We all fantasize no matter our age. Maybe romantic thought bubbles filled with sizzling steam decrease a bit with age. Maybe not. Sometimes there is that one persistent fantasy that just won’t go away or has actually materialized and knocked on your door.
For a long time, I’ve secretly harbored a romantic notion of living by the sea in a cottage as my child rearing years were winding down. That time is getting near and I am about as close to fulfilling my fantasy as I am to building a castle in the sky. It seems that the notions of where I’d be at this point in my life may have been a little unrealistic.
I can trace the origins of my particular fantasy back to when I first watched an old classic movie, “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir”, starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. I must have been about 10 at the time but it left quite a lasting impression on me. Mrs. Muir, a London widow adrift in her city life, impulsively moves to a windswept seaside community where she rents a stately old house that sits atop of a seaside bluff. Creaky but cozy, the cottage offers a panoramic view of the sea in all its splendor and glory, and is appropriately known as Gull Cottage. But Mrs. Muir is unaware that the former resident still “lives” at the cottage. He is the previous owner, the long dead Captain Gregg. Salty, and sometimes boorish and brash, he makes himself known to Mrs. Muir in short order, his apparition blowing out candles, opening windows, and trying to scare the widow right out of his former earthly home. By and by, a romantic tension develops between the two, and eventually leads to their eternal happily-ever-after love story. Paranormal eroticism does not float my boat but I certainly fell in love with the romantic notion of living out my later years by the sea. And with my lover in the flesh.
At the tender age of ten, I fancied that fifty-something would be the point in my life when relocating to a seaside paradise of my own choosing would make perfect sense. How exciting to just up and move at such a ripe old age! What would it take beyond finding a new job, continue working until some pre-designated retirement age, and then living out whatever is left of my years already tucked into leisure? Now I fast forward four decades later, having weathered a fair amount of personal and professional storms, and reality hits me in the face like a cold ocean spray. The thought of just pulling up roots and moving in our fifties today may be riddled with more anxiety than excitement for most of us, especially if the move is one forced by a job loss. We live in a youth centric culture and the job market is no exception. A number of recently published articles have expounded on the difficulties in obtaining a job for those 50 and above. So most of us in the “second” or “third act” of our lives pretty much stay put where we are and keep a Plan B in place (or C or D). Of course, throwing caution to the wind is always another option for those with some moxie and a sense of adventure for greener pastures.
As it turns out, in this new millennium, fifty-something is far too young for most of us to entertain the thought of leaving the side of our barely adult children, aging parents (if so blessed), extended family members, long-time friends, and our jobs (even if that job consists of trying to find one). I dare say the same holds true for the 60 something crowd. My husband is game to play in the sandbox of my seaside fantasy – somewhere in a New England community – but not just yet. It may take another 10 years or so for me to realize this fantasy of mine but as other recently published articles point out, we are living longer. I say, we are staying young longer.
I will patiently wait to fulfill my fantasy and move into my very own Gull Cottage. Until then, I’ll ride out whatever storms come my way and heed the sage words of Captain Gregg’s ghost: “You must make your own life amongst the living and, whether you meet fair winds or foul, find your own way to harbor in the end.”