The other day I stumbled across a magazine cover with an artist’s rendering of me. I’m 36, driving my old International Harvester Scout—on the cover of a magazine I founded at 28, that’s now long defunct.
That’s enough to make a feller feel pretty old.
Except I don’t feel very old, at 54. I make a damned fool of myself on the regular (and know to write, “on the regular”), and I still worry about the future. My old enthusiasms remain and new ones present themselves such that I don’t struggle to find something to write five days a week. And I play baseball on every fair Sunday morning—running out every grounder and diving for every fly ball (even those hit right to me).
But boy, it does seem I’ve already lived a long life. I break my up adulthood in decades. My twenties were apprentice years, early marriage years, finding my way around Chicago years. My thirties were ambitious years—gunning for to make a mark in journalism, trying to meet everyone in Chicago, having a kid, driving around town and country in my old truck, everything all at once. My forties were a settling in—to running a company, building a community, continuing to raise my kid and saving enough money to pay for her college.
My fifties are the least defined but among the most adventurous—only beginning with a year that included a trip to Thailand, business sorties in Sydney, Santo Domingo and Gaborone, Botswana—and a terrifying motorcycle epic over the Andes and down into the Amazon in Ecuador.
I remember these decades of my adulthood in such detail each year that that they seem like centuries.
Making each year a decade!
In 2016, for instance, I fought a vicious and desperate legal, financial and psychological battle to buy a company, ran a 10-mile race in Chicago one week and a half-marathon in Des Moines the next, learned that my wife got laid off from her teaching job, hosted a young Danish speechwriter for a week, reconciled with a long-estranged aunt, attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, put on a major conference in D.C., attended Game Six of the World Series in Cleveland, watched the Cubs win Game Seven back in Chicago with my young daughter, saw the world’s greatest boob be elected president (also with my young daughter) about a week later and nearly got into a fist fight with my best friend over same, the week after that. Just off the top of my head.
Everyone says, “Life is short.” But life is also long. I like better the phrase of my friend Javier. He doesn’t speak of the length of a life. When posed a dilemma of action, he asks: “How many times do you live?”
That, unless you believe in reincarnation, seems to me the more relevant point.
Because it generates the more objective and clarifying answer:
Once! Once! Once!