Saturday, May 2, 2015

NOT DEAD YET and The R Word

I'm not quite to the age where when I drop out of sight for a while people start wondering if I have died - yet.

However, more and more often I am confronted with facts of my own aging. It is not just the judo - I came to grips with that part a long time ago, and perhaps it has prepared me for this next stage.

Frankly, I've never understood competing in the masters divisions, being the best judo player in the age 55-60 category. If that floats your boat, go for it, but personally, I've been there and done that.

Over thirty years ago, I was one of the best athletes in the world.  I labor under no delusion that designation still applies.

 I have arthritis in my hands and arms pretty bad, a combination of years of gripping judo gis, sixty-hour weeks on a keyboard for decades and genetics. My grandmother had arthritis and she never did anything more athletic with her hands than stir a pot of soup. One of my knees has been replaced with titanium. Every time I go through airport security that doesn't have an x-ray machine, I set off all of the terrorist alarms and get strip-searched by a 200-lb lady named Laquisha.

Most of my hundred-yard dashes come in airports between connecting flights.

Curiously, I still weigh the same as when I was competing.

When I first met Brewster Thompson on some international team we were on, he stared at me and exclaimed,

"YOU'RE the 56 kilo player? Damn! Those pounds must be packed in tight!"

Not packed in so tight any more.

Physically, I'm nowhere near the athlete I used to be. In part that is becaue
I don't put in the time to work out more than 2 or 3 hours a week

In part, it's because as anyone gets older, their maximum speed and strength decline.
That's why you don't see any 40-year-olds winning the 400 meters in the Olympics.

It's all right. I've moved on.

After retiring from competition 30 years ago, I've reached the age where most of the people I know
know are either retiring from work or at least thinking about it.

This week, I attended a statistical software conference that I first attended 30 years ago.

It's pretty expensive, as conferences go, and has sessions on topics like the LSESTIMATE
statement and debugging your macros. The people who attend have generally done well in life, overall.

Most of them are facing the same questions:

Now that I have raised my kids, paid for the house (and sometimes the boat and the vacation house),
established myself as a respected member of the scientific (technical, academic, whatever) community, taken the cruise to Alaska or trip to Europe - now what?

For most of them, the answer seems to be to keep on doing what they were doing.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine who was at the same conference and she said,

But what else would they DO? This is what they do!

The same seems to be true of many athletes I see, competing long after their prime. Doing something becomes it is what you have always done seems an inadequate choice to me. In both sports and business, I see many people who took a path for a particular reason - whether it was to win the Olympics or become financially secure - and continue long after that reason no longer exists. They made their money, won their medals, or are too old to ever win/ become president of General Motors. Yet, they keep going.

Last night, in a fourth attempt in two weeks, I actually WENT AND HUNG OUT. Yes, I went to see Adam Hunter at the Improv, with my neighbor. The last time we did anything together was in the summer - I don't go out much generally.

We were talking about all of this and she said,

"Talk to me about this when you retire for real."

Living down the block for 18 years, she knows I have made 3 unsuccessful attempts at retirement.

I'm certainly not going to quit 7 Generation Games any time soon. This blog was started when I was in an airport on the way home to LAX and I'm writing it 3 days later on a flight en route to Minneapolis.

I come from a pretty long-lived family so while this plane might fall out of the sky any minute, the odds are that I can expect another 30 or 40 years before I need to seriously work on that bucket list.

At this point, I have more questions than answers on The R word. However, I do know this - I don't want to be living those last few decades on automatic pilot.


Rick Matz said...

I'm not getting any younger myself (57). I'm finding that while I haven't found many of the answers that I'd been looking for, more and more of the questions are fading away.

LsP said...

I feel like I'm approaching retirement age but I'm only 29. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Do you practice Qi Gong? Shaolin Masters are able to retain their strength, speed, and athleticism even when they're 60-years old using Qi Gong.