TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
May 28, 2016
Ok, let’s not beat around the bush. Six decades gives you a lot of material to work with. I can’t list all of it, but here is a partial list of what I now know.
My mind tells me I’m still 20. Ok, maybe 40. But my body seems to take delight in undermining this lovely fantasy. I take pills for asthma, high blood pressure, cholesterol and a Vitamin D deficiency. Despite the fact that I work out 4-5 times a week, my ever-slowing metabolism chuckles at these feeble attempt to reduce my waistline.
But the place I notice age the most is how long it takes me to recover after a night of making merry. In the past, I could have drunk a group of noisy Turks under the table … and have … and then been up the next morning raring to go. Now if I have three or four light beer, it takes me two or three days to feel OK again.
One of the stats that has always interested me is the number of unemployed people who have stopped looking for work. How could people stop looking for work? If you didn’t have a job wouldn’t you keep looking for one, regardless of how long it took? It seemed like these people were just quitters or lazy.
Then in October, 2014, I was laid off. From that month to this month I have applied for over 70 different jobs. I wish I could tell you the number of emails I got that said “You seem extremely qualified, but we decided to go in a different direction.”
Recently I have been working on a couple of different projects that I found out about through friends, but I’ve stopped looking for work in any conventional sense. It just became too soul-crushing to be constantly told, “sorry, we’re not interested.” I truly had the feeling that I was wasting my time.
I’m pretty sure I know why: I have been a journalist for a long time, but the reality is that most publications, online or in print, want young people who they can pay a much lower salary. It’s the way of the world. But now that I’m 60, I understand why people stopped looking.
My dad died when he was 56. I’m now four years older than he was. I now understand just how much he really missed out on.
When I was younger I cared a great deal of what people thought about me. For years as a columnist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I would fret myself into knots after writing a column because I was afraid the people I was writing about wouldn’t like me anymore. That was then. This is now.
Now that I’m 60, I don’t care much what people think about me.
I’m a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-better gun legislation, pro-union, pro-immigration, atheist, living in rural, conservative, northern Virginia. If somebody asks me what I think about something I will tell them, or refer them to my Facebook page or my latest column for Facts and Opinions.
I heard it was like this, that when you got older you spent less time worrying about what other people thought about you.
If there’s any one gift that I could give to my children based on my 60 years of experience as a human being, that would be it. Don’t care what people think about you … just be yourself.
Despite various illnesses, the lack of a job in recent years, the way that 60 leads you inevitably to consider your own mortality, the worrying about how my wife and I are going to find the money to send our children to college, I find that I’m happier that I have ever been. I have a great life partner, four great kids I get along really well with, three cats, a 16-year-old dog, a nice house, beer in the fridge, many good friends, and a thirst to know what comes next. Life has really never been better.
Abraham Lincoln once said “You’re only as happy as you make up your mind to be.” I made up my mind.
And one last thing. I confess to you, here and now, that I also love kilts. I received one for my 60th birthday; it was the best present of the day. And being 60 means I’ll wear it come what may. The most important decision I now face is …briefs, boxers, or commando?
Copyright Tom Regan 2016
Contact Tom Regan: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.
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