By Liz MarchiIam fortunate to have a life partner who is my best friend and companion. Jon is 70 I am 62. We live on a ranch, 8 miles from a small town, with no neighbors, on one of the longest, muddiest driveways in Montana, and have several hundred cows and two corgis that need to be fed everyday. Both of us are workaholics in our own special ways. In my journey to embrace and plan for aging, we couldn’t have more divergent opinions or plans about growing older.
This could be a problem.
I lie awake at night thinking about the overwhelming work that always needs to be done at the ranch. It’s never going to be all neat and tidy. I love this place – the solitude and landscape – very much. I made a radical life change to move here. For whatever reason, I have tried convincing myself that we need to downsize and give up this tremendous responsibility. For years, I relished being able to stay engaged with my work with Frontier Funds 1 & 2 and entrepreneurs electronically, doing conference calls on my deck and doing webinars from the barn. Last year I drove 45,000 miles in Montana, mostly to Bozeman, to raise money and meet with entrepreneurs and companies.
My plan was to move to Bozeman so that work could be done with a little less physical exertion on my part. I need more time to exercise, plan my diet and frankly just to be. My husband can’t imagine why I would do that. I have to confess: it seems more like real work than it once did. There are younger, smarter, more talented folks taking up this work, and I am good with it. I have come to grips with the fact that I must find different passions that don’t require the constant study, continued adoption and ceaseless analyzing of information to be relevant.
I am reading, interviewing mentors and cruising the Internet for options on figuring out this aging thing. The best answer has come from Jon: you don’t have to make a major change all at once, and, guess what, you aren’t in control. I don’t want to work as fast and furiously as I did in the past, but you can still be relevant in work you love.
Life is always a balance between head and heart. Some would view it as a struggle between head and heart. The older we are, the more “lessons” we have in our portfolio of experiences. We must use our heads to know that life is changing, but our hearts are wise from the living. The more we live, travel, learn and experience, the greater our fulfillment in living will be at any age.
My horizon is shorter. I have joined the Board of the MontanaMeatCo.com. Breaking all the rules I have learned over the years about business, I have fallen for a fifth-generation Montana ranch kid who is passionate about proteins, raised sustainably, that are antibiotic and hormone free as a way to preserve ranchlands and wildlife. His margins aren’t great but he is making it and at the same time enabling a new generation of Montanans to stay on the land. We sell beef, buffalo, goat, rabbit, elk and chickens. I have come full circle.
I love technology and came to Montana 16 years ago as an evangelist for the opportunity that tech businesses offered in Montana. I still believe that to my core and will remained engaged through Frontier Funds 1 & 2 and organizations like the High Tech Alliance and Next Frontier Capital.
Ranching is so fundamentally a part of Montana’s DNA, a place I love. I made a huge life change moving my family here from the South 16 years ago. Now I am seeing our ranch in a whole new light – not the burden of maintenance, but the opportunity to dig deeper into Montana’s ranching and agriculture heritage, to better see how it contributes to the character of people. What joy there would be in finding markets that value our products and land in a way that makes them economically viable. I don’t think it will be easy but I am excited to learn.
I have started spring cleaning in the barn, the first time in 35 years. I probably won’t get it done this year, but I know there will be something for me to do for however long I want to do it.
Spring is coming, and I will be gardening and in the dirt. Let it be.
Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging – from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at Liz@frontierangels.com.