Sep 282013

This was sent to me recently:

Will I Live to see 80? (Here’s something to think about.)

I recently picked a new primary care doctor. After two visits and exhaustive Lab tests, she said I was doing fairly well for my age. (I am past Sixty Five).

A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t resist asking her, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 80?’

She asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or hard liquor?’

‘Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I’m not doing drugs, either!’

Then she asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?’

‘I said, ‘Not much… My former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!’

‘Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’

‘No, I don’t,’ I said.

She asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lot of sex?’

‘No,’ I said…

She looked at me and said, ‘Then, why do you even give a shit?’

Funny but it illustrates a very good point.  If you live a healthy and prudent lifestyle, eat right, stay away from dangerous activities, and otherwise live a conservative type lifestyle with out risk of injury or other unhealthy endeavors, you could live a very long life….but would you want to?  Really, what is the point of living to 80 or 90 or over 100, if all you are doing is existing?  Sure you will be alive, but doing what?  Eating, healthy of course, staying safe in secure in your air conditioned comfort, only going outside to do what is necessary to remain alive.  Spending your days in front of the television, consuming for the good of the economy, and never, ever taking a risk out of fear it may result in you dying sooner than expected.

It’s amazing how many people actually live like this, especially those who are entering “retirement” age, that mythical point in one’s life when one is no longer a worker bee, and is expected to go somewhere, live off the savings one has acquired, until one dies.  Sorry, not for me thank you.  I would like to think there is more value to the later years in life.  When the highlight of your day is catching the early bird special at Olive Garden, you need to reevaluate how you are living.  In other words, you ain’t living, you are simply existing.

Yes, I know, age does slow one down.  I feel it.  I will be 60 next year.  I am not 20, nor 30.  Aches and pains take longer to heal.  I have less stamina.  I can still paint the town red, I just need a nap before applying the second coat.  But I have no desire to stop living either.  Go move into some apartment, get some comfy furniture, a big screen tv and satellite dish, and stop all this boat living, kayaking, and other nonsense?  Um, no.  In fact, I have a private list of more than a few things I would like to take a shot at.  Some involve actual physical exertion.  Others involve something other than sitting on my ass waiting to die.  Will I do all those things?  Probably not all of them.  But I will try.  Something may well stop me.  Injury, unexpected disease.  Until then, or if that happens, I intend to keep living until I cannot anymore.

I have friends, (stop laughing, they are friends), who are in my age range, and are getting close to an actual retirement.  Retirement meaning they have worked most of their adult lives at a job and will stop working at a certain age.  When we talk about such things, I get the general feeling that they are absolutely terrified of retirement.  The idea of no more paychecks, no more meaningful employment, has them scared to death.  I ask them what they will do when they retire.  Will they travel?  No, too expensive.  Find another job?  No, tired of working.  Then what scares them so much?  Each will always say the same thing.  They just want to have enough money coming in to survive and keep the things they own, a house, vehicle, etc.  In other words, to them, retirement means spending your remaining days worrying that you will be able to survive long enough to die.  No adventures, no risks, no travel, just existing.  If that was all I had to look forward to after 40 years of work, I would be scared too.

In fact, I should be the one who is scared.  I have no pensions, no savings, and no sure way to maintain my exotic lifestyle.  But then again, I have nothing to lose.  No property, just an old sailboat.  No possessions.  Just a bunch of electrons floating in cyberspace.  Maintaining my current lifestyle is going to be pretty damn easy.  It’s one of the many reasons I went to a minimalist lifestyle.  I’m looking forward to the coming years as much as I was when I was coming just out of school.

The myth of retirement, at least in the way it is portrayed to us is exactly that, a myth.  We were brought up to do the expected, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, buy a new car every 4 years, consume, but save also, and when we hit some magical age in our 60’s we retire, stop working, and spend our last glorious years in peace, with a nice pension, savings, a condo in Florida, where we go for the winter to play golf and hit all the dinner specials.  We sit around with other retirees with a cup of coffee and talk about who had the hardest jobs and who worked the longest hours, and then it ends.  We get sick and die.  We leave nothing behind but a small estate that the kids fight over, and little else.  Two or three generations later, and we are forgotten.   It may be a healthy way to live, and you may continue the species that way, but damn, it sure ain’t much to look back on and brag about.

Many cannot handle the idea of retirement.  For some reason they feel that their job gives actual meaning to their lives.  When that job is gone, life has no meaning, so what’s the point of continuing on?  I’ve seen relatives like that.  Once they stopped working, they stopped living.  That long retirement turned into a few miserable years before disease and despair took them way too soon.  Whatever they did for a living before become their sole purpose for living.  When that purpose was gone, they gave up.  It never occurred to them that leaving a job is not the end of one’s life.  It’s simply the end of one aspect of said life.

If you want to get technical, I have retired at least twice, maybe three times.  From the sport diving industry, from the motorcycle industry, and from the paddle sports industry.  Believe me when I say this, none of those jobs had meaning to my life.  This humble little blog has more meaning than all those years that I stood behind a damn parts counter or worked a sales floor.  And trust me on this, what ever time I have left in this current physical form, be it a few days, or another 60 years, it will have meaning, maybe even more than the first 60.

I don’t fear death.  If and when it happens, (I’m still not sure if I am going to go or not.  You never know.), it happens.  There is no after life to fear.  No judgement day, no burning in some mythical netherworld for all eternity as some would claim.  You won’t know you are dead, because you will be dead.  So this is it.  Your one and only life.  Short as it may be, it doesn’t have to be a chore.  It can be as hard or easy as you make.  The choices are up to you.  If all that expected lifestyle stuff is what you think life is, and it is making you happy, so be it.  If not, do something about it.  Start making what ever time you have on this planet worthwhile.  Go do the unexpected.  Take a risk now and then.  Eat a goddamn steak with some Key Lime Pie, and a bottle of rum.  Go romp in a meadow nekkid and have wild sex with another consenting adult, or two or three.  Go do something that makes others sit back and say, “Damn, I wish I had done that.”

Just don’t stop living, no matter what your age is.  You’re missing out on life.

Capt. Fritter