So, when did your life end? Hopefully, you young folks don’t have to think much about this question, because, to be honest, y’all haven’t lived long enough to reach that life-ending moment.
For the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting down and talking with old men. Not with the purpose of ethnography or nostalgia, but because this is what old men do… they talk. Some of these old men are pretty darned interesting. They have pursuits, hobbies, and passions that launch them into conversations about their dreams for the future. They are not “in the moment”, and they are certainly not allowing the baggage of the past to hold them down.
But for some men, at some point… life ended. Empty husks waiting to die.
You can usually recognize the husks within the first ten minutes of a conversation. For some, their life ended when sex stopped. It might have been years ago, or decades ago. It is within Nature’s horrible list of rules that men, at some stage of their life, are no longer able to achieve or maintain an erection. Blush as you may at this rule, it is still the rule. There are some drugs that might prolong the advent of the inevitable, but it is indeed inevitable. Some men do not take this very well, and the mere mention of sex sends them into an angry spiral of regret and self-righteous anger toward anyone who has recreational sex. They slowly build a hard wall of misogyny around themselves. It is a very hard wall, because they put the blame directly on women. Why? I have no idea. It just is what it is.
For other men, life ended the day that they graduated high school. You know… “Back in the Day”. One day, they were popular, athletic, and free from all real responsibilities. The next day, responsibilities hit them square in the face.
Just to stay focused here, we are talking about old men. In their youth, they were expected, on their eighteenth birthday, to get a job and move out of the house. They had no “Gap Year”, and they certainly didn’t go through a “Quarter-life Crises”. Like it or not, they had to put their noses to the grindstone and grow up… fast. Some still resent that thrust into adulthood, and their dreams rest solely on going back to being seventeen. Their lives stopped on their eighteenth birthday.
Still other men stopped living on the day of their discharge from the military. Of all of the old men, these are the ones who irritate me the most. The very best days of their lives were spent in the military, and they are not going to let that go. Oh, they might have had marriages, children, grandchildren, and fruitful careers after the military, but it was those few years in the military that defined them. It absorbs them. Decades after their particular was over, they still accessorize their costuming with military pins, labels, hats, and patches. Unfortunately, they can only find personal value in decades-old military service, and all they want to talk about is their military experiences.
This thought doesn’t come from lack of respect for military service. It comes from a place that finds military lore and anecdotes to be tiresome. There must be something more interesting going on with your life.
On the whole, it is retirement that ends the life of most old men. They spend their lives working their asses off… so that some day they can retire. They only see retirement as an end of work, which is really the smallest part of the thing. Just think of it… one day, you have a title, a long work history, a lot of respect in your particular industry, and a lot of pride in your accomplishments. Then the next day, you are just a “retiree”. No one even asks about what you did for a living, and they don’t care. You are just a retiree. Another old person. And since you only thought of retirement as “not working”, you’ve prepared nothing else beyond that. You are alone and valueless. The sad and short conversation is, “There’s nothing to do. I have nothing to do. I wish that I could just go ahead and die.”
They watch football, drink beer, and die within a couple of years after retirement. Sad thing. They should have given it a better try.
But enough of all of this. It is nothing but a cautionary tale to those who have stopped living. It’s not just about old men… it is about all of us. The past is the past. It is over, and there is not a goddamned thing that you can do about that. You are never going to be young (whatever “young” means to you) again, and there are no do-overs. Listen to yourself when you speak. Are you boring us with stories about the time before you died, or are you exciting us with stories about your future?
You can change the future. Tell me what that looks like.
Have a Day.
primum vivere, deinde philosophari.