Climbing the Steps of Life
Many years ago I was at a flea market and came across an old print similar to this one. It really caught my eye. That point where I would be on the steps declining on the other side of 50 seemed so far away. Yet, I am already on the first step down. No more climbing upward. I've passed the plateau.
I can see each decade that has elapsed. I can witness it all over again in my mind.
Those first ten years, when everything was so new. So original. So crisp. From smells to tastes to sounds. It was a time when my parents could do no wrong, and they were my world. Soft green grass on the bottoms of bare feet. Summer days under an oak tree listening to a transistor radio. Fishing in a pond, catching frogs. G.I. Joe, Batman and Robin, The Monkees. Star Wars. Mom and dad took care of everything. All I had to do was get good grades.
That second decade was a time of hormone overdosing for me. I had no idea what I was doing. My parents had become stupid when in reality it was me that had turned dumb. They could not do anything right. Girls were now everything even though I really knew very little about them. My first car, a Chevy Malibu, was my chariot of freedom away from my poor ignorant parents to spend time partying with my brilliant peers. Shag carpet, bell-bottoms and olive-drab Army jackets, Atari, Chia Pets, and staying up late to watch Johnny Carson and eventually David Letterman. I relished escapes to the outdoors. Canoe trips down rivers over multiple days. Escapes to recharge. I fell in love during this decade and was married.
The third decade was working years. When I really buckled down and had a full-time job with benefits. My friends really didn't matter as much. And growing in my career was the prime goal. Investing in a 401K, buying a house. Working many, many hours and having a second wife...work. I fell in love with cycling during this decade and began riding a bicycle as much as possible. Eventually moving into racing and becoming very competitive. We made trips to visit parents and in-laws. I had a larger family now and the holidays were split between them.
During my 40s I can remember I was longing to be around my folks more. They hadn't been "stupid" for some time. I could see their faults and realized that they were human, just like me. I could see they were aging and time with them was precious. It was during this decade that mortality became real. I realized time moved by very quickly. It seemed the goodbyes outweighed the hellos. I had achieved some stature during this decade. I had the knowledge and a strong career. I still had lots to learn but felt better about my decisions. In my forties, I realized that setting roots was a good thing. Living in one. place, making lifelong friends, finding good doctors, dentists, pharmacists, etc. was important. I became a local and learned about shortcuts around town from other locals. I felt like I was home. A century ended and a new one began during this period of my life. Computers took over and my skill set changed. I had a cell phone even though it was limited in range and was expensive to use.
The 50s were really pretty hard. I saw my limitations physically and mentally. I said more goodbyes. I developed a love for good beer and good scotch. Instead of being competitive, I loved the peace of being alone on a bicycle. But, I found a much stronger connection to the planet and our wild spaces during this decade. Being outdoors in nature truly brought me more joy than anything I had ever experienced in all the prior decades combined. I looked back a lot. I talked with my siblings about our parents and we laughed. Memories became very, very important. Time alone was also much more important.
And here I am on that step with the "60" under it. In the illustration, the man is looking into the distance. Maybe looking back at his life. This decade in my life is still young. I hope there are many more paths to take and many more hellos ahead. I hope I can reshape myself again and again. Becoming better than the person I was in previous decades. I hope time gives me more time.