing up. My dad had a quote in his office when I was growing up: "We grow too soon old and too late smart." Perhaps I can't do anything about the latter, but I may be able to delay the former. I'll try to keep from being set in my ways; I'll always see myself as a work-in-progress. It will be a long time before accept that it's "too late" to learn something or try something new.
I suppose the danger in this is that I'll never get around to being fully grown. I might keel over and die before I've ever had a chance to retire. To paraphrase The Who, I could die before I get old. Oh well, it could be worse ... I suppose I could get old before I die.