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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

NOT an 'age thing'


“In the end… we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ―Lewis Carroll

Recently a post on Erica Scott’s lovely blog got me thinking. It dealt with a kind of lament over the inevitable changes we experience, not just physically but emotionally, as we get older. I have some thoughts on this…….(big surprise)......along with a few, true anecdotes from my own experience. But before I do, let me clarify that I would not directly compare Erica or what she wrote to the situations I will discuss. Her post merely triggered some thoughts of my own about this general topic that deal with situations that I see as more extreme than what she shared. 

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I have a friend I used to be closer with but still see on occasion...in fact I just saw him the other week. Nice guy. He’s a little older than me but not by any drastic amount and while we get along, we are very different in a lot of ways.  One big departure is his fanatical appreciation of “The Boss”. I may be from NJ, but personally I don’t care much for Springsteen’s music….even though I do kind of think he’s one of those rare celebrities who’s still a decent guy. One song of his describes my friend even going back the several decades I've known him: “Glory Days”. I hate it, but boy does it mirror my friend’s own approach to his past.

 "Glory Days"----Bruce Springsteen

I had a friend was a big baseball player

Back in high school

He could throw that speedball by you

Make you look like a fool boy

Saw him the other night at this roadside bar

I was walking in, he was walking out

We went back inside sat down had a few drinks

But all he kept talking about was


Glory days, well they'll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye

Glory days, glory days


Well there's a girl that lives up the block

Back in school she could turn all the boy's heads

Sometimes on a Friday I'll stop by

And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed

Her and her husband Bobby well they split up

I guess it's two years gone by now

We just sit around talking about the old times

She says when she feels like crying

She starts laughing thinking bout


Glory days, well they'll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye

Glory days, glory days


My old man worked 20 years on the line

And they let him go

Now everywhere he goes out looking for work

They just tell him that he's too old

I was 9 nine years old and he was working at the

Metuchen Ford plant assembly line

Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall

But I can tell what's on his mind


Glory days yeah goin back

Glory days aw he ain't never had

Glory days, glory days


In fact I think I'm going down to the well tonight

And I'm gonna drink till I get my fill

And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it

But I probably will

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

A little of the glory yeah

Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but

Boring stories of


Glory days, well they'll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye

Glory days, glory days

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Similarly, a few years ago, I had the quirky coincidence of having my favorite dentist retire only to be replaced by a guy I used to be good friends with in college. Not just an acquaintance, but one of a trio I was part of in my freshman year. By sophomore year we kind of went off in our own directions, but never had any falling out. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me again and began going on and on about our past together. It was cool at first but it struck me as odd that he remembered so much about a time that was, for me,  just ‘one-year-in-my-life’. To be honest, it made me uncomfortable. 

This tendency to repeat the past and focus on people long gone from my life was made more irksome because I invited him over for drinks and to kind of reconnect, and he came once, seemed to have a good time, but despite repeated and even insistent invitations, has not come again….and yet, when I see him, he STILL goes on wistfully about our past. I think I’d understand this better if I died and he said these things at my wake, but I’m standing right in front of him now, the same person he recalls in college, looking to do real things with him in real time and he’s………..stuck, like a person locked in a memory. It’s like: “I don’t really want to hang out with you now. I want to go back in time and hang out with the you from back then.”

I used to enjoy watching "The Honeymooners" but I have to say that I never liked Ralph's conclusion to the roller skating episode. In that episode, Ralph laments getting older and tries to recapture his youth by dressing like a college kid and doing things he clearly is too out-of-shape to do. At the end he says  that you don't need to try to go back as long as you have good memories. I don't disagree completely, but I think Ralph missed the point. Staying young at heart isn't about trying to stay a kid into one's old age, and sitting around recalling the past isn't going to do it either. Instead, it's doing something new, learning something, making something, contributing something. 

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Back in college I have to say I had my share of adventures with my friends. One day, not long after we were well into our early careers and lives post college and grad school, a bunch of my inner circle gang were sitting around drinking and retelling some ‘war stories’. It was fun. But then a pattern developed. The next time we got together the same thing happened, and then again, and then again, and one day, me, being the mellow, patient, and warm/fuzzy guy I am (obvious sarcasm), when it happened yet again, exploded. I believe I said something like, “hey guys, enough of this shit! You guys talk like we’re in our twilight years and looking back fondly on our good times. We’re all in our fucking late-twenties/early thirties! If this is it…...if my life is going to be only the great adventures I had in college…...KILL ME NOW!!! I don’t want to hear about the past anymore. If you all want to talk about something over some beers, let’s plan what we’re going to do next.”

This anecdote is true and reveals something that I've noticed is true about this phenomenon: IT'S NOT ABOUT AGE. Typically we think of this type of wistfulness as a by-product of aging, but it's more about personal philosophy. Nostalgia can strike anyone who misses something that time has relegated to the past. Tom Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again and that title has become a well-worn warning to those who want what has already past. And, it's true. Sometimes we'd like to go back to some simpler, more pleasant time, but the harsh reality is that it can't be done. 

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Now, do I lament the way my body has accumulated maladies that seem intent on thwarting my ambitions? Sure. My back is shot, my arthritis is progressing, my knee probably needs an operation, my ED has progressed to a point of virtually perpetual flaccidity, my libido is waning, etc. etc. But…...I lament these things because they are impeding my strides forward to new adventures, not because they remind me of what I’ve lost the ability to do. (Well maybe a little, but not predominantly). But dammit, I refuse to be Al Bundy reliving his high school football glories, and I certainly don’t ever want to be a Norma Desmond.

Norma Desmond simply MUST be THE poster child of the dangers of living in the past. Though I would say she is certainly on the extreme end of that spectrum.

There are some downsides to how I approach things though. When I am close to completing a project, my mind is already on the next. And sometimes that can be a hindrance because my eagerness to get to the next thing triggers an impatience with what I am finishing. 

Another positive I have in my life that I recommend to others is to have younger people around you as much as possible. Kids are great for this, especially if you get to meet and party with their friends. But even just fostering friendships with a few younger couples can be very youthening in itself. This isn't to say that one should try to mimic younger people, but rather exchange experiences so they can benefit from your experience and you can benefit from their energy and enthusiasm. I would conclude that it's nice to have same-aged friends for some things and younger friends for others.


They say the healthiest way to live is neither in the past nor the future, but the present. My approach is more like 75% present and 25% future. It’s not a bad compromise. I've been told by several friends over the years that I tend to live life like I'm going to die before the year is out. And I can't argue. I've always felt like my clock was ticking like a bomb waiting to go off. I feel like one of those sharks that has to keep swimming to breathe.

Fun Fact: Not all sharks must keep swimming to breathe. Several species can use a sort of pumping action to force water past their gills. Others, like the Great White pictured here, must keep moving. 


11 comments:

  1. Enjoy the age you're at. I can agree with that. I enjoyed partying and festivals many years ago, but I think that I would hate that lifestyle now. Now I like projects and relaxing, but I would have hated that back then. My love of butt whoopings, good whisky and marmite, seem to be the only constants, through the years

    Prefectdt

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    1. Absolutely true for me too. The details differ but the sentiment is the same. We grow and change and as such, the way we live changes with us. (I'll have to try marmite sometime since I tend to enjoy odd flavors.)

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    2. Spread it very thinly, it has a wonderful taste, but a very strong taste.

      Prefectdt

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  2. I think looking back for a reason (or to explore one's reasoning) can be a positive thing sometimes, but you can't live continually in "back then" headspace -- THAT drives me crazy. I don't associate with anyone who knew me in my so-called glory days, and I doubt I'd have much in common with those people anymore if I happened to bump into them. I do have friends who range rather broadly in age and experience though, and I agree that it helps one maintain perspective.

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    1. It sounds like we are of a similar mind on this across the board. I do agree that rethinking something can be positive but I wouldn't put that in the same category as reminiscing. And even some innocent and infrequent reminiscing can be fun too, as long as it isn't a substitute for moving forward.

      I didn't add it, but after chiding my friends that day, they did what I suggested and we went on to have many more new adventures together. (Maybe they just needed a kick in the ass? LOL)

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  3. This is very interesting. I think I need to bounce back off of it and write a follow-up post! So much to say.
    Here's the weird thing: I don't want to revisit my youth. My youth sucked. But in my experience with my parents, aging sucks too. Ideally, I guess I wish I could remain somewhere in the middle.

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    1. As always I'd be interested to read what you have to say. As I mentioned in the preface portion, your post just got me thinking, but I don't want you thinking that I took your lament as some red flag. LOL

      Your last line is kind of the kicker though. I don't think wanting a 'somewhere in the middle' age is unusual. With my ailments I joke that I want technology to lep forward and offer me an affordable android body in a decade or so! But to remain or go back is still contrary to moving forward. Even aging, with its pitfalls, is a learning experience. Dementia however is another issue, but that is no different from dying young in a car crash or from cancer.

      I'll be watching for a new post. (See? PLENTY to keep blogging about.) ;-)

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  4. Hi KD,

    I like the 75/25 ratio. I'm always looking forward to new adventures, but I also really enjoy my present life. My neighbour, on the other hand, is 100% future, as in "When i clock out...". She acts like she can't wait to die so her kids inherit her money and her hoard. No conversation with her, however brief, is without a mention of her passing.

    Did you ever watch "Goodbye Columbus" with Ali MacGraw? In it, Ali's brother, a college jock, plays and replays a record of the glory days at Columbus University.

    Hugs,
    Hermione

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    1. Hi there! Yes, I have difficulty embracing some Zen 100% present approach. I am a sensualist of sorts so I DO value in-the-moment experience, but I don't like plowing ahead without having at least pondered where I want to go.

      Your friend sounds.........a bit morbidly bizarre. But unless she accompanied her philosophy with a Halloween-esque, Goth-y sense of home decor and dress, I think I'd get frustrated with her one-note song. (Perhaps if it got too much, I might one day suggest if this is her wish, she might consider hurrying things along? LOL)

      I know OF that movie, but did not see it. I do see how that fits though. I wonder if the issue is the level of glory? I mean if someone never achieves that, perhaps it's easier to not look back? I had my share of successes, but never anything I'd be obsessed over regaining. Perhaps if I did, and it passed, it would be harder to take?

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    2. Indeed, the movie "Goodbye Columbus" gets its title from the recording of the career-ending game of the basketball-star brother, wherein the announcer says "Goodbye, Columbus!"

      To be persnickety, he played for Ohio State University, which is located in the capital of the state, the city of Columbus. It's a bit unusual since the brother isn't that critical a character, the film focuses on the romantic relationship between the characters played by Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin.

      I don't think that a touch of nostalgia is a bad thing, especially if you're interacting with people from the "old days" whom you haven't seen for quite a while--like at a high school or college class reunion. However, I'm referring to people in their 60s or 70s, even older, I certainly don't believe that people in their 20s or 30s, even 40s, should be 'looking backward,' like that former HS baseball star in "Glory Days."

      Of course, I remember Simon & Garfunkel singing "How terribly strange to be seventy" in their song "Old Friends/Bookends," and when you're in your 20s, as they would've been then, being 70 does feel strange.

      There are physical, emotional and attitudinal changes in growing older, and I miss some physical activities which I can no longer manage to do well, however I don't believe in overly dwelling on the past.

      Except when I'm studying history, of course... --C.K.

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    3. Hey there, CK! (or should I say the other CK) LOL?

      Don't forget Jagger! "What a drag it is getting old"

      As usual, we seem to be on the same page here. Nostalgia is fine when balanced with moving forward, but weird if it kicks in too soon. And studying history? You mean like looking at what's happened to better understand things and even avoid pitfalls in the present? Hmmm. Does anyone really do that anymore? It seems so old-fashioned. ;-)

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