Personal

49

My hair is thinning on top. I wondered if this would ever happen. It started happening to my dad when he was in his late 30s, and he tells me his dad went bald in his 20s. Now it’s my turn. I’m glad I’m tall, or everybody’d be able to see through to my scalp. My eyebrows are thinning, too; my height doesn’t mask that. At least you have to look really hard to notice my gray hairs. They don’t show up at all in this photograph!

49

I can no longer deny that I need reading glasses, but I forget to carry them most of the time and so look at my phone at arm’s length.

My new normal weight, the one my body defaults to when I don’t overeat, is 10 pounds more than it was 10 years ago.

And I tire more easily now. My athletic friends have complained about loss of ability and stamina since their early 30s. An advantage of being mostly sedentary is that there’s a lot less to lose, and you lose it a lot later.

I’m lucky: I’ve aged physically a lot more slowly than most of my age peers. Yet each of these changes in my body has come with some feelings of resistance and loss, and has taken effort to accept.

I decided a long time ago not to fight physical aging. I’m not going to resort to Rogaine or hair dye, and certainly not cosmetic surgery (tempting as it may be as I really hate how my right eyelid has gone droopy). A little more exercise would do me good, though.

But no regrets, because I’m happy and content now. That wasn’t always true when I was twentysomething and thirtysomething. I say it every year at this time: you couldn’t pay me enough to go back.

Happy 49th birthday to me!

 

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Personal

47

47I turned 47 yesterday.

I’ve loved my 40s. They’ve been the happiest years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

That’s not to say I’m a happy person. My natural happiness set point is on the low side and I have a melancholic temperament. I tend to experience deeply the things in the present that aren’t as I’d have them. I find joy to be fleeting and often difficult to embrace.

But when I look back, I see the bigger picture: I’ve had a great run in my fifth decade. I’ve achieved emotional health. I’ve done really well in my career. I have developed hobbies that make my heart sing. I have built strong personal relationships, especially with my sons.

And I am optimistic for the future. Sure, I can see how my body is aging and my health is different now. I’m seeing younger people coming up fast in my career – I’m starting to work for people who were in diapers when I entered college. My prime is ending. But I expect to adapt and keep growing in maturity. I expect to find that to be supremely satisfying.

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Personal

The years fly by at warp speed

My youngest son turns 15 today. In case you’re new to the blog, I’m a divorced dad with three sons. My stepson is 28, and my sons still at home are 17 and, now, 15.

It turns out that I really enjoy teenagers. For me, these are the best years to be a dad! It’s a relief, because – can I just admit this? – I didn’t enjoy the little-kid years. I’m glad I was there for the early days, but I wouldn’t want to repeat them.

I’ve always been eager for my sons to grow up and embark on all of life’s adventures. My younger boys are mature enough now to have real adventures. My 17-year-old took several advanced biomedical classes this year and has been overloaded with homework, and has learned some hard lessons about prioritization and time management. My 15-year-old just made a tough choice not to continue in a vocational program in which he was learning television production. He really loved working in the studio. But the outside-of-class work was a little beyond his reach, and he was tired of constantly struggling with it.

These choices really shape their futures and say a lot about the people they are becoming. In choices like these I see parts of my personality and character in them, and parts of their mom’s. I even sometimes see things in them that I recognize as traits from my mom’s family, or my dad’s. I’m excited to see them launched out into the world, to enjoy what it offers and, I hope, to give it the good things they have.

If I learned anything from the years my stepson was in high school, it’s that these these years fly by at warp speed. Unfortunately, because of the divorce, I only see them a couple evenings a week and every other weekend during the school year, although they live with me half the summer. So I don’t even get all of the days that will come. The best I can do is be as present as I can be for every moment I get.

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Personal, Stories Told

Growing up a little on my birthday

Friday was my 44th birthday. A few days before, a young woman at work who joined us just after graduating college this year proudly announced that it was her 22nd birthday. It reminded me that I turned 22 shortly after being hired into my first job after college – and that therefore I’ve been working in software development more than half my life. Holy frijoles!

But I’m cool with that. I wouldn’t be 22 again for all the tea in China because the intervening 22 years have brought such maturity and confidence. As a matter of fact, my 22nd birthday taught me a lesson that helped me grow up a little.

Not 22, but close

It was standard practice in our office that when someone had a birthday someone brought a cake and someone decorated the break room and we all knocked off for a half-hour or so in the afternoon to celebrate. I don’t like having a fuss made over me, and so I deliberately didn’t mention my upcoming birthday. On the day itself I thought I had successfully dodged all the attention, but I didn’t count on Freda. She was my boss’s administrative assistant – in those days, first-level managers still had admins to to answer the phone, type memos, and keep the schedule, as nobody had voice mail, e-mail, or electronic calendars. She prided herself on taking care of the entire department. I guessed later that when I was hired she probably handled my job application, which showed my birth date. She bought a cake, decorated the break room, and invited everyone in to surprise me.

I was mortified! But I didn’t want to hurt Freda’s feelings, so I put on a thin smile and went along. I did my best to be polite as people wished me a happy day and as some of the guys in their 40s (which seemed like an advanced age to me then) expressed their jealous astonishment at my youth. But I didn’t want to be there, and it probably showed a little.

I, I, I, I, I. Ay yi yi. But as people laughed and talked over that cake and coffee that afternoon, I saw how they enjoyed this short break from our hard work. It dawned on me that this celebration was as much about my co-workers enjoying each others’ company as it was about my birthday. To think I would rather have denied them this brief pleasure. I felt embarrassed about my attitude, and I determined that from now on I would be man enough to give of myself for everyone else’s enjoyment. I even said so to Freda. And so on my 22nd birthday I became a little less self-absorbed.


I’ve known I wanted to make software since I was a teenager. But without a course in public speaking, I never would have had the opportunity. Read that story.

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