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 ...like 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!