When did I get old?

I just got home from my weekly coed softball game, and realized something: somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten old.

I suppose it happened slowly and incrementally so I wouldn’t notice.  I got married, had a couple of kids, got a serious career and a mortgage, and eventually became an adult.  I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy of the government, Wal-Mart, the Democrats, and oil companies – somehow they all profit from my unwilling maturity.

I used to look forward to Saturday nights at the club, partying the night away.  Now, with the exception of a few late night feedings, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw 2am.  Not so long ago I had boundless energy, and could go for days on just a few hours sleep.  These days, I look forward to getting in bed by 10:00pm.

I used to be able to eat everything in sight – chili dogs, jalapenos, double cheeseburgers – but in my newly realized adulthood, acid reflux and fears of high cholesterol keep me away from most of these sins.  I have realized the effects of a slowing metabolism, and find that food tends to stick with me – permanently – moreso than it did a decade ago. My pants still fit well, but they’re a little bigger than they used to be.

My buddies and I used to get into our gas guzzling sports cars and drive around for hours, without purpose or destination.  These days, I complain about gas prices every time I climb in my F150.  There was a day when I was convinced that I’d drive nothing but a Ford Mustang.  I wonder if I could squeeze 2 child seats into the back of a ‘Stang?  Alas, the days of driving purely for pleasure are long gone.  Hey, at least I don’t have to drive a minivan (yet?)…..

There was a day when I looked forward to my measly payday while working my first job in retail.  I spent all of my money on myself, and seemed to afford a glamourous livestyle on what turned out to be very near minimum wage.  These days, I make about ten times what I did back then, but somehow I have less money for myself than I did back then.  My biggest cost concern used to be how much it cost to rent a jet-ski at Texoma; now, I complain that I spend more on child care than my mortgage.  I used to be able to tell you exactly how much it cost to have a car washed and detailed; these days, I’m more likely to be able to tell you exactly how much I have in my retirement account at any given time.

I’ve traded Beavis and Butthead for Bert and Ernie.  Pearl Jam has been replaced with Wheels on the Bus.  Instead of looking for loose change in the sofa, I search for missing pacifiers and Hot Wheels cars.  And last month, as my oldest finally left the diapers behind to use the potty, I actually cheered over the flow of bodily fluids into the toilet.

I used to actually wear shorts to work.  I worked every weekend, and kept odd work hours during the week.  I really did use every single sick day I accumulated, though I rarely ever wasted a sick day on actually being sick.  These days, I am thrilled when I can “dress down” by ditching the tie.  My hours are more reasonable, though I find myself working nights and weekends because I want to finish a task, not because I have to.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a sick day.

So now, as I nurse my wounds and aching muscles from the softball game tonight, I wonder what happened to my youth.  Would I turn back time and do it all over again?  Absolutely not.  I do miss some of the benefits of my younger years, but I’m happy with what my life has become.  Still, it would be nice to have the waistline I had ten years ago.  And maybe the Mustang, too……

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It’s Not as Bad as You Think

I am a wimp and a whiner. (Pause for effect). No, I’m not the self-deprecating type, and I don’t have a self esteem problem. Let me explain.

This week, there has been a plethora of media coverage about Aron Ralston, the hiker who was forced to cut off his own arm with a dull pocketknife after it became pinned by a 1/2 ton boulder. This young man lay in a Utah canyon for five agonizing days, unable to budge the giant rock that formed his prison. Having eaten the last of his food 3 days into his ordeal, Ralston made the decision to sacrifice his own arm to save his life. He pulled from his pocket a cheap pocketknife and began to cut – or at least he tried to. The knife was so dull that, on this first attempt, it would not even cut the skin. Frustrated, Aron continued to try to budge or chip away the boulder, but to no avail. Finally, on the fifth day, he decided to amputate his arm by whatever means.

This is where the story gets truly awful. Aron described the process of hacking on his arm until he finally began to cut through the skin, muscle tissue, and finally reaching bone. The knife would not cut the bones in his arm, so he proceeded to twist his arm until the two bones broke, first the radius then the ulna. And as if that was not enough trauma for one day, Ralston then rapelled some 60 feet to the bottom of the canyon, and hiked six miles along the canyon bed until he encountered two other hikers.

This man, just three years younger than me, willingly went through the hell of amputating one of his own limbs without so much as a nearby first aid kit. He made the decision that losing an arm was better than losing his life, so he swallowed hard and he did what he had to do. Bravery is a funny thing – you never really know what you’ll do in a crisis situation until you get into one. But let me tell you, cutting off your own arm – that takes guts. I stand in awe of you, Aron Ralston.

So back to my original point: I am a wimp and a whiner. Just a few weeks ago, I took a half-day off of work and spent the afternoon in bed because of a headache. I complain when my Starbucks coffee doesn’t taste fresh. I come home and tell my wife that I had a bad day when a coworker called in sick and I had to take up the slack. Several years ago, a workplace accident left me with a 1/2 inch gash in the middle of my right palm, and immediately went to the ER for stitches – and didn’t return to work for three days. Aron Ralston cut off his own arm, then rapelled down a canyon and went for a long hike. Suddenly, my ‘bad days’ don’t seem so bad anymore. The worst day I have ever had doesn’t come close to what this young man had to do.

So what can I learn from his experience? Well, first and most importantly, never go hiking alone. But also, I just need to remember that things are never as bad as I believe them to be.

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