Moving and turning 52
Today my wife and I are moving house. Specifically, we’re hauling boxes from the house into a van, driving said van to a U-Haul transfer station, then driving back for another load, repeatedly. The cats are nervous. Our son, Owain, is helping. Ceredwyn and I are managing what feels like a thousand details, and are tired. Yet bit by bit our move proceeds. We have one more day of this schlepping, and then we hit the road. In a few days we’ll be living in Manassas, Virginia, close to Washington, DC.
Also, today I turn 52.
It’s strange, this new sign of mileage, partly because it is unremarkable. There’s nothing special about the age as far as I can tell. Even the number 52 is a bit dull, offering few interesting resonances, except for the classification of this poor whale. (Go on and listen to its sad song.) Moving house cross-country after living in one spot for almost 20 years is a far, far more meaningful and fraught event.
As a child of the Cold War’s last and most apocalyptic phase, I am sometimes surprised to be alive past the half-century mark, and not long dissolved into radioactive ash, sifting down across a ruined world.
Looking ahead is what I prefer to do. I’m still following the plan: working on the future of education and technology through a variety of means. Along those lines I’m making media, writing, teaching, consulting, speaking, and learning. I’m not slowing down. Indeed, one reason for our move to the DC area is to improve my work efficiency (better infrastructure in particular). It also means I can do more virtual work, make my travel more efficient, and hopefully do less of the personal-carcass-hauling stuff.
I remain consumed with the desire to do more. To push ahead, to search, to make, to learn, to listen. I only feel the desire to rest when my traitorous body sabotages my plans.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life!
I’ve been checking myself for the typical signs of an aging American male, and do see some of them. Nostalgia hits me more strongly than it used to, mostly for history, aw I can’t get enough of the Cold War. Also for reading as I find myself remembering reading certain books in specific times and places: Borges by an upstate New York waterfall, Bradbury on a Michigan lawn. Not so much nostalgia for music, which surprises me. My tastes remain weird, broad, and uneven. There’s some goofy love for movies I saw in the 70s and 80s. Weirdly, I find myself looking for stuff online about two of my teenage gaming hobbies: wargames and roleplaying. We Are the Mutants makes me happy.
Yet nostalgia is selective, as it is for everyone. For every song I cherish there are dozens that just seem sad at this distance. Sorting my comics into keepers and donations, I have a hard time reconnecting with the youthful enthusiasms that led me to buy so many. Most of what my cohort remembers fondly leaves me cold or embarrassed.
Along those lines I do cherish a small generational resentment. Since most discussion of generations focuses on Millennials and Boomers, this Xer is left out — which is both typical and expected.
I don’t feel any desire to dun “kids these days.” I still dislike when people my age or older bash Millennials and Gen Z. Instead people under 30 fill me with optimism for the future, often more than I feel for their elders.
Related to this: I do not think of retirement. I suspect I’ll work right into the grave for a variety of reasons (politics, my disposition), and can’t foresee a way for me to slow down in a significant way absent a health emergency.
My health is ok. I can still bench about my weight (240 pounds) and enjoy a full day’s energy level, yetI seem to be more vulnerable to very cold weather than I once was. I’ve been consumed with the house madness on top of work, which has wrecked my exercise routines; I should resume the walking and weight-lifting in the new digs, and maybe add cycling. BMI is still too high (37), so this has some urgency. Otherwise, no sign of entering so-called andropause. No afternoon naps, no concentration problems. I still don’t feel the desire to talk about health issues with other people.
As a futurist I am keenly interested in medical advances, and try to look ahead to their impact down the road. I just don’t think many will apply to me, thanks to the way America allocates health care.
I am more frightened of losing cognitive functions than of just about any other degradation.
Related: I am more conscious of allocating my time. I’ve pushed away some books, conversations, movies, and especially tv series because of the dreadful sense that my available window for experiencing those things is shrinking fast. I multitask with a greater sense of desperation.
Related: I can’t tell if I’m speaking less. I don’t mean in keynotes and addresses, but in social settings. Over the past few years I’ve been focusing on listening to people more carefully, as well as not exercising older white man privileges. I encourage people to say more, and ask them questions. Usually I am more interested in what and how other people think than in convincing them of my ideas. (Those of you who’ve known me for a while, please feel free to comment.)
Apparently one sign of aging is valuing friendships more strongly, and I do get that. Living in a remote spot and working a lot has meant I maintain and enjoy many of these virtually, which is ok for now; hopefully I can increase those connections in our better-connected new home. For all of its annoyances and evils, social media works for this purpose.
The flip side of this gaining love for friends is bitterness about friends and colleagues falling silent. I’m told that older folks are more self-sufficient and less dependent on the opinions of other people, but I’m not getting that yet, possibly because my profession relies so much on reputation. Being cut off by people I once had a connection with doesn’t sadden, but galls me.
Thinking of betrayals or past mistakes is something I have disciplined myself to quash, as a kind of cognitive optimism. Death metal helps.
What also helps is checking back over the past year to see what I’ve accomplished. I turned in the manuscript for my new book and the editor likes it. FTTE switched to a paid subscription model successfully. The Future Trends Forum reached its third anniversary, connecting with nearly 2,700 people. The BAC business continues to grow. More conversations, more learning, more creation… and we sold our house to move to a much better situation.
I’m teaching again.
And my wife and children infuse every single day with love.
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Originally published at bryanalexander.org on February 11, 2019.