Chris Jepson: On the clock, thoughts on aging

Chris Jepson

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“Doing the garden, digging the weeds, Who could ask for more? Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I'm sixty-four?” Beatles

I confess to not being so enamored with aging. Could be that it’s overrated. When I hear someone comment on their age and, oh, woe is them because they’re now 42 or 36 or 28 I quickly offer, “I’d pay $5 to be 42.” Laughs all the way around. It is not so much that I have any longing to be young(er)—if that were even possible—it’s that I don’t want it to end. Life is such a thrill.

When I was in graduate school with a glorious new baby daughter I came to the intense realization that “this” is it, that I had – give or take – a few years, approximately 60, remaining on the clock and that the years would inexorably pass. At that moment I calculated I’d used-up 25 percent of my allotted time (based on family medical history, longevity, etc.). Over the decades I have periodically tracked my time and had no reason to question my initial calculation that age 81-82 would be about it. Until…

My sister, Saint Sandra of Albuquerque, recently asked how I came up with my projected end date, and I said that I split the difference between when Gramps and Dad died. She said, “Hmmm? Why those two? You should split the difference between when Mom and Dad died.” Thanks a lot, Sister. Oh, Lordy. I’ve even less time than I thought. Regardless, we’re all on the clock and it behooves each of us, doesn’t it, to make the most of every day.

I turned 65 this week and all during my now-past 64th year I’d periodically hum the Beatles tune, “When I’m 64.” I recommend it. Under the right circumstances (learn the lyrics), it’ll have you laughing out loud to yourself. Hell, I’m still humming it.

A question one regularly hears in life is, “How old do you feel inside?” Inevitably someone will say no more than 19 or 17. I am not sure I completely grasp the idea. I didn’t start thinking until I was 36 or so. This is an accurate self-assessment. Sure, I’d read thousands of books prior to 36, worked, married, had children, showed-up, been responsible, been irresponsible, but I do not believe my thinking had crystalized (think of it as illuminating from 75 watts to 100 watts). To suggest that the inner “you” today is some 17-year-old teenager is a curious assessment.

We are enamored with that time in our lives (coming of age) because so many of our experiences were for the very first time (so intense/so significant/so meaningful/so not). You discover who you are and where you fit in the hierarchy (family/school/work/opposite sex/same sex, etc.). Lose your virginity. Develop an interest (or two or three or 78). Recognize/wear your masculinity/femininity. Refine a persona. Leave home for college. It’s no wonder so many of us fondly remember that context and time. It was an exciting, fun time. At least it was for me. Being a teenager was, indeed, a Kodachrome moment. Whole days, months and years of intense color.

But now, candidly confessing, I’m more of a black and white Panatomic X (ASA 32) kind of a guy. As you age, the trick, the challenge, the goal, is to keep the focus as well as the color in your life. Would you not agree?