If Not Now, When? Anita’s Lessons for Living

Here’s a post for our summer intern, Jackie Santo. Thanks to Jackie for sharing what she learned from Anita, age 67.

 I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Anita about what she believes are the most important obligations that we, as people, owe ourselves and that we owe others throughout the course of our lives.

Anita maintains that we have an obligation to enjoy life, to make the most out of it, and to savor it. Below, Anita mentions the some of the most important pieces of insight that she wished she knew at age 20:

To be true to oneself. To try and know who you are. To appreciate who you are. And to try and live with integrity in all that you do and how you live

It’s important to know how to savor what you have, to not take things for granted and to help inculcate in yourself a sense of gratitude for what you have and not focus on the things that are absent from your life.

Live life to its fullest, you know? “If not now, when?” has become very much my motto. My companion and I have done a lot of travel, and every time I suggest a new place to visit he’s sort of like “are you kidding?”, and I always say “If not now, When?” so I am very fortunate to be in a position where at this point in my life I can do, sort of, whatever I want to do, and I’m doing it.

Aging is coupled with certain risks and resiliencies. Although many people encounter illness and mental deterioration as they get older, they also gather wisdom and life lessons. Anita asserts the familial, societal, and generational obligations that we owe each other to aid the ill and pass wisdom on to the young:

My father used to say that if you can do a good turn for someone else, why wouldn’t you do it? And I think that that’s been a perspective that I have had, as well about caring about other people. My work certainly has been infused with the notion that we have a social contract, that we have obligations not only to those who are closest to us but to the society to which we live.

I have, as someone once described, a heightened sense of justice and I feel very much that we have an obligation to speak out and to stand up and to struggle to make change. I think we have a generational obligation. I certainly recognize it in terms of being a parent to my child, but I certainly also felt it very much in terms of being a child to my parent, and I guess a lot of my work in the aging field has come from that perspective – that we have an obligation to those who came before us.

Excellent life wisdom we all can use!

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