Deep Reflections on Not Acting My Age

I recently turned 52. There was a time when I believed I’d never live this long. Longevity doesn’t exactly run in my family: dad died a couple years short of fifty; mom just made it past sixty.

So I have no idea how a 52-year-old man is supposed to act. And acting my age doesn’t sound like much fun anyway. Nope, my goal for the rest of my life is to continue not acting my age. How else can I stay young?

It’s worth mentioning that birthdays aren’t a big deal in our family. It’s not that we’re cold, uncaring people; quite the opposite! We don’t look at birthdays as “just another day”, we celebrate every day. That’s why birthdays, anniversaries, etc. tend to get lost in the shuffle. Just another day to celebrate!

This year we’ve been busy, so no surprise we all forgot about my birthday. “Happy birthday” messages on Facebook notwithstanding, what jogged my memory was the mention of Groundhog Day. (Yes, I am a child of the groundhog.) So no birthday cards for me this year, but I did get a great massage (and that’s much better than a card in my book).

But last year my wife actually found a card that grabbed my interest–and amazingly it was still displayed on top of our chest in the living room exactly one year later. It’s one of those “Pages of Time” nostalgia cards. And my “special year” is 1958. Here’s what the world looked like the year I was born:

Krushchev was in as the Soviet Union’s Prime Minister . Venezuela was still thumbing its nose at America by imposing restrictions on U.S. oil companies. America launched its first satellite into space. Elvis entered the Army. And NASA was born.

Buick was selling a manly-sounding car called “Air Born B-58”, a monster vehicle powered by a B-12,000 engine that “put 12,000 pounds of thrust behind every piston stroke!”

Ed Sullivan was endorsing Kodak cameras. Vitalis was peddling to young men “a new greaseless way to keep your hair neat all day…and prevent dryness!”

The Chipmunks made their successful musical debut. (To a groundhog this is important.)

The average Joe was pulling down a four-figure salary of $4,650. His new car cost him $2,155, his house a whopping $11,975.

A loaf of bread cost 19 cents, a gallon of gas 24 cents; a gallon of milk was $1.01.

An ounce of gold was $35; silver just 90 cents.

Eisenhower was President, Tricky Dick his wingman. (Boy did the V.P have an exciting future awaiting.)

Meaningless “inventions” include the Barbie Doll and hula hoop. (Are these really inventions?) Philco kept things practical with “the world’s first swivel screen television!” Thankfully someone salvaged the year’s reputation by inventing the laser, thus offsetting (and redeeming) all the other silly inventions.

Minimum wage was a dollar, life expectancy 69.6 (and I’m happy with that…until I turn 69.6).

Who else was born in 1958? Madonna, Prince and the late Michael Jackson. Even Tanya Tucker was born that year, a surprise since I thought she was a lot older. (No worries, Tanya doesn’t read this blog.)

It’s hard to believe that so much has changed between now and then. An old mentor used to remind me often that “it sucks getting old.” No doubt he meant it, as he was surely referring to the aches, pains and maladies that come with age. But I know that he also relished having knowledge and a perspective that can only come with age. In this sense he was and still is an inspiration. He was one of those rare old dudes who managed to age gracefully while maintaining a passion for life.

Time has a way of making you humble. Humility plus time equals wisdom. And this is why you couldn’t pay me to go back in time (even if the technology existed). Just don’t see the value in trading hard-earned knowledge to be a young dumb-ass again. Much better to be an immature 52, thank you very much.

As you get older it’s tempting to dwell on your mortality, but it’s an exercise in futility. It makes much more sense to focus on things within your control. And this brings us to the final reflection of this post.

A few years ago a Japanese acquaintance passed away at the age of 29, leaving a devastated wife and beautiful 3-year old daughter. We attended his funeral. Per Japanese tradition it was conducted by a Buddhist monk. Before the eulogy I wondered what the priest might say in such a tragic situation to console loved ones. I can only speak for myself, but his eulogy lifted my spirits and inspired me. The gist of his message:

“”There are many ways to measure a man’s life. One way is to count the number of years he lived. 29 years is a very short time to be on this earth. But it doesn’t tell the whole story: it doesn’t tell how widely and deeply he lived. Some people live more life in 29 years than others do in a hundred. Tomorrow is promised to no one. But we can all choose to live our lives widely and deeply.”

Here’s to living life widely and deeply.

Copyright © Tim Sullivan 2010

3 responses to “Deep Reflections on Not Acting My Age

  1. Aloha Tim! As a fellow 52 year old (although 1957 is my year) I enjoyed the reflections…we also share a family tradition of “every day is a holiday” and birthdays, Valentine’s Days etc. get lost among the daily celebrations.

    May we never act our age and always live widely and deeply!

    PS Possibly we can do that easier than most because we live on the Big Island of Hawaii is an area which really doesnt have a whole lot of societal constraints.

  2. Great insight Tim. Who wants to get old anyway? Our bodies may get old, but as long as we keep our minds young and stay healthy by eating right, I believe we can overcome anything. If I live to the average of the males in my family I only have 14 years left! Ouch! But I know I will outlive them if I don’t die in an accident or something. I just wish time would slow down a bit and let me enjoy myself.

  3. I like the insight. You know what’s funny, recently (in Japan at least) there has been this new fad of 23 year old people saying “I’m not 22 anymore…I’m getting old.”

    As if 22 was the peak of life. I don’t know if these young kids necessarily believe they are deteriorating but it seems like the new “in” thing to do.

    But it does make sense, the average Japanese graduates college, enters a company with the promise that they will be there for a very long time. In that time span the big dream is to get married and be normal. If this is the basic goal in life, maybe 23 IS the new 35…

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