Thursday, March 05, 2009

Half Century

Since this is a cycling blog, you might guess from the title of this post that I'm going to talk about some fifty mile bicycle ride, but today I'm going to talk about another journey. My wonderful colleagues at Bike Works knew I'd be taking today and the next few days off, so they jumped the gun a bit and started the celebration a day early in the way I prefer, with donuts and cookies.

Today is my fiftieth birthday. If right now you are slapping your head and going "dang, I didn't get Kent anything!", don't worry. I really can't think of anything I need. If you absolutely feel you have to do something to commemorate the anniversary of my making fifty trips around the sun, you can always go here and pledge some money to help fight cancer.

Various people have been telling me that these birthdays ending in "oh!" are a big deal and I guess if I was going to follow some mid-life crisis pattern, I should be buying a sports car right now and running off with some sweet young thing. Actually, unless I'm planning on living a hundred years (hey it could happen!), I'm a bit behind schedule for a mid-life crisis, but I ran off with a sweet young thing about twenty-five years ago and she'll always be my sweet young thing. In fact, last fall when I blogged about our anniversary trip, one commenter asked if I'd married Christine when she was thirteen and said that now she "barely looks 24." In fact, Christine and I are of a similar vintage and the single smartest thing I did in the past fifty years was to marry that wonderful woman. I think fifty year old guys get to dispense a bit of wisdom now and then and one bit of advice that my Dad gave me and that I'm sure is true is this: "if you're going to partner up with someone, choose wisely." I've definitely succeeded on that score.

One other thing I've learned in the past fifty years is that we each get given twenty-four hours each day. Many people talk about time in monetary terms, how it is "invested" or "spent" or "saved", but it's most important to remember that it's lived. Lived at the rate of twenty-four hours each day. I try to live as much of that time as I can doing interesting things. Not necessarily always easy things or fun things and sometimes dull things must be done, but I think it's important to have a life that at least interests the person living it. I wrote about this a while back in an essay called "The Fun-Time Continuum". For me, interesting equals fun, but I realize that other people's definitions may vary. And I guess that's another thing I've learned, different people see things differently but learning about how other people see things is interesting, and thus fun, to me.

Years ago my Dad told me a joke, a story really, and over the years I've told that story to various friends. The story goes like this:
One day a fellow is going down the road and he sees a farmer carrying a pig. The farmer lifts the pig up to the branch of an apple tree and the pig proceeds to eat an apple. The farmer then lifts the pig to another branch, where the pig eats another apple. The fellow watches the farmer and the pig do this for a while and then asks the farmer "what are you doing?"

"Feeding my pig," the farmer replies.

"Isn't that kinda time consuming?" asks the fellow.

"Well, I reckon it is," the farmer replies, "but what's time to a pig?"

Over the years the punchline of that story, "what's time to a pig?", has become a shorthand for my friends and I on our adventures. We'll be off on some trail or dirt road and the path will diverge. "If we take this fork, I know it loops back to where we came in, but this other one could be really time consuming," I'll say. Matt or Mark or whomever I'm with will nod and then say, "true, but what's time to a pig?" And we'll take the unknown road. We're not here to take the fastest route through life. A friend of mine once commented on some brevet we were both riding, "hey, you do these things just to get the stories!" "No," I corrected him after I thought about it for a bit, "I do these things because I find them interesting and the interesting experiences make good stories." If the farmer just dumped a bushel of apples in front of the pig, that's not very interesting and there's really no story worth telling.

Today I'll have fun with my family and celebrate my birthday. This weekend, Christine is off on a retreat and I have a few days off from work. Tomorrow, I'm riding down to Portland and I'll spend the bulk of the weekend hanging out with various pals down there. Monday I'll ride back. I know taking the train would be faster, but I like to ride my bike. And besides, what's time to a pig? Or a Mountain Turtle?

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent
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