Middle Age Actionating

I turned 58 this weekend. Happy Birthday to me! I purposely asked for it to be a very quiet, non-celebrated event. Not because I feel old, or embarrassed, or bothered by either my age or my birthday. It’s mostly because it’s 58. 58 is a boring number.

I ate alot of cake. Alot. I got a whole one and I ate alot of it until my lips went numb. And none of that cheap whippy-fake frosting either. This was the real 80 proof cane sugar right into the blood stream frosting. I really like (fantasize about) birthday cake.

I also opened the bottle of Bardenay gin that my realtor and friend Mike gave me when we closed on the House of Wales and made a top shelf martini. It’s really good gin. That night I dreamed of Genie on I Dream of Genie. She had a little yappy dog and wanted me to take it.
I said no and she was not a happy Genie.

Some people use birthdays to look back at the year that was. I’m not a person that looks back alot. I don’t see much value in it. It’s depressing. I almost hate looking back.

I threw out alot of pictures when we sold the house and downsized to the condo. Pictures are all about looking back. I’m not a big picture keeper. Mostly people look at pictures and talk about how young or thin or hairy everybody looked. Then they say things like how fast life goes by or how little little kids were or how long Grandma has been dead and get depressed. Throwing away pictures is like criticizing the Pope or Mother Teresa (and I’m not even Catholic); it’s just not done. I still remember the look on Rachel’s face. Kind of like I might be a guy that runs over kittens or pushes old ladies into traffic.

I suppose if we looked back and used the past to teach us actionable lessons there might be some good use for that. That’s if we’re actually going to actionate (yes, that’s a thing. And if it’s not it should be). But hardly anyone wants to actionate. Mostly they say something wishful or depressing and put the pictures back in the box and the box back under the bed. For year 58 I want to take less pictures and actionate more.

I don’t feel 58. I tried to think about how old I actually felt when I woke up this morning and I decided 38. 38 seems like a good age even though at 38 I think I could still see the alarm clock. I’m not sure how a 58 year old is supposed to feel because I’ve never been 58 and I don’t have any friends that are 58 and I don’t remember how my parents acted when they were 58.

I have tons of energy, tons of optimism, take the stairs to and from the 4th floor even on leg day, am pharma-free, and still gym and mountain bike every day. I don’t have as much hair as I did when I was 38. I think my feet might be bigger than when I was 38.

I felt like I wanted to go out and do something to commemorate becoming 58. When you’re 24 months away from being 60 you should make a statement about not going gently into that good night. More than eating alot of 80 proof frosting cake. I thought about a chest tattoo of a roaring Bengal tiger or going for a ride on the motorcycle while wearing an eye patch or shaving my head again. I asked Rachel about the tiger tattoo and she looked at me like I had thrown more pictures away. I decided to ride my mountain bike to the gym and do a chest workout.

I crossed on the no walky guy sign though.

So What’s with the Blog?

A friend recently asked me why I started a blog. It made me stop and think about it. I’ve been writing and blogging for years, just never quite so publicly. 

There’s lots of speculation today about why people do things, especially in social media, and rightly so. Sometimes the reader is expecting the other shoe to drop (or maybe that’s just me). I don’t blame them. Much of what takes place on social media is disguised sales; the bait and switch.

Maybe I’m overly cynical. I dislike (strongly) being led into a sales situation unexpectedly by clever questions. It feels like answering the door to solicitors. Now that you’re reading, you should buy my… (No thanks, and now I’m done reading). Many of the blogs I read have alerts about external monetized links – both pro and con. I think that’s cool: make the intent clear right from the start. 

So I thought I’d make my intent clear, right from the start:

I enjoy writing. I can sit and blog for hours. It’s my way of being creative. Last Saturday morning I started at 7:30am and it was 11:10am before I noticed. I’m not sure how that happens. I’ve learned not to even open my blog during the workday. What I think might be a quick check turns into an hour. 

This is not an income and most likely never will be. I’ve read a few blogs where the authors claim that it makes them six figures (healthy skepticism abounds). I think there are a few that do ok and the authors make it a post-retirement side hustle, and good for them. They write well and have found a topic that readers enjoy; me included. I guess if Elon Musk offered me a bag of money because he finds my writing indispensable, I might give it some thought (I’m also reasonably confident that’s not going to happen). No other shoe is dropping here.  

Writing relaxes me. I have a small table in my home office that looks out over the front lawn, a big maple tree, and a very quiet street. Kids on bikes or skates go up and down. There are lots of birds. Writing gives me the opportunity to jot down my thoughts while staring out the window without looking like a creepy guy staring out the window. I play Max Richter music and live in my abstract world. When I’m done it feels like I’ve had a fine meal.

It feels a bit like leaving a legacy. I imagine that someday my kids might read what I write. Maybe they are now; I haven’t asked. Maybe some of my eulogy will be pulled from here; if so, you’re welcome. Blogging is a little like keeping a diary, only I get really jazzed at the thought of hundreds of people reading it. I get to open up my inside life a little bit. Like the pictures on Instagram or Facebook, blog posts remind me it’s an awesome life.

Blogging helps me assess my life. I like to reflect on who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what life will look like in 10 years; sort of being a reflective life practitioner: (So what is it you do? Me? Oh, I’m a Reflective Life Practitioner. Ohhhh…). At almost 58, I’ve entered a new phase of life (act 3 of 4?). I’ve done and thought about things in the preceding year I just never thought I’d do or think about. Life is changing significantly and I want to be ready. I want to do it right, and well, and have fun, and do good things. The process of organizing my thoughts into becoming words helps me better consider my time spent in this realm, at this age, and if I’m doing it the best way I can. If I’m not, I’d like to fix that.

It feels like a conversation. I often wonder if I’d be surprised by who reads my writing, which makes it all the more cool. If you’re reading, thank you, and feel free to comment. Different perspectives help me better understand who I am. I seek and value insight.

Something I write might help someone else. I think Rachel and I are doing some pretty cool things as we enter into a new phase of life. Call it act 3 of 4 maybe. While there may not be any belief-shattering revelations here, perhaps there might be a phrase or line that resonates with you the reader. Maybe you’ll think about some aspect of what we’re doing, and weave in to the fabric of your own life. I tend to do that with the blogs and podcasts that I take in. Usually the phrase or line is not life-changing in itself, but I use their words and ideas to extrapolate new adventures in my own life. It happens often in our life: “So I found this blog today that was pretty cool. The writer said….”

So if you’re reading (thank you) and are worried where this is going, I’ll be honest and say I have no idea. Please follow. And please be relaxed and know there won’t be a sales pitch or a “you should think / act / believe” like I do (Elon, if you’re reading, HMU).  

Welcome to Middle Age Mark

Our Journey Begins, and boy are we excited!

It’s always nice to welcome someone when you first see them, especially when they come to your place; so, Welcome! Come in! I’m glad you’re here! Kick off the shoes, set down the load, rest the dogs.

Us!

I’m Mark, and that little hot thing I’ve got my arm around is my wife Rachel. Our full time home, or “The Big House,” is in the high-desert northwest. We’re on one-heck-of-a-cool journey, and I thought I’d enjoy writing about it as we go. 

Blogging is new for me, like so many other things these days. I’m at a stage in life where documenting our adventures sounded like fun. The aforementioned adventure-journey is one of self-discovery, self-improvement, the pursuit of financial independence, and just plain figuring out who we want to be and what we want to do for the 3rd act of life.

Teaching an online class

A bit about me: I served 20+ years in the U.S. Coast Guard, and then had several shorter stints like hospice, insurance, and building cell towers. I now enjoy working in online public school education as a Master Teacher. After 13 years, it’s still a fascinating profession and always earns me the “…huh?” look when I tell people what I do. My “classroom” and meetings are virtual, and I get to work from home.

How cool is that? Yeah, I know. 

I divide my time when not working between maintaining The Big House, reading, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, riding my cool vintage Shadow, staying fit, enjoying a good martini (gin of course, and yes those last two can go together), drumming, and summers in our better-homes-and-garden back yard. I have a small side project in fitness coaching, too.

Resort De Plummer. We spend much of our summers here

Rachel is in medical management / consulting and she’s really good at what she does. She’s a consistent reliable source of good ideas, wisdom, healthy cooking, and killer one-liners. She gets jazzed by numbers (?) and loves spreadsheets (??), which comes in very handy when we’re strategizing on finances. 

Rachel started a little side project a year ago, making personalized greeting cards in the renovated basement / art studio. We’re getting ready to do a few small trade shows to test the market.

Check out the creative talent!

We spend most every evening talking. Rachel gets home from her commute and I get out of the home office, we make a drink, and depending on the time of year, we either float in the pool or sit in front of the fire, talking about our day, things we read or heard, things we’re learning, hopes, dreams, plans, appointments – you get the idea. It’s our thing and my favorite part of the day (not just because of the martini, but I can’t say it’s not an aspect).

In January of 2019 we joined the ranks of the Financial Independence (FI) (FIRE) movement. That term can wear many hats depending on who you talk to, but for us it means being debt free with the exception of the mortgage and being able to leverage that freedom. Debt sucks and it’s a drag on life, literally. 

We recently purchased a small vacation home in Mesa, Arizona (read: 640 sq. foot “Baby House” with a nice porch and our very own grapefruit tree). It’s in a cool resort where the people are even more cool and there’s tons of things to do. We’re in the beginning stages of downsizing. We sold the boat, the camper, and the roll-top desk. It was all part of our move towards being debt free, which we are aggressively pursuing.

The Baby House!

Once we achieve zero debt, which is scheduled for September 30, 2020, our plan is to invest more heavily and be able to make some really cool decisions about the next phase of our adventure. (And by cool decisions, I mean a week for two on a chartered catamaran sans shoes, shirt, and worries. Or maybe a big fifth wheel, pulled by a big Ford 350 diesel, with a giant air horn, exploring the country. All prepaid in cash of course).

Retire is not a word that Rachel or I like. We both picture a crumb-filled recliner that tilts to one side and daytime TV. We like better the idea of being free to choose cool new ways to live life. We get jazzed about the thought of doing what we want to do, when and where we want to do it (like chartering a catamaran). It might even mean still working, doing something we’re passionate about. When it comes down to it, we’re happiest feeling useful and engaged.    

Aside from financial achievements and cool dreams, my perspectives on things are changing as I enter mid life. At 57, some might say old age (do we even use that term any more, or did I just illustrate my old-age?), but people are living longer and staying healthier (both of which I plan to do), so I’m choosing to view my 50’s, 60′ and 70’s as middle age. Who’s with me?! 57 is the new 33!

Age brings with it experience, and experience hopefully brings reflection and learning. Learning allows for better choices and more cool new adventures without the “oops,” or as least with fewer and less painful “oops’s.” 

Age also helps sift life down to the essential and important things, and it’s easier to focus on direction. It allows for a better sense of who I am and who I want to continue to be. 

As Rachel said recently during one of our talks, “I like who I am. It’s working pretty well for me right now. I like where it’s taking me.” I could not agree more. 

So, that’s kind of where we are and where we’re going. Thanks for reading; your time is valuable. Writing makes me happy, and maybe I can use this venue to help share some cool ideas and discoveries as we wend our way along this journey. I welcome you in. Lose the shoes. Stay as long as you’d like.