I‘m reading a book titled The Second Mountain, by New York Times columnist David Brooks. I’m intrigued by his concept of a “second mountain” in our lives. Brooks asserts that climbing our first mountain means completing our education, starting a career and becoming financially independent. 

He was certainly successful in scaling his first mountain. As a journalist, he rose to the top of his profession. He married and started a family. But he stumbled into a valley. His professional achievements didn’t satisfy him. His 27-year marriage fell apart and he lost close friendships due to the course of his career path.

Many of us found ourselves stuck in valleys after the Great Recession. We were forced to climb our first mountain all over again. We hustled to restore our finances. We had to re-invent ourselves and start new careers. It’s exhausting and felt like we were on an endless treadmill. 

One-third of older Americans are planning to work the rest of their lives, at least part-time. Twenty percent of Americans over 65 are still in the workforce. Why? They fear they won’t have enough money to retire. They need health insurance. Those are valid concerns, but personally I’m sick of working. 

My wife and I have had jobs since we were 15. That’s not unusual but enough is enough. I got sick of detective work 20 years ago but couldn’t walk away from the money. Now I’ve made a decision. When my detective license expires next spring, I’m not renewing it. I’ve had a good run but after 56 years of E.F. Rice Co., it’s time to call it a day.

I don’t fear the financial consequences, but I am worried that my days could become empty. That’s why I’m encouraged by the concept of climbing a “second mountain.” It won’t be so much about seeking personal pleasure but promoting collective happiness. The second mountain is about giving to others and to the community at large. 

There are already plenty of people climbing their second mountain in Forest Park. They’re helping others, either behind the scenes, or through organizations. Some of them may be older adults, but there’s no age requirement for starting the climb. I meet young people who already have these priorities. As Brooks pointed out, some people climb their second mountain first.

I believe our village is climbing a second mountain. Our new leaders have a fresh vision for Forest Park. The old models are no longer working. 

We started out as a gritty railroad town. Then we became a sleepy suburb of shot-and-a-beer saloons. Next, we revitalized our strip of bars and restaurants, to compete commercially with other towns. But we can no longer be the “watering hole of the western suburbs.”  

We reached a fork in the road with video gambling. I believe we took the right path by banning it. Gaming didn’t personally bother me. It just didn’t fit with our vision for a new Forest Park. We can attract newcomers by focusing on making Forest Park more family-friendly. We can’t go back to the old ways of appealing to drinkers and gamblers.

While finding ways to help Forest Park on this climb, I also intend a personal climb. I’m going to find ways to volunteer, join community-minded organizations, and promote local causes. 

I do have one tangible idea: paint that rusty railroad overpass on Desplaines. I casually mentioned this to Mayor Hoskins and he immediately asked, ‘What color?’ I’m thinking forest green, maybe with the village logo, or a welcome sign. We’re no longer a gritty railroad town, so we need to stop looking like one. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.