XLIX

XLIX…

 It has been coming on for quite a while now. It’s not like it is any big secret, and it is definitely not a big deal. There shouldn’t be any parades, and no streets need to be renamed to commemorate the event. I will be turning 49 on September 10th, and as I do every year, I look back at the last year, and I then look back at other years for comparison. Then I look at the entire body of work, and ask myself if any adjustments need to be made, or if things are just fantabulous as they are, and only require a tweak or two.

 I am no different from most people. When I look at where I am in life now, I am struck by the fact that 30 years ago, when I was 19, I could not possibly have imagined that life would lead me to where I am right now. I always try to remind myself that you are always exactly where God intended for you to be, and you will always be exactly where God intends for you to be. Looking back, there were some times where it was hard to wrap my head around that concept, but nevertheless, it’s true…

 Looking at 49 itself, a few thoughts come to mind. First, that while it is slightly more than 4 dozen, it is a little less than 50. My XLIX is a higher number than the number of the next Super bowl (XLVIII), which of course means that I am older than the NFL championship game. The Ford Mustang and I are about the same age, and as such, will be sharing a place in the old folks home. There is an NFL team that has done me the honor of naming itself for my new age (the San Francisco 49’ers), and I share the number with the Great State of Alaska, which is the 49th State in the Union. If the Roman Numeral for ‘49’ were extrapolated onto a license plate, it might translate to, ‘Kiss Long Island Kiss’, or ‘Ex Long Island Ex’. If you look at it really quickly, it sort of looks like, ‘clix’, but that would not be at all accurate.

I am a huge ‘Big Bang Theory’ fan, and I have seen every episode at least twice (I love re-runs in syndication…), so let me drop a little nerd on you. The binary number for 49 is 110001. The hexadecimal is 0x31. It is the square root of 2401, and is the square of 7. The element Indium has an atomic number of 49. Most of the U.S.-Canada border is on the 49th parallel, and the California Gold Rush adventurers and fortune seekers were called ‘49’ers’. The code for international direct dial phone calls to Germany is 49. One of my favorite all-time Boston Red Sox players, Tim Wakefield, wore uniform #49 for his entire career. Possibly the most important thing I can think of for inclusion on this list is, in a most auspicious event that was bound to have worldwide ramifications, in 1964, 49 years ago, Buffalo Wings are made at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York for the very first time! (I have been there, and the wings are almost orgasmic!). I believe that Ford Mustangs and Buffalo Wings were created in my honor. Thanks, guys! By the way, wouldn’t the ‘Buffalo Wings’ be a great name for some team?

 It’s funny, but I don’t remember actually doing anything to get to the end of my 40’s, and I certainly never thought that someday I would be writing about it. This kind of just happened. On most days, I don’t feel 49, although I have no real way of knowing what 49 is supposed to feel like. In my mind’s eye, I am still 23. There wasn’t a written test, and I don’t believe that I needed to take a class or get any kind of permit, but if I did, I am sure that my mom would not have signed the permission slip. I can’t imagine how she feels having an old guy for a son…

 In my 49 years, I have done a great many things, some of which I am very proud of, some not so much. I have been really smart, and really dumb. I have probably been correct more than I have been wrong, but I can admit that I have been wrong many times. I have been crafty, and I have been clueless. I have loved deeply and lost horribly. I have been a hero, and I have been a goat. I have witnessed life beginning, and I have been there when it ended. I have been blessed, and I have been cursed. I have eaten too much, drank too much, and paid the piper on more than one occasion. I have learned from some really awesome people, and I have tried to pass on my knowledge to others. I would like to think that, despite my many flaws and quirks and human idiosyncrasies, I am a basically a good guy. I love God and His Son Jesus Christ, although I am sure that I anger and disappoint them on a daily basis. I am blessed that they love me anyway…Isn’t that kind of the definition of ‘grace’?

 As I write this on the occasion of being something less than 50, I have a lot to look forward to. I have decided that, in spite of my diabetes and high blood pressure and crappy cholesterol numbers, I am going to chase something that I have always thought that only crazy people do. I am going to start training for my first Mini-Triathlon!  I will first try the mini or sprint triathlons, which consist of a quarter-mile swim, a 6.2-mile bicycle ride and a 1.5-mile run. Full sprints typically feature a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike and 3.1-mile run. Maybe after a few successful events, perhaps I might move up to the Olympic distances (a 1.5 Kilometer swim, a 40 kilometer bike and a 10 kilometer run). Or not. It may not seem like a big deal to many people that I know, but it would be an accomplishment for me. I have no intention of ‘competing’ in the classic sense. My only competition will be with myself. I have no desire anymore to have a measuring contest with anyone else, and I have nothing to gain or prove to anyone, except to the out-of-shape chubby guy with the penguin-legs who is writing this blog. I have to ask at this point, why do people feel the need to belittle the dreams and/or desires of others? We have all heard it. They say, ‘You ran 3 miles? That’s not such a big deal. I know people who run xx miles every day’. Or ‘You lifted xxx pounds? That’s nothing! Why, in my last gym session, I lifted xxx+1 pounds!’… Or when you finally buy something that you really like or want, there will always be the person who offers, ‘Why did you buy XXX widget? You should have gotten ZZZ widget. It’s better…’ Why? I have known far too many people, including those from my formative years who should have known better, who majored in ‘crushing and belittling’. I still carry those scars, but I have gone out of my way to eliminate those people from my life to the largest extent possible. My 49 years have taught me that people like these are not good for me…Or anyone else.

 I have also decided to finally pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. The details on what I plan to major, or even which University I will attend are still a little sketchy, and I am not starting immediately-if-not sooner. I know which way I am leaning, but that will be a discussion for another day. It has always been a huge regret that I have not done this.  Have scads of post-secondary education between academies and professional certifications, but I do not have a degree. It is hard to advance in this world without one, even though an undergraduate degree basically says that you have a piece of paper that says that you know how to learn. Regardless, my plan is to pursue it. I do make a pretty nice living with my regular gig, but I would also like to advance my career. I had informed my mother of this a few weeks ago, and she promptly went into the speech about how come I didn’t get it when I was still young enough? I guess it didn’t occur to her that maybe I simply wasn’t ready…

 So I guess in some ways, I am a different kind of ‘49’er’. I am embarking on my own personal gold rush. Ponder this…The participants in the Gold Rush did not define themselves as 49’ers. They actually called themselves ‘Argonauts’, taking a page from Greek mythology.  Gosh, am I one of those… Argonauts? I did grow up in an area of my hometown called Argo Village. Can this be a happy accident?

As I write this, I find myself asking, ‘what defines success?’, as far as my future plans are concerned? Well, the degree thing has an easy definition. Complete my Bachelor’s program. It’s clear, concise, and to the point.  There are no ambiguities. I either complete the degree program or not. The triathlon thing is different. Some people define success as the reaching of a goal or the completion of a task. The formal definition of success is ‘the favorable or prosperous termination of events or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals; the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like’. That’s nice. However, I am not so sure that is an absolute. For some, success may entail just getting up off of the couch. Success may come for some in just making the commitment. For others still, success may be simply completing a part of the triathlon. Suppose that you were a person who had some major malady, and you were told that you would never be able to do anything athletic or physical again? Success for you might be defined very differently than how it is defined for an Ironman Triathlon competitor.  I don’t believe that success can always be neatly compartmentalized into win-loss. The Olympic Creed states that, ‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.’ Look at 64 year-old Diana Nyad. 35 years ago she attempted to swim from Florida to Cuba, a distance of some 90 miles. That is an impressive feat to say the least. She had made 4 previous attempts, and failed to complete the swim each time. I can now happily report that she has completed this task. I think that’s awesome! Do you think that this amazing woman knows a little something about determination and perseverance? But I have to wonder if the true victories were completing the swim, or if they were more in what she learned about herself? I plan on completing my triathlon journey, not competing. This is all about me, at 49, still making discoveries and learning. It is about me, Bruce Lager, keeping the past in perspective and using the lessons as a guide, and looking forward…happily… at XLIX.

 

NOTE***I will be blogging about my Triathlon Transformation, along with all the pain, probable puking, and other performance predicaments that I will be facing over the next few months…Bruce

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