The whines, er, wisdom of a 59-year-old

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Today’s my 59th birthday. I can see 60 on the horizon. If my most recent milestones birthdays are any guide, the trepidation that comes now will turns to mellowness when I get there. So I’m going to write about age now, while I’m still trepidating.

In my head, I am still about 24. I still have a childish disposition hidden inside. I remember what my son said when, as a teenager, he began working part time at the office where I was also working at the time. “I feel like these are all adults who know what they are doing and I am just pretending.” My response: “Actually, they’re all pretending, too. They’ve just got more experience.” At this point, I have a lot of experience pretending.

These are things that I don’t like about being this old:

I forget what happens in meetings and phone calls if I don’t take notes at the time.

I’ve alway had problems with names and faces; it hasn’t gotten any better.

I type homonyms for words I mean to use (“hear” for “here”). I usually notice them later when editing, but I am horrified. I know the difference; I frown disdainfully on people who don’t. So what am I doing making errors like that? Terrifying.

It takes longer to recover from injuries and exercise. (My wife and I have a joke about this: after I work out, I tell her I am suffering from PNS. PNS is “Post Nancy Syndrome,” because my trainer’s name is Nancy.)

I spend more time with doctors and health care. There is nothing serious wrong with me, but there are plenty of things I need to keep an eye on.

Then there are the things that I do like. There are many of them.

I found the right person to spend my life with. It is so rewarding, not just to have someone to take care of me, but to have someone I can take care of.

I know what I want. I know what I like. I spend time doing those things, like writing, giving speeches, and helping other writers.

I don’t worry about money. I made some good choices and spent carefully when I was younger. The striving then is paying off now.

My children are young adults (the youngest is 18). While I still worry about them, it is rewarding to see who they are becoming in college and beyond.

I don’t worry about offending anyone. I know what I want to say. If you get offended, that’s your problem.

I have time to give back as a volunteer and to just connect with and help people.

If you think I have mellowed, you’re not paying attention. What I have done is to create a mature, sensible, stable platform from which to continue making trouble. If you have 59 years experience and don’t want to just lay back and relax, this is a worthwhile thing to do.

I’ll keep creating. I hope you will keep listening.

(Quick note: see me tonight at 5PM eastern, 2PM pacific on Facebook live with Kathy Klotz-Guest, where I hope to be making even more trouble.)

10 responses to “The whines, er, wisdom of a 59-year-old

  1. Made me chuckle. Not at you, of course. I’ve already crossed the 60 threshold and see many of the same frustrations. Enjoy your last year as a 50-something.

  2. I am grateful to have shared a portion of your journey with you, Josh. Among several things, I most respect and admire the courage you’ve demonstrated in transitioning your career from paycheck to something noble minus any guarantee. You have neglected to include one other source of joy at 59; you’re merely six months shy of penalty-free IRA access;^)

  3. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. It’s truly appreciated.

    One concern: “I don’t worry about offending anyone. I know what I want to say. If you get offended, that’s your problem.”

    Perhaps you should worry. Perhaps if you’ve offended someone, you should take the time to understand what it is you have said or done that they found offensive. Not because they are necessarily right and you are necessarily wrong. But because hurting people’s feelings shouldn’t be a game. Life isn’t zero sum. When you listen to why someone is offended by what you’ve said or done, you may even learn something about them and yourself.

    You may say I’m overreacting or overly sensitive. But to me, whether you’re 16 or 60, not caring about offending other people seems childish. And while many of us laugh at seniors who say or do offensive things, “because they grew up in another time,” shouldn’t we at least aim to avoid such a fate for ourselves?

  4. Aaron, I think there is a slight difference between being offensive and *worrying* about offending someone. One of the central differences is timing.
    If you worry about offending someone, you are self-censoring your own words or actions in apprehension of someone possibly taking offense, even if you personally believe you are not being offensive. This is a type of “political correctness”, which can have a chilling effect on candor.
    That is a different topic than what one should do when one is told they are offensive. If you do offend someone, I agree, you should try listen and understand and determine whether the offense is merited. Then in the future you might change your behavior (and if you decide it is offensive, you won’t worry about it, because you know you won’t do it).

  5. So true, so true. Now three years into my sixties, there are more things to watch and take care of. More of me to lug around, too. What happened to that skinny young guy who ran 10K races all the time?!

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