September 20, 2018 at 11:39 am EST | by Michael Radkowsky
GAY ADVICE: Older gay man feels life passed him by
LGBT lonely aging, gay news, Washington Blade, advice for older gay men

If you tell yourself that it’s too late, you will squander whatever possibilities you have.

Michael,

 

I’m 68 years old, a gay man and not happy about how my life has turned out. And I’m realizing it’s too late to turn it around in any substantial way.

 

I’m lonely. I had a great time in my 20s and a boyfriend I loved. But I lost him (and many of my friends) to AIDS in the ’80s.

 

I didn’t want to date for a long time, but over the last 20 years or so I have had a few relationships.  Nothing long lasting and nothing to write home about.

 

My brother, who is a few years younger than me, is straight and already a grandfather. I look at his life and sometimes wish it were mine. It would have been great to have a family. I’m not looking forward to getting old with no one to depend on.

 

When I was young, fatherhood wasn’t an option for gay men unless you stayed in the closet and married a woman. I wish it had been a possibility.

 

I’m still working because I could use the money and I’m not sure what I would do with my time otherwise. I don’t have a glamorous or high-level job. When I was young, I was having too much fun to go to grad school so I put it off and never got around to it.

 

I have a few gay acquaintances my age. I think they drink too much and try to act too young. I find this depressing. And when we’re out at a gay establishment I feel like we’re ghosts. Younger people look right through us.

 

When I was young I also looked right through older guys. I know that’s how it goes, but I still don’t like it.

 

I don’t really have a specific question. I just have a nagging feeling that my life hasn’t added up to much and don’t know what to do.  

 

I wish I’d thought more about the future and lived in a way that would have led to more than this.

Michael replies:

Don’t write off your life as a lost cause just yet. You still may have many years to live in a way that you find fulfilling. But if you tell yourself that it’s too late, you will squander whatever possibilities you have.

Yes, I understand that there are some roads that you can no longer go down and I understand that it may be late in the day to be contemplating any big life shifts or changes in direction.

But what is your alternative? To sit in regret for the next 20 years or more?

Your letter raises some great questions that all of us could stand to ask ourselves: What do I want to accomplish with my life? What do I want to leave behind? How do I want to be remembered?

Of course there is no one right answer. And of course some of us opt not to ask ourselves these questions. But you are realizing that you want to have lived a meaningful life and don’t feel that you’ve gotten there. So your task is to now put your attention to this goal.

I can’t tell you how to find fulfillment or accomplishment or a sense of purpose. Only you can figure that out.

But I do think you would benefit from having a therapist to help you see the big picture of your life story, understand the reasons you may have held yourself back and challenge yourself to do more than what you have done so far, even if doing so is scary. Usually it is scary to push past the boundaries in which we’ve lived.

About your not feeling a sense of belonging to your peers and feeling like a ghost when you walk among the younger generations: I encourage you to keep looking for more of a community, if you want one.  

There are certainly gay men your age who don’t drink too much and are out in the world making a difference in all sorts of ways.

And regarding those younger people who look right through you — as you point out, this is an age-old phenomenon. And yet there are also members of newer generations who want to connect with LGBT history and you are an eyewitness.  

Please know that I’m not suggesting you limit yourself to being a historical artifact. I do believe that as you create a more vibrant life for yourself — in whatever ways have meaning for you — you are likely to be someone whom others want to interact and spend time with.

Your taking the time to write about your unhappiness leads me to think that there is a part of you that has been wanting to challenge yourself and was looking for encouragement. I’m hoping you will follow your aspirations and create a fulfilling life for yourself.

 

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.

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