Sunday, January 4, 2009

Getting older

Generally speaking, I don't spend a lot of time fretting about growing old as I figure that getting old beats the alternative. When I was in my mid 20's I read that 40 was the old age of youth and the youth of old age. For some reason that little bit of wisdom stuck with me. The opportunity to test that hypothesis finally arrived in 2008 as I turned 40. I was in Memphis for a regional meeting for work. Coincidentally, my birthday fell on the night when we had decided to go to Beale Street. I made it through the meeting and the meal at the restaurant without revealing it was my birthday. I did not want to find out whatever stupid and embarrassing thing they did to celebrate birthdays.

On the way to the bars (did I mention I love blues), I admitted it was my birthday because I figured it would lead to a few free beers. It so happened that the best band I have heard in Memphis, Delta Highway, was playing at the Blues Room. I really like the folks I work with and they proceeded to buy me more than a few beers while some great live blues was going on. I really could not ask for a better birthday. At that point, I was enjoying the youth part of being 40. The next morning, though, I was definitely feeling the old age part. 40 plus 1 day was a hell of a lot harder than 40 was.

Overall getting older is a mixed bag with more positives than negatives. So far, I put the changes I have experienced in three categories. Physical changes to lament, physical changes to observe and mental/emotional changes.

In the physical changes to lament, I put things such as waking up nearly every morning with a stiff right ankle. It works out within a few minutes but it makes for some precarious first steps when I am still a bit woozy. Throw in a dog laying in the floor of a dark room and it can make for some less than satisfactory waking moments. I wish I could blame back pain on getting older but, alas, that has been a problem since my 20's.

Hair is the largest part of the changes to observe. For the most part, it is moving around. I can't complain too much about going bald. It is happening, but slowly. Like most men, I expected to grow some hair on my back, and sure enough, it has happened. I am happy to report that I don't even come close to looking like Dirty Dutch Mantell so I can deal with it. What I did not expect, though, was that my eyebrows would start growing like crazy or that I would start to grow ear hair. The ear hair has remained thin and mostly unnoticeable. But, the eyebrow hair is a bit out of control. If you spent the 80's watching TV in Louisville, you probably remember Dinwiddie Lampton, JR. He sold something (insurance?) in commercials but the thing I remember the most was making fun of his incredibly bushy eyebrows. I am heading toward Dinwiddie Lampton, JR territory. Still, I consider this, for the most part, amusing. It certainly beats a stiff ankle.

On the mental/emotional front, I am generally happy with the changes. The two biggest positives are being more patient with my children and being more honest with myself. Patience has never been a strong point for me but children require patience. I still have work to do on this, but it is nice to make progress. Just this weekend my soon to be 13 year old daughter actually thanked me for something. That is priceless.

Lately, being honest with myself has meant taking a serious look at my work. I work for a terrific charity. I completely agree with the mission and I think we do a great job of demanding accountability from ourselves and our partners. I have a great boss and I have great people working for me. I make a good living as well. Everything should be great but lately I have begun to admit to myself that I am not enjoying my job. This long vacation break I am finishing up has helped me to realize this. I am not looking forward to returning tomorrow.

This is difficult for me to admit because of everything I said above. How do you walk away from a job that has all those advantages? I have realized that you do it by being honest with yourself. I know this could come off as whining. I should be happy to have a job in this economy and I will say that I am appreciative. This has lead me to the following thoughts, though-

I will make a change in my employment in 2009. The best case scenario is a transfer to a new position within the agency I work for. As noted, there are lots of great reasons to work there, I just want to spend my time on other things. I have at least two opportunities to make a change in the next few months so hopefully, those will work out. If not, I will look at other opportunities.

My wife and I made huge progress in 2008 paying down debt. We paid off stupid credit card debt, student loan debt and vehicle debt. Every bit of her salary went to pay off debt. Now we only have our mortgage and that is much smaller than what most folks have to pay. It feels great and I can only imagine how much better it will feel to be completely out of debt. For 2009, we want to build a nice savings cushion and then start hammering at the mortgage. We would like to pay it off by mid 2010. The fact that I am not thrilled with my job right now plays into this because once we are debt free, we can more easily pick and choose what we want to do with our time. I am really looking forward to that possibility and I plan to write more about this over the next year.

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