Echoing the words of William Blake, there might be no better example of the active lifestyle of baby boomers than what Joyce Zonana has achieved. And all she’s done is taking a walk. But what a walk it is! Across England. And why not?! She’s still strong, and more willing than ever.
I’m setting off on a 192-mile walk across the North of England, the “Coast to Coast” walk through the Lake District and the North Yorkshire Moors. Ever since making the decision to do it last November, I’ve been delirious with joy at the prospect of walking through the countryside celebrated by some of my favorite writers: William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte and Anne and Emily Bronte.
Although I’ve wanted to take this trip for several years, I had put it off for all the usual reasons. But last Fall I suddenly decided, the time is now!
One friend, hearing about the trip, wrote to say that she was adding it to her own “bucket list.” Of course the concept—fulfilling one’s dreams while one can—is certainly applicable to what I’m doing. Yet more important to me than the race against time is the wonderful new experience of my own power: at age 63 I feel stronger and happier than ever. I have the money, the health, and the time. And, most importantly, I’m not afraid to do what I want.
It wasn’t always like that.
I grew up shadowed by fear: Fear of people, fear of unknown places, fear of some unspecified disaster. I was a shy, retiring child, unsure of myself and anxious most of the time. These traits came to me from my father, a timid man haunted by anxieties. Having survived the Depression and World War II, along with the beginnings of anti-Semitism against Jews like him in his native Egypt, he had been brave enough to immigrate to the U.S. in 1951, more or less penniless, and with a wife and small child. But his fears later debilitated him, bringing depression and paralyzing illness.
And his mother—the grandmother with whom I shared a room—was also someone to whom life appeared threatening and unsafe. Widowed at a young age, she retreated into herself, becoming agoraphobic and ultimately completely paranoid.
Not a great recipe for growing up confident and strong. Yet bit by bit, I’ve learned to jettison my fears, becoming lighter and lighter in the process. As my days unfold with spontaneity and joy, I find myself more and more grateful for the astonishing gift of life. Walking across England seems as simple—and as much fun—as walking down my Brooklyn street. It’s all a glorious adventure.