Friday, June 27, 2014

61 as a number, not an age

Here’s the thing about turning 61: It’s an age that either defines you or you define it.

I’m trying my best to define it, so I consider it a number, not a state of mind.

It doesn’t matter that I’m a year from being able to collect Social Security. It doesn’t matter that I’m a year closer to being eligible for Medicare. It doesn’t matter that I’m inching so much closer to that “senior citizen” euphemism: 61 won’t define me in those terms.

Sure, there are days when I feel every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second of being 61. My knees remind me. My back reminds me.

And there are reminders from my doctor about the tests and routine procedures normally associated with being a 60-plusser. Oh, and the fact that I CAN’T HEAR YOU very well anymore.

But those are the exceptions of who I am these days, not the rule because I’ve sworn to myself that as I get older, I won’t let the years age me.

I help myself by keeping myself engaged: Engaged in my freelance work, engaged with the people I love, engaged with the world around me.

I feel the need to be on the move - physically, mentally, emotionally.

Sit too long and the corrosives will into your joints, into your synapses. What did Neil Young sing? “It’s better to burn out than fade away...” Rust never sleeps.

Some of the engagement comes from the fact that I’m on the move between two homes - one in South Bend, Indiana, where my wife Jane works for the University of Notre Dame, and one in Durham, N.H., where I work as a freelancer for a couple of online and print news and information outlets.

I can work from pretty much anywhere because of my fully equipped “office in a bag”. I can set up anywhere and be immediately productive.

I’m given to looking more deeply into 61 than I did 60. Any age that ends in a 0 - 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 - is a big deal because it’s an easily identifiable mile marker on the interstate of life.

61 is the beginning of the outlier years. Hardly anyone notices, and you just go about your business.

That’s why I’m making more of an effort to remain engaged in this life I live. Those outlier years will begin to pile up. You live it, or it lives you.

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