Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wait, Slow Down!

We spent most of last week up in Northern California visiting some of the colleges my daughter is considering. On the list are UC Santa Cruz, University of San Francisco, and UC Davis. They're all really nice, but the whole thing feels surreal and leaves me a bit dazed. I mean, why are we looking at colleges already? Wasn't it just last week that I snapped this picture of her enjoying her favorite food group? Isn't she still the sweet and innocent little girl who holds our hands tightly when we walk in a crowd, and buries her face into our legs when introduced to a stranger? Please tell me that she's still afraid of clowns and balloons, and that she needs me to guide her safely through such dangers.



I suppose the reality is that my daughter is a self-confident, smart, funny, good-hearted young woman who is ready for launch into a complicated yet exciting world. She has excelled in high school and is eager for more challenges ahead. She wants to change the world, and it pleases Gina and me greatly that she's pursuing Environmental Science. Proud doesn't even begin to describe our feelings about her.

But, if she's nearly an adult about to go off to college, that means that...... I'm getting old???

Admittedly there have been a few signs and symptoms. Somewhere along the way the hair from the top of my head migrated to all sorts of regions previously devoid. Nostrils, ears, shoulders. Other places I'll spare you. Nor has the sun been particularly kind. I notice that the skin on my quads resembles that of a mostly-deflated balloon resting on the floor the morning after a party. Symbolic of life? Long gone are the days of stealing a quick glance when walking by a mirror wearing shorts. (If you're a bike racer reading this blog, don't even try to tell me you haven't checked out your legs in a reflection!)

Is this the normally scheduled time for a mid-life crisis, when you start realizing you're getting old? Lots of guys do it, right? They buy a Corvette or a Harley, and maybe a young blond hottie to take along for the ride. Desperately trying to recapture lost youth or relive glory years, real or imagined? The thing is, I've never been that into motors, and my sweetie is everything I need or want.

But some would say I've been mired in a mid-life crisis for quite some time. Nine years ago I recklessly stepped off the conventional career path, burned out by way too much traveling, stress, and missing my family. Now when I work, it's from home and more-or-less on my schedule. For a few years I was Mr. Mom, spending time in my kids' classrooms, going on field trips, helping with after-school sports, and generally just being there. I loved every minute of it. Of course those things diminished as the kids became teenagers, and my role became more of a bus-driver and chauffeur. And all too soon they drive themselves...

So now I spend a lot of time riding a fancy bicycle while wearing shiny colorful Lycra a clown. Hardly normal by standards of society-at-large. Doing it as obsessively as I sometimes do, I can see that it might look like a mid-life crisis.

But in reality, cycling provides my higher consciousness with plausible deniability about aging. I feel better physically and mentally than I did twenty years ago. I'm more at peace and way less stressed. No doubt all due to cycling (and eating right). On the other hand, the normal people I know --i.e., the non-bike-racers-- they're clearly all getting older. Many seem under great stress. They ingest all sorts of potent chemicals, medicines for blood pressure and cholesterol, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, on and on. Standing in the shower, many of them couldn't see their... feet. I wish they'd exercise more.

To an extent the company you keep influences your age. I have friends through cycling who are twenty years younger than me. It's a strong common bond we share. And bless their hearts... they teach me things. For example, when I was young, we'd say "Sure, I'm up for doing that ride!" whereas nowadays you're supposed to say, "Sure, I'm down for doing that ride!" Very confusing. Another example: I showed up for a mountain bike ride with a fanny pack, which I was politely told was a huge fashion faux pas. Who knew?

I'm starting to ramble and have forgotten where I was going with this post --another symptom of aging apparently, along with drooling-- so let me just leave you with a picture of a car we passed on the way home last weekend. Just some random UCLA kid driving back to school in his bimmer with a license plate that reads "NVR B OLD"...

Hey kid, I'm trying.

You don't stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing!


Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

Amen!!! I, too, am feeling younger than ever. Enjoy your mid-life-crisis, and may it last your whole life. Sounds like you figured it out.

Anonymous said...

Very true on all accounts,and my sophomore is chasing Stanford...Ouch; Now living close to Boulevard I realize I need to get up at around 4:00ish to get to the race that starts at 7:00. Is that because us 45+ guys get up that early anyways? Probably. The same race by UCSD had us at 1:00. Figuring us old guys need our rest.

Now on Sunday they have us at 2:40 for a big oval while I am sure I will get dizzy. Still, I will pluck the hair from my nose, ears, and back to stay looking like I did in the 80's.

MQ/SD(Lo Cal)

Anonymous said...


I don't think we have ever met. I am a cyclist who lives in Los Olivos. You could write about cycling for years and I would never think of responding to your blog. However, your recent content is about parenthood and that is a deeper and much more important and complex topic that compels me to offer my 2 cents. When people ask me if I have kids I immediately and enthusiastically say yes! At that moment in time, when responding to that specific query, I hold a snapshot in my head of my 10-year old daughter and my 7-year old son at Disneyland. However, my family reality is much different in comparison to that fuzzy photo in my mind. My daughter is graduating from UC Berkeley in May and my son will be finishing 10th grade this year. Those Disneyland days have evaporated into the distant past and now are just happy memories that my wife and I cling to. You are in for tough times ahead, my friend. I say this because I remember the day when my wife and I dropped our beloved daughter off for her first year of college. It practically killed us. It wasn't so much about the short-term pain of missing a loved one but more about what it represented in the grand scheme of things - the fact that our kids were growing up and beginning the separation process. When you drop your precious daughter off at UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, or wherever, it will make your head spin. You will be amazing proud of her, on the one hand, but totally disarrayed emotionally on the other. I wish I could offer some tidbits of wisdom to you on that monumental day when your child says, "Goodbye Dad." I regretfully have nothing to offer. I have finished double centuries in record times and the pain in my legs is nothing in comparison to the pain in my heart regarding this issue of separation. In the end, I think, it is not so much about us getting old but more about our children stepping out into an exciting and yet unknown world. You will exit the mid-life crisis at some point in the future but you will never exit from the fact that you are a dedicated father - and that is the good news. You get the luxury of holding your family together forever - through thick and thin. I wish you the best of luck with respect to that paramount and life-long task - keeping your crew bonded as a family. On a different note, I noticed that you have link to Chuckie V's site. He is a good friend and we ride together (along with his cohort of triathletes) when he is in town. Those rides are always epic! Best of luck and keep spinning those cranks - Steveo (Los Olivos)

drea said...

Hi Mark,

OK. You got me. You're not old. I can't believe you and Gina have a sweet gal headed to college. What a cutie, looks just like you. (Only cute, hee hee, just kidding!) Is it in the water? I have felt terribly old lately and my kids still fit that picture of ice cream licking glory. Yikes! If you live the way you do, you'll never be too old. Don't worry. You and Gina sip the youth juice.
Congrats on a raising a wonderful woman.

brett said...

I remember one of the first times I went on the tuesday roco ride and someone was pointing out that it was someone else's 60th birthday and cracking a joke about how the birthday boy was going to have to pull us all back to town. I just remember thinking to myself "I'd be happy to be half as fast as these guys when I'm 60". Of course I was barely half as fast as them then, and things have only gone downhill from there, but hopefully the bike will keep me young too.

Marco Fanelli said...

Kim, Definitely don't have it figured out, but I sure hope I exercise 'til the day I go.

MQ, Wow, Stanford... She must be smart AND a fast runner! So cool.

Steveo, I can only imagine how that day will feel.

Drea, You can't feel old yet... you still win races and you have little kids. But it's true what they say, the kids grow up fast.

Brett, True dat... the group rides are great for seeing examples of what's possible when getting old(er). "Old Man Steve" is quite inspirational (although I'm not wild about his politics...) and John Brennand is my running hero.

Sinsei said...

Well written, Grasshopper. It seems you have learned lessons from this epic ride we call life. You have attained the gift of wisdom and your thoughts prove that you are still learning and still thinking. These are of course traits of the young and yet they are also the traits of the evolving and without regard to the number of years that has passed. Of course these traits are to be admired as well.

I too have felt these feelings that you are experiencing and while I am all too aware of the passing of time, I know that I am on the right path every time I ride my two wheeled time machine. It inspires me to read what you have written and be glad that you are on the right and true path.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Great post and replies Mark.


Marco Fanelli said...


Anonymous said...

Great post Mark!!
Really hits home with the little one still being little.
Even now at 6 and 8 they seem so grown up from the "early years"
Please time, slow down a bit.

chris "choo choo"