Skirting the Issues: Speed Bump
In less than three months, my life will take a distinctive shift—I’ll move from the “under-65-years-old” category to “65-and-older.”
For myself and many others, the age of 65 represents a gigantic speed bump. For example, with Covid-19, those “65 and older” were among the first to get the vaccine, and now it appears, perhaps the only ones who will get a booster shot. Although it was frustrating and a bit nerve-wracking to wait my turn, at least it allowed me one last vestige of being penalized because of my youth.
Sixty-five is also when most people shift from Obamacare-style health plans to Medicare. For me, this has added a foot or two to the height of the speed bump—I naively believed that I’d be able to save money after years of paying for atrociously expensive open-market health insurance (with an $8,500 deductible, my present plan really only works if I get hit by a Mack truck). But no, I’m quickly learning that with necessary supplements for what Medicare doesn’t cover (or covers poorly), I’ll be paying close to what I pay now.
Ouch. So much for the one “benefit” of hitting 65. Even more, with the actual cost of this purportedly free entitlement, it looks like I’ll be working to some degree for the rest of my life. (Long-time readers will understand that’s probably something this idealistic workaholic would do anyway, so quit your whining, Ellie.)
Still, psychologically the number 65 also just seems old. It’s the middle of the sixth decade of living, which is a whole lot of sunrises and sunsets. However, for someone like me—who transitioned genders at age 52 and who’s really just getting started on what truly has become a second life that nourishes the authentic me—turning 65 feels really unfair. I have barely gotten my feet wet as a woman and—boom—I’m officially ancient.
Please excuse me for feeling a bit cheated.
On the other hand, I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten here. There are so many trans folks out there who never ever get to transition, or who transition but struggle financially or emotionally, or both. I always have to remind myself that I have great privilege, and regardless of my age I need to be grateful that the Universe showered me with such wonderful luck.
Certainly, I don’t feel my listed age, and thankfully my body is keeping up with the biking that I so love to do. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the speed bump has made me think more about my mortality. After all, I’m entering a sphere where people I’ve known my entire life will die, and sometimes that will happen without any hint of a preexisting health problems.
Given that I live alone (well, that’s not entirely true since I have a golden retriever puppy, Jack), it’s possible that I would croak, and no one (other than Jack) would even know. In fact, I have such an innate fear of my body going undiscovered for weeks that I now text my 31-year-old daughter (hmm, lucky her, she’s less than halfway to 65) with the word “Alive” every morning.
Yep. In addition to being unbelievably naïve about how Medicare works, I’m also quite neurotic. Again, this is no surprise to some of you.
All of this begs the question of what I plan to do with the 65-and-older time that I have left.
For sure, I’ll keep riding my bike (note: if I have a choice about how I die, it would be great for that to happen while I’m biking on a beautiful blue-sky day, assuming no third parties are harmed). I’ll also continue trying to be a good best friend to Jack. And of course, there’s my unyielding desire to make the world a better place through my human inclusion work in its variety of forms.
One more thing that I’ll endeavor to do: quit looking at the clock so much. I readily admit that I can obsess about how the sand pile in my personal hourglass is growing smaller. And smaller. And smaller…
The key is to make the most of what time there still is.
Sometimes that means simply stopping to watch puffy pink clouds glide by at sunset.
Or it may mean taking a nap even though this column or my monthly newsletter remains undone.
It also means spending time with the many people I love—which requires getting out of my routines and pushing away my introversion.
Regardless, whenever my cherished time on this Earth ends, I will know this: it has been one hell of a ride. I really did kick the crap out of the life I was given.
That much I will be certain of, speedbump or not.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug, the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change, speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.elliekrug.com where you can also sign-up for her monthly 9000+ recipient e-newsletter, The Ripple. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].