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Being 60

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Sep 29, 2005
Tennessee, USA
I turned 60 early this year. And I must say that sort of shook me more than any other "milestone" birthdays. Turning 30, 40 or 50 were non-events, and I never felt any different. It seemed like the time between my early 30s and late 50s was one long plateau where everything was more or less the same.

But 60 is different. Pretty much all my life I was always seen as the young gun who achieved things ahead of time. But at 60 the young gun days and years are now definitely over.

Physically, I've been incredibly fortunate. No aches, no pains and just a little wear here and there (and even that more self-imposed than by nature). I weighed 150 when I played ball in college, I weigh 152 now. My hair, though it began turning gray in my early 30s, is largely still accounted for. I am a runner. I do 5 and 10ks. And fairly advanced dives. What affects me most healthwise are those stupid reading glasses and an eye injury that happened when I was 19.

I can't recall ever having had a conventional midlife crisis. I did have a red Porsche 928 for a few years 20+ years ago, but the impetus for getting it was a fascination with its speed and mechanicals rather than the more common use of flashy vehicles.

On my 60th birthday I descended into the big tank at the Georgia Aquarium and swam with hammerhead and other sharks. It was a great start to a new era of my life. But this one does feel different. My mailbox gets bombed with AARP literature. Though it's been years since I needed medical attention, my health insurance premiums are going through the roof. I have lines in my face that were never there before.

I also feel a strange sense of detachment from what's going on in the world. Like I don't care because it's no longer my game. Whatever they do, I am no longer really part of it. I've had my decades in participating shaping the world, but that is now in the past for me. I realize that's an irrational feeling. My mom is 90 and, apart from physical wear and tear, exactly the same person she was 30 years ago. My dad wasn't that lucky. So I hope I take after her.

I look back over my career and wonder if I should have done it differently. Sometimes I feel like I accomplished a lot in my 60 years, other times I feel like I blew it. Some of my friends will get 100% of their salaries as pensions forever. None of that for me. Some accumulated wealth. I didn't; it's just too damn hard to save much these days.

I fear that I have become quite cynical. I snort in disgust when I see yet another investment banker commercial telling me how they care so much about me and my family. Yeah, sure. That is why they make trillions and obscene bonuses, whether the market goes up or down, when pretty much whatever I eve tried with investments in my life worked for the brokers and banks much better than for me. Politicians? All the same. Greed, idiocy, stupid games is often all I see.

I also look back and wish I could undo the mistakes I made, and do it all over. Sometimes I feel like life is like a trial run, a boot camp that gets you ready to do it right and for real the second time around. Only, there's no second time. This is it. And whatever chances and opportunities I have had, at 60, the window is now closing.

I've always made my own destiny. And apart from not getting a pension, I'd probably do it over again that way. No one can fire me, and I can likely keep doing what I am doing or quite some time. But what if some day I can't anymore? That is scary.

Sometimes I wonder what is ahead for me. This past year, at age 60, I've been diving with sharks, giant manta rays, whale sharks, explored wrecks, researched night time fluorescence underwater, traveled a lot, did some pretty extreme stuff. I probably wrote a hundred detailed product and technology reviews. How long will I be able to continue doing all this?

Then I think of my mom who is half again as old as I am, and seems happy as a clam (not sure why clams are supposed to be so happy, but anyway). And I look at my son who is a quarter as old as I am, and who is just a total joy. Still, I feel like I passed some pivotal milestone.

I remember when as a child I thought of the year 2000 and that by then I'd be 49 years old. No one could be that old. It seemed inconceivable. Or when the Beatles sang about being 64. That was inconceivable, too. I mean, in my formative years the word of the day was not to trust anyone over 30. Hah.

I remember the first time someone called me "sir" on account of my age, not just out of politeness or social etiquette. That felt weird as it was when I ran into a guy with whom I had been discussing the finer points of tuning race cars online. Online we were buddies. In real life I was "sir."

Some day, most who are younger than I am will be where I am now. I have a lot to be thankful for, and life certainly worked out in unexpected ways.

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