Wednesday, December 15, 2010

25 is the New Dead

I'm getting old.

Now before you laugh, roll your eyes, or otherwise scoff at this admission, read those words again. Do not associate any sort of subjective tone, judgment, or analysis to the phrase.

It's true, isn't it?

I've recently become aware of a curious phenomenon. For over 25 years now, I've been getting older. While I was busy running, jumping, and playing, I was getting older. Cruising in my hand-me-down jalopy, I was changing. During that four year edification stint at Monmouth College, time was silently wreaking havoc on me; and now, through quantitative analysis, I've come to the conclusion that I have in fact been aging this whole time.

In the Eye of the Beholder

If she's a couch potato, does that make her a "Russet" Hound?
The realization came a few nights ago. Annie had turned in for the night, Ellie had given up on me and curled into a little ball beside me as I toiled away, recording a new piece of music. After a few hours of editing, I had finished the work and played it back for review.

As I listened to the music play back, I closed my eyes and rested my head in my hands. I allowed my body to disconnect from the world as my mind honed in on the details of the music, scanning for errors and discrepancies. As the song finished, I awoke from my physical dormancy. I blinked away the spots of light, my eyes struggling to adjust to the computer screen.

As I stared, my eyes refused to hone in on the information before me. I blinked, telescoping my head closer to the screen, then back out again. Eventually my vision returned to a semblance of its former accuracy, but even the next morning, my eyes were ever so slightly out of focus. I own a pair of low prescription reading glasses and have been wearing them with much greater regularity since.

I wish this case of macular degeneration was the only evidence I had of my own impending mortality, but as I look back at the last few years, there is more data supporting this hypothesis.

Back to the Future

This quarter century carapace of mine has long since departed from the posh life. It's been drug through more than its fair share of auto accidents, camping trips, sleepless nights, and chronic illnesses. Until recently, I can honestly say that my body has bounced back from everything it's been dealt; but since I've graduated college, something has changed.

My back hurts. I'm going to admit right up front that after long hours building theater sets, working out, or heavy lifting, I can feel it in my back. During the month of October, I was in a musical where I had to do some fairly strenuous gyration in stiletto heels (don't ask) and, about halfway through the production's five week run, my back was on fire. It was not only physically painful, it was also hard on my ego as I limped around like a senior citizen at bingo night.

Good Night Sweetheart

The nail in the coffin of my youth and vitality is the fact that the age of all-nighters has come and gone. In college, I could remain alert and youthful into the wee hours of the morning, for work or for play. Anymore, my body bids the world adieu after 11pm, whether I agree or not. The term “Hitting a brick wall” has never been as apt a description as when I am trying to work on a project and I pass that demarcation zone. It doesn't matter what I'm doing, where I'm at, but I am ready to be horizontal and unconscious.

In college, I once spent almost 60 consecutive hours awake, lucid, and producing meaningful content that resulted in A's and B's in multiple courses. I remember social occasions ending with a few friends fervently discussing nothing in particular while the sun rose over our cigars and whatever beer remained in the cases at our feet. I remember sitting up all night at Boy Scout camp, watching over Honor Society candidates, with nothing but a crackling fire to keep me company as I communed with the trees around me.

Once, a few hours of sleep could fuel me for days. Now, I contemplate sleeping over my lunch break.

25 is the New Dead

I am not complaining. I am not interested in hearing any “Just wait til you're my age...” remarks, so save them for your grandkids.

Everyone expects to hear groans and complaints about aches, pains, indigestion, and incontinence from those who have reached the venerable middle ages. It's as if you are deemed an invalid if you mention a hangnail before reaching 40. But as I've transitioned into adulthood, I've seen a large number of people in similar situations, lamenting the sudden lost virility of their youth.

Am I saying that I need a walker? By no means. Ask my wife – I have been claiming that I'll live to see my 125th birthday for a while now. I have every intention of reaching that destination, with all my wits about me, pants unsoiled.

What I am saying is that I've learned how I need to pace myself. I believe I can do anything I put my mind to, but I cannot do everything at once. When I worked at my grandfathers baler implement, there was a phrase we used for an old piece of machinery that had been poorly cared for:

“Rode hard and put away wet.”

The key to becoming a renaissance man may be to master one thing before moving on to the next. For the betterment of myself, as well as the longevity of my carcass.

Easier said than done.

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