Funny, I don’t feel old

A marketing manager told the Wall Street Journal recently for a story the newspaper ran on age that he felt old when a Starbucks barista called him “Sir.” A college professor who studies age still found herself taken aback when she got a mailing saying she was eligible for senior discounts.

Hello AARP.

I’ve written before that I don’t pay much attention to age — it’s a number, you can do a few things to slow it down, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it — but there have been a couple of incidents lately where I’ve felt my age. Here’s what I’m talking about:

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—When some of the great athletes that I grew up watching in my youth — Magic Johnson, Dan Marino, Wayne Gretzky, and Cal Ripken Jr. to name a few — are considered not just old, but downright ancient.

—When I realize that if I were to run for President, Senator or even or even Representative, no one would be pointing a finger at me and calling me “that young upstart.”

—When I get together with other coworkers for a project kick-off and realize that I’m one of the older members in the room (and I’m not even that old.)

—When I read my phone and notice that I’m looking over my glasses. My daughter does the same thing, but she does it because she’s picked up a bad habit. I do it because I’m getting older, my eyesight is getting worse, and I need new glasses.

—When my coworkers mention some new, trendy app they’ve downloaded on their smartphone and they ask me what new apps I’ve downloaded. Yea, I don’t think Instagram or Facebook are what they had in mind.

So yes, sometimes I feel old, but then there are times when I still feel young, including:

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—When I stop at the wine and spirits store on my way home from work to surprise my wife with a nice bottle of wine and I see the store owner — out of the corner of my eye — watching me. I’m pretty sure no one would confuse me as underaged and, dressed in a suit jacket, I doubt he considers me a shoplifting threat. No, it’s all in my mind. All these years later, when I enter a bar or liquor store, I still feel like a little kid sheepishly sneaking into a place I don’t necessarily belong.

—When I’m talking with an intern at my company and he or she asks for career advice: how I got to where I’m at today; my educational background; how I overcame specific challenges, etc. When that happens, I always want to stop the interview to tell them that I’m just like them and have no idea what I want to do with my life or what I want to do when I grow-up.

—When our eight-year-old dog Nittany licks my hand when I come home for the evening, excited and happy to see me. It’s hard to feel old when your dog adores you just for being you.

In the end, I come back to my belief that you’re only as old as you think you are.

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Making a connection at 65 mph

When my daughter was in high school several years ago, I had the job of driving her to school. I would use the miles to list out in my head all the things that I needed to get done that day. My to-do list always seemed to outnumber the number of hours in the day.

I spent most of my time though shaking my head at the carelessness of the other drivers and worrying about getting into work on time. A fender bender here, a garbage truck there, and I could automatically count on another five to ten minutes tacked onto my commute.

My daughter would sleep or chill for much of the drive, but she’d usually wake up a few minutes before we got to the school and talk about her schedule, what tests she had coming up, how her friends were doing, and her worries and concerns. I have my flaws and can be thick-headed with the best, but I was somehow smart enough to shut up and just listen. I learned a ton by just listening.

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I came to count on the last five minutes of the drive. And in a way, I think she did too. Soon, without any prompting, she was asking for my thoughts on college and her future. She came to trust me so much that she even let me go prom dress shopping with her. We connected in ways that I never would have expected.

Despite the hassle, I came to miss the drive.

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Starting over after tragedy

I turned on the television last week to see a story on a husband and wife clearing away mud and debris caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. They told the reporter they were still without power and lacked the basic essentials.

The husband tried to keep a brave face and said much of the house could be replaced, but he teared up when he talked of family mementos and photos that had been destroyed. The two turned away from the camera and went back to work. They looked exhausted and weary.

Later that same night, I saw another report on a California married couple who managed to survive six hours inside their neighbors pool while their entire neighborhood burned to the ground.

The Santa Rosa couple had gone to bed and woke to find thefire upon them. They tried to get away, but with no place to turn, they ran to their neighbors pool and huddled together in the pool while flames overtook everything around them. After the terrifying night in the pool, the couple walked back to their home to find it completely burned along with their SUV and truck.

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When all else fails, there’s always Netflix

I’ve been swamped lately. During the week, I’ve been running from meeting to meeting for hours on end, and then on the weekend, I’ve been busy with family obligations. Fortunately, my wife and I will be going away for a long weekend in a few weeks.

Besides the weekend away, I scheduled an extra day off for myself. I’ve been thinking about the best way to use the day. Some people like to spend their free time at the movie theater. I have a good friend who likes to go hunting. Others like to go shopping.

The choices are endless, but I’m down to my top ten:

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Where has the service gone?

The cashier greeted me with a quick hello and a smile, and jumped into the job of ringing up my grocery order. She went about her job with speed and confidence. When I handed her my money to pay the bill, she counted out my change in a slow, deliberate fashion so that I could see that she had given me the correct change. I chuckled quietly to myself. She probably thought I had lost my mind. I laughed because when I do pay with cash, which is a rarity anymore, the cashier usually hands me my change in a wad that I’m scrambling to put away so that I can get out of the way of the next customer. It’s a rarity anymore to see a cashier to go to those lengths.

Two days later, I went out with coworker for a quick lunch. We didn’t have a lot of time in our schedule, but we also needed to get away from the office. We needed the break from deadlines and if nothing else, staring at a mountain of emails. The waiter looked barely old enough to drive, but when we told him our time constraints, he got right to work getting our lunch to us. In fact, he had us in-and-out with time to spare

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50 Shades of gray

As I get older I find that I’m becoming a contrarian. Well, I suspect I’ve always been one, I’m just becoming even more of one.

When everyone goes left, I go right. Whenever everyone goes right, I go left. It’s that way with big and little decisions

Here’s what I mean:

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Jumping the shark 

When a TV show has had some level of success and starts to live off its reputation rather than come up new material or changes in a significant way in an attempt to stay fresh, television critics say it has jumped the shark.

The sitcom Happy Days is partially to thank for the phrase. In its fifth season, Fonzie, the leather jacket wearing, auto mechanic and star of the show jumped over a shark while wearing water skis. Critics panned the move and would later point to the shark jump as the moment when the show had reached its peak and was never the same again.

A few other oft-cited jump the shark moments: working class Roseanne and her family  winning the lottery; the series finale of Seinfeld; and when Olivia joined the cast of the Cosby Show to name a few.

I’ve been thinking of things outside Hollywood that have also jumped the shark. The television networks frankly come to mind, with more people nowadays watching Netflix and Amazon and the networks becoming more and more desperate for viewers, but there are many other things too:

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My dream: a hug and a vision of peace

I’m flawed.

I get angry and fly off the handle easily with little warning. I’m selfish and impatient. I hold grudges and write others off for the smallest of offenses. I can be mean and disagreeable. I curse and swear and would sooner run over you than let you sneak in front of me on my way to work.

I criticize and complain. I focus on myself instead of helping others. Despite my many flaws, I look up to find Mary, the mother of God, waving to me to come closer. I shake my head and squint my eyes. She’s dressed in a long robe and her arm is definitely motioning toward me. I have to be seeing things. This can’t be right.

No, it’s clear as day. She’s got a bright smile that wraps around her entire face and is pointing and waving to me. I take a hesitant step forward. I look behind me. Is she waving to someone else? No, there’s no one there.

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Ten things I want to learn

Like most people, when I was young, I learned how to read. A few years later, I learned how to throw a curveball, one decent enough to occasionally fool my friends, but not good enough to get anyone out in a real game. (The one time my coach put me in, I got lit up beyond belief, so I think I’m still working on that one.)

We spend a lifetime learning things. As soon as we come out of the womb, we work to learn everything about our new world. We go from listening and watching to rolling over, crawling, and graduate to talking and one day walking.

We never stop learning. The process is never-ending. For much of my life, I’ve been taking classes to get a grade or learn a subject or a train for a career. With two of my children now in college, I’ve been thinking about the things I still want to learn simply for fun.

 

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You can take the boy out of the country, but . . .

I shake my head some days.

I grew up in a rural farming community where small, simple church steeples outnumbered taverns and watering holes and you had to drive 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store.  Each small village had a post office and maybe a gas station. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to leave the community. While I had good reasons for wanting to get away, I’ve come to appreciate the small-town values that helped shape me.

I’ve lived now for most of the past thirty years in the suburbs and there’s much I love about my adopted hometown. I love that I’m close to the best of all worlds, close to the rapid, mile-a-minute pace of the city, but still relatively close to laid-back attitude that comes with open space and farmland.

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