What I’ve learned at 80

With more age comes more wisdom…sort of

Eventually, you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it. Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and a lot of the roads were not paved.

Ah! Being young is beautiful but being old is comfortable.

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a few days, I will turn fourscore years or in modern parlance: I’ll be 80 years old. Man, that age sounds rickety to me.

After poking around online last week, I discovered a site featuring a “life expectancy calculator” that estimates how much longer I’ll still be drinking coffee every morning. One of the questions asked of me was inadequate and I fudged on another, but according to this life expectancy site, I will likely be sipping my cup of Joe for another 19 years. Knock off three years for my tomfoolery on the site and I still have a way to go.

Fort Assiniboine, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Good news? Bad news! I suppose that will depend on the state of my health.

Squeeze as much as possible from the time given to you on this earth.

All I can say for certain is that turning 80 seems impossible to me, a huge chunk of days, weeks, and months. And what a trip it’s been.

I was born during World War II. Since then, a dozen or more wars have been fought, and America won the Cold War, put men on the moon, gave untold billions of dollars in aid to the rest of the world, and created an economy never before seen in world history.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During that time, our world has undergone immense changes. I rode a horse to and from a one-room schoolhouse. The horse was an old (I mean “old”) gray mare, she was swaybacked and all. Reading, good penmanship, and arithmetic were stressed more than the other subjects. These subjects were known as the “Three R’s”—Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. And, many prairie farmers still used horses and thrashing machines to take off the crop. Polio ravaged the world before Jonas Salk found a vaccine to prevent it.

Those days are long gone, but I remember so much of what happened along the way since then, bits and pieces, some vivid reminiscences, some dim with the shadows of time. So many memories, so many faces, and names, and so much joy and sorrow!

Okanagan Wine Country, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young people—and by young people, I mean anyone half my age or less—odds are the minutes, hours, days, and years of your life will fly by as well. At some point in the future, you’ll be as I am today, looking back into the recesses of time and wondering how everything went by so quickly.

In the words of Jordon Peterson in 12 Rules for Life, “Everyone needs a concrete, specific goal—an ambition, and a purpose—to limit chaos and make intelligible sense of his or her life.”

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s beauty in a brand new day. The turn from dawn into morning gives us the chance to start anew, begin fresh. Nina Simone may have put it best when she sang in Feeling Good: It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me!

What, then, are my favorite reasons for waking up in the morning?

To enjoy another sunrise!

Because I am alive and there is something new to be explored, learned, observed in the day to start.

Highlands Hammock State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carpe diem: Seize the day! Appreciate the value of every moment in life. Every day is a gift.

Because I still can and I know that someday in the not too distant future, I won’t be able to anymore. Got to live the life I have while I have it.

And I believe it behooves us old fogeys to make as many decisions as possible, no matter how tiny, to keep our brains in gear.

Having reached four score years, I look back with enormous gratitude at some of the blessings bestowed on me by life.

Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What I’ve Learned At 80

I’d rather be 75.

I still miss my old job like I miss the flu.

At 80, routine is king.

There’s a big difference between prostate and prostrate.

Bend over slowly or you might not get up.

Lake Wawasee at Syracuse, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay off ladders.

For a price, there’s always someone who will do your household chores.

If you always look up at the stars you may miss the dog poop at your feet.

Two beers is a party.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aging works for wine and cheese but not necessarily for people.

You no longer have to ask for the senior’s discount.

Using the TV remote is the only workout you need.

Wrinkles are just wisdom creases.

Duct tape can fix most problems. Most, but not all!

After 80, no one will ask you to help them move.

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the time you’re 80, doctors will have probed every orifice in your body no matter how small or remote.

Don’t worry about how you’ll fill up the days when you’re retired. At least half of your time will be spent on medical tests, appointments, and procedures.

You can now probably open your own pharmacy.

You can live on less than you thought.

Consider buying Velcro sneakers.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar but who the hell wants to catch flies?

Grass seed seldom grows.

No matter what anyone says, you don’t really need new slippers.

Avoid the things you cannot change, defer those you can, and don’t be afraid to say no.

Cradle Of Forestry in America, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Age is just a number but it can be a pretty big number.

Getting old is not for sissies.

Life goes by fast.

A piece of advice: Don’t let the sweep of your schedule hide the beauty that lies all around you.

The second piece of advice from this old guy: Live one day at a time.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jordon B. Peterson asks in 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote To Chaos, “What shall I do with the fact of aging? Replace the potential of my youth with the accomplishment of my maturity.”

Worth Pondering…

Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them.

—Betty White