I told y’all we were gonna get a bit more philosophical and that’s certainly where we’re headed today.
But before we go there, please let me stipulate that I utterly understand I’m about to break former Beacon-News managing editor Rick Nagel’s major caveat against what he called, “navel gazing.” In my defense, the last time I did something like this was 10 years ago when I turned 49, and even Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive more often than that.
Oddly enough, turning 30, 40 and 50 didn’t bother me at all, so I can’t imagine the six decade mark is going to mean all that much, either. It was 29, 39, and 49 that made me take pause and reconsider some things.
What I’ve recently discovered is that facing 59 may be the most significant milestone of them all. Perhaps it’s some sort of male tipping point.
The biggest surprise is that I’ve made it this far! My family tree is fraught with the kind of rampant alcoholism and heart disease peril that appeared to make 50 the upper limit. My unique capacity to aggravate vast swaths of people could’ve cut things short, too.
But I’m still here and it doesn’t look like I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.
That said, the suddenly stark 59 year-old reality is that most of my life is behind me. You can fool yourself into thinking you’ll live to 100 at 49, but you can’t fudge the fact that 120 ain’t gonna happen to anyone.
But upon that end-of-the-decade reflection, the truth is, I’m fine with there being a bit more in the rearview mirror than there is through the windshield. It’s not nearly the worst thing that could happen.
If you’ve learned from your mistakes, and I’ve made ‘em all, old age really is its own reward. You see, George Bernard Shaw was wrong! Youth isn’t wasted on the young, it’s that you have to be physically stronger and a bit more stupid to survive all that bullshit.
Would I do some things different? Sure! Who wouldn’t? But it’s only through overcoming those mistakes that I have no regrets and I’m enjoying this existence more than ever. Given the choice to go back to 29 and do it over or face 60, I’ll stare that senior citizen discount straight in the eye.
And the best part is, the Irish priest, poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, was right when he said, “You’re as young as you feel.” If you take reasonably good care of your body and exercise your mind, they are very forgiving mechanisms.
I physically feel like I’m 30 and folks are all too ready to point out that I harbor a middle school mentality. So, I’m good!
One of my favorite friends likes to tell me I have no fear, and fear is life’s great self-imposed limiter. But after you’ve survived some of the worst this existence can throw at you, you realize that worrying is a complete waste of time. The irony is, the things we do to ourselves are far worse than anything we could possibly fear.
Put more simply, if you believe in life, it will believe in you.
I finally got smart enough to let go of people, situations and things that only dragged me down. It’s amazing how many items I’ve crossed off my “what’s really important in life” list from ate 20 to now. Give me a Bass Ale, a sunny September afternoon and a humorous conversation with a friend who “gets it” and I’m good.
I particularly enjoy the people who dare me to be better.
By the way, it’s the folks who accompany you on this destination-less journey – even for the briefest of times – that make it worthwhile. Enjoy those relationship while you can people! The frequently fade too quickly.
Another immeasurable benefit of experience is, I enjoy everything I do. Life is too short to do something you hate. Retire? Why would I retire from doing what I love? I’m not saying there aren’t ups and downs, but I get to give voice to voiceless, I get great candidates elected, I enjoy being a curmudgeon and putting fools in their place is more fun that you could possibly imagine.
And being able to laugh at yourself throughout the entire process only makes it even better. In the words of the great author Hugh Prather, “There are better ways to go through life than to be dragged through it kicking and screaming.
By no means does this mean that I’m done learning, growing and making mistakes. To redress the single regret I do have, if the LSAT goes well in December, the plan is to start NIU Law School in September of 2018.
What can I tell you? The thought of practicing law in my 60s fires me up!
It took me far too long to realize that the only reason we’re here is to solve problems – our own and others. Every time we successfully put one of them behind us, it only gets better. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop coming. And I’m certainly going to enjoying solving the next one.
In the end, I guess what I’m saying is, bring on 59. I’m ready!