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The Seasons of Happiness continued
a journey through the trials, tribulations and achievements of a lifetime

Summer

It was the time for making decisions and accepting responsibilities; to set out on the quest for whichever happiness a long, hot summer held in store. Some childhood dreams lingered and hopes were high. Those earlier restrictions dictated by age were no longer applicable and clich├ęs tended to define attitudes: the days of wine and roses; the world is your oyster; who dares wins. Prospects were exciting and in abundance. It was simply a case of pick a card, any card. At least, that was how it started out.

Individuals who had been conscientiously dedicated to their education began their future careers; others who had not been so diligent discovered that graduation meant little in the real world unless subjects studied had been sufficiently understood to apply the basic concepts. Employers were less interested in qualifications than they were in the ability to do the job. It seemed there were still rules; but this new set was less forgiving than the earlier ones defined by age. These were about adequate performance, or else... The cotton-wool environment of youth was now just a memory. School was out.

Pausing for a deep breath helped. Once the transitional shock was accepted, the opportunities became apparent. There were many more ladders to climb than had been realised. Stepping onto the one most suitable was not always easy, and for many it was trial-and-error; but eventually true vocations were stumbled upon; or if not, flitting from one job to another was a fun experience for those Jacks-of-all-trades.

Whatever the choice, money would be the guiding factor. The majority embraced compromise, finding a job which was tolerable, that put food on the table of growing families and paid the loans necessary to attain a satisfactory level of comfort. For budding entrepreneurs and future business tycoons, however, mere adequacy was insufficient. Their drive for more and more was a compulsion in itself and might lead to happiness, provided they were not too busy to recognise it in passing. The naturally-talented were drawn into sports arenas and the entertainment industry, perhaps managing to relive some of their younger dreams; and the successful achieved accolades that truly made their summer a delightful season.

Even die-hard adolescents were content to live lives of ease into their fifties and sixties, thanks to generous welfare donations funded by their former peers who, unlike them, were not averse to a hard day's work. All in their own way were being gifted the chance to laze on a sunny afternoon. When they decided to appreciate it was up to them; if they ever stopped to recognise it as a worthwhile option.

Autumn

After so many years of wishing to be older, for whatever reason, the reality dawns that any age has its limitations, old age in particular; and no amount of wishing can reverse the natural process. Once this final season of life has arrived, the only way forward is to accept what is and will ever be.

Decades have gone by, almost a lifetime. The longest of journeys have, in many instances, been an arduous trek; but for those who have persevered in consideration of a final reward to come, they are ready for their well-deserved autumn. Whether earlier goals have been achieved is irrelevant now, because there is little time remaining to try again. Whatever has been acquired along the way will determine how this season can be approached.

As well as a time of reassessment, this is also one of reflection; initially anyway. Since childhood, age had been of consequence regarding what could or could not be done. For seniors, however, it is now a case of ability; because, although the mind might still be young, the body clearly is not. All of those tasks which had been put on the back-burner until retirement are still there gathering dust; unfortunately, some have been left too long. Among them are those plans on the "to-do-one-day" list: trips to make and places to visit; a new project to begin. With luck, some might still be achievable; others never will be this late in life.

With time to ponder, and being perhaps more philosophical and easier to please than in younger years, compromise, though disappointing, is obviously necessary and is eventually embraced. Thinking about it, there is plenty to do, including some fresh challenges that were, in the past, often regarded as merely the prerogative of the aged. So, life is starting again; but on a different plane.

Road trips are possible, as long as the original ideas incorporate an adjusted comfort factor. Extensive drives and sleeping rough along the way are not an option; but stopover motels are affordable as are roadhouse meals. For some, caravanning had always been the ultimate goal and could now be appreciated for more than just a two-week period. Retirement means no time restrictions and offers the luxury of spending months, possibly years travelling far and wide, sharing the experiences of similar grey nomads trekking the countryside. This is surely how autumn was meant to be.

*     *     *     *

At some stage, even if the inevitable coming of it had not been admitted to before, the passing of years finally begins to take its toll. Sitting on the verandah watching the sun go down prompts the realisation that the end is nigh. For some reason time passes much faster now; and as it does, days grow shorter, and mornings and evenings are cooler. Although tolerable and so very pleasant, they seem to hint that a final bell is soon to ring.

As Nature draws the life-force of trees down to the roots, their leaves once green and lush turn to gold and fall, creating a farewell carpet on the soil below; a reminder of what was, and what will be again. Looking back, life has been mainly kind, certainly an experience not to have been missed. There were good times and some not-so good; but all in all there are few regrets and many happy memories. And as the autumn sun of one life begins to fade, another waits patiently somewhere for a new season of winter to begin.

So they are; so they will ever be: these wonderful seasons of happiness.

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