THE STICKS

A few weekends ago I went to a minor league hockey game for lack of other entertainment options. Minor league sports are an interesting animal, because the teams are an awkward combination of two very different types of player. Some of them are in the 18-22 age range, and they're playing in the minors to get a little experience and (hopefully) work their way up to the big leagues. They get labels like "prospect" to indicate untapped talent. They have Potential. The rest of the players are considerably older – maybe 26 to 30-something – and they are no longer called prospects. They're the prospects from 5-10 years ago who never made it. They're minor league Lifers. They're here because they weren't good enough to make the jump, and now that they're old (in athletic terms) the odds are high that they're never going to get any better.

I watched these kids – and really, many of them look quite literally like kids – and older guys mixing together awkwardly on the ice, and I thought about how difficult and sad it must be to make the transition from Prospect to Lifer. Is there some singular moment at which it hits you that you're never going to accomplish your goal? Do you wake up one morning at age 24 and suddenly realize, "Oh crap, this is as far as I'm ever going to get"? Or is it a slower process full of denial and bargaining before you ultimately accept that you're never going to make it because you're not good enough? Either way it must be remarkably unpleasant. Most of these guys have been training for this since they were old enough to walk. It must be a tremendous blow to their psyche to realize, or perhaps be told explicitly, that they've failed.

The older I get, the more I realize that the crappy part of aging is not the weird physical pains, the wrinkles, or the receding hairlines but the slow process of realizing that none of the things you wanted to do with your life are actually going to happen. It's that moment when you look at your surroundings and realize, This is it for me. This is as far as I'm going to get. You look at the goals you had and the things you wanted to do and you realize that not only are they unlikely to happen, but they're unlikely to happen because you aren't good enough to accomplish them.

That's what getting old is, I think. It's the point at which you're forced to accept that you can't make happen any of the things that the young version of you wanted to do. After you reach this point, the statement you will hear a lot in your thirties and forties – "Oh, you're still young!" – is true only in the physical sense.

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75 Responses to “THE STICKS”

  1. Shifty Eyed Hispanic Guy Says:

    Funny enough, I just turned 24. I realized that I suck at law school, I suck at the guitar and band I've always to do great things with, and I suck at writing screenplays. I'm just happy that I realized this early. But consumption of things in my dream medium has become more difficult-does anyone find that? I can't watch certain movies because they're what I wish I could write. I can't listen to Ween because if I could've made any band it would've been that one. But I can appreciate, say, a painting, because I have no painting aspirations.

  2. chautauqua Says:

    Just hit 62 and when I think of all the things I wanted to do and didn't, I feel a great sense of relief.

  3. DJ Says:

    When i realized that i would never make a living as a musician, it was the most freeing moment in my musical career. I could focus on making music because i love it, and screw everything else.

    I'm sure there are plenty of lifers who are totally content to play "for the love of the game" and are totally at peace with their lot in life. As someone who's heard plenty of jokes about "losers" who stay in bands past 30 when they have no chance to "make it," i'm not going to sit around and snicker at aging minor-league athletes.

  4. Xynzee Says:

    This is where (for lack of a better term) "religions" or such like come into play.

    If we sit here and define ourselves by what The World tells us we must believe is success, well then we're all pretty much failures. We're taking up too much space and have a duty to turn ourselves into soylent green.

    So it's important to find personal meaning and value outside of one's achievements. Otherwise you're only as good as your last trick.

    Religions either tell you you have intrinsic value because you exist, or that which is outside you is an illusion and therefore shouldn't be listened too.

    It is listening to that whispering voice of The World that makes those at already crazy levels of wealth, strive for more insane levels of wealth. All at the expense of those who do not have enough to eat.

  5. Daniel Says:

    The years go by faster. Every year seems to go by about 5% faster it seems. Don't scientists say that people really do perceive time this way, and that it is not just nonsense?

    It seems like with a lot of people I know who have already reached their thirties, they seem locked in to a specific lifestyle. I think most of us just modify our goals as we age, and this stifles lamenting the past.

  6. Alex SL Says:

    Hm. How about having realistic goals? That way there will be less disappointment.

  7. Middle Seaman Says:

    Life spent at a low ranking university department is ridicule and frustration merged into a joke. Scientifically, faculty is redundant and negligible. Egos, however, run high; they are all big scientific stars (not). Average faculty is blind; they play in the minor dressed for the major.

    Your part is up to you. You can pretend or you can teach well, help your students (you do have enough brightness to be excellent) and do whatever you like. I like the game, feel secure and have fun. So, I am not at the top.

  8. Sean Says:

    Those of us raised in First World countries already won a lottery just being born here, remember that. All of us are sitting at computers…more riches, right? I am 48, though I feel about 25 mentally. I think I'm what they call a "young soul"? Hey, I feel like a teenage kid about half the time. I could die tomorrow and my only regret would be that I only recently learned to love another human being (somewhat) unselfishly and without taking them for granted.

  9. Kordo Says:

    Wow, that was a fuckin' bummer. Thanks, dude.

    It reminded me of the old MTV commercial with Sarah Jessica Parker "What do you do when you turn 25, and you realize you're not going to rule the world?"

  10. Major Kong Says:

    Things didn't go exactly as I'd hoped, but I've been able to do most of what I set out to.

  11. Buckyblue Says:

    As someone who went to college on a basketball scholarship and then played for a year 'professionally' in France before deciding that it was time to get on with my life I say, "Play as long as you can boys". I don't have many regrets in my life but one of them was not staying and playing professionally in Europe for as long as I could. Believe me, playing any sport, even minor league hockey, beats the hell out of the real world. As for when they know they're not going to make it, you pretty well know who's better than you, not many guys are moving up who suck. Not many guys are making the NBA that suck. Those are the guys that scored fifty on you, while you were struggling to get in double figures. They all know who's probably going to make it, it's just that playing hockey sure beats the shit jobs your buddies are doing.

  12. steve Says:

    I ran my first ultramarathon when I was 31. It's not necessarily all downhill as soon as you leave your mid-20s.

  13. comrade x Says:

    Once you realize that the Earth was once ruled by The Great Old Ones, ancient beings from byond space and time who created human beings as a kind of joke, then you begin to understand that humanity's place in the cosmos is so ridiculously small that worrying about lack of success is absurd.
    So, now the universe doesn't seem so bad, does it?
    Cthulu fhtagn and all that…

  14. Isaac Says:

    My wife (25) just realized this, as she is writing here statement of purpose for her application to return to college. I (33) wrote a similar document a few months ago for grad school. When we were young and dumb, the world was our oyster and writing gushy essays about how we were going to use our limitless potential to better the community of XXX University seemed natural. Now we're both returning to school in order to grasp at staying employed so the baby has something more to eat than dog food.

  15. Isaac Says:

    My serfdom for an edit button.

  16. c u n d gulag Says:

    Sometimes, it's not what you know, or how skilled you are – it's also being in the right place at the right time, and/or who you know, in order to "break through."

    In sports, there are visible metrics of measurement:
    Are you fast enough, strong enough, big enough, quick enough, smart enough, etc, for your sport?
    If you are, then you get paid handsomely for those skills when you make it to the highest level.
    If not, you spend time in the minors trying to hone those things, or learn how to compensate and see if you can overcome those things that you're not that good at, and make professionally by being what people describe as "a grinder," "a gutsy-player," or, a "scrappy" one.

    In some fields, like the arts, the metrics of measurement are not as visible.
    I studied acting for years, and did very well locally – but I couldn't break through into Broadway or movies or TV.
    Now, it may very well be true that I wasn't good enough – but when I look at the actors who've made it, there are a lot I feel I'm better than. But there's no metric to measure that with – except that they made it, and I didn't.

    But it is true that people in the arts, like acting, or writing, or music, or any other type of art, are more than good enough to "make it" – but weren't in the right place at the right time, or knew the right someone who could get them into a position where they could prove themselves.

    So, in the arts, people keep sending drafts of their novels to publishers, folks keep trying to form new bands, or acting in local productions, 'Waiting for Guffman," and hoping that something will break for them.

    At some point in my mid-to-late 30's, I realized I wasn't going to be a star on Broadway, or TV, or the movies, but I kept doing my local productions for good reasons – the love of theatre, and of working and performing with like-minded people.

    Sure, you realize that you don't have the money or the fame if those who "made it," but you found that if you do things just for the love of doing what you love, that makes-up for a lot of the lack of material comfort and public acclaim.
    Sadly, now, I can't even act in local theatrical productions, since my physical disablities haven't allowed me to perform on stage for years.
    Well, at least I have some terrific memories.

  17. Anonymouse Says:

    It's funny you bring up hockey. My idiot neighbors tried to raise a Hockey Star. They drove 1500 miles every Christmas break for a special league, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on special coaches and special leagues and private ice time and sports massages and special "performance" food mixes. The kid never finished high school because why bother with education when you're gonna be a STARRRRRR? Well, he's 26 now, hasn't even made the crappy local league. Doesn't appear to work (what can he do without a high school education when there are college graduates who can do things out looking for work?).

  18. Jane Says:

    I realized THAT at the end of 7th grade when I wanted to be an 8th grade cheerleader. My mother tried to discourage me gently, but then let me go ahead and learn this life lesson.

    I was not a great dancer. I was also about six or eight inches taller than the other girls, so even if I had been a wonderful dancer, I would not have been chosen as a member of the troupe since I would have wrecked their formation symmetry.

    I cried, first out of disappointment, then out of humiliation when I realized what a fool I'd been to even think I had a chance, and how the other girls must have giggled at me, and then finally for the destruction of my dream of being one of the cute girls. The real hit – I cannot actually become whatever I want to become – took days to recover from, but the hot humiliation took months to get over.

    There are other things in life than being one of the cute girls in eighth grade, no matter what I thought at the time.

    but Ed. You're going through a midlife crisis. Time for quality time with some older / other people. We've been through it. Life on the other side ain't bad at all. Why not combine that with a new experience: going someplace very much else?

    Come here for a visit. I saw someone else is willing to chip in 100 toward airfare. I'll do another 100. Find the very cheapest air ticket and come. There is space here, and there are other free lodgings and international people to talk to available through couchsurfing. Living here rather than there doesn't have to be too too extra expensive.

    Since you're tall, check out seat guru for the exact airplane seats to reserve. Or perhaps pay an extra few bucks if necessary for an exit row seat. Cattle class is just fine.

  19. DH Says:

    This pretty much sums up where I'm at in my 36th year. Except instead of being in the minor leagues of my profession, I was basically shut out (or, maybe more accurately, playing in the Ukraine). It's a strange feeling when you are no longer who you once were but not yet who you are going to be. (I stole that line from a review of a Madmen episode).

  20. grumpygradstudent Says:

    I have ratcheted down my life goals steadily since my mid 20's, when I started to realize that I enjoy sitting on my ass, doing nothing, and being by myself way too much to ever be an important person in just about any field. However, I think I have gotten the goals whittled down to an accomplishable set now: having a career I don't hate that pays me a living wage and that also gives me a lot of time off to be lazy and/or do other things I like.

    Btw, you appear to have achieved what I would consider MY life goals, so kudos on that!

  21. beejayemm Says:

    Jesus Christ. Is this a suicide note?

  22. sluggo Says:

    Thanks so much for the shit sandwich this morning.

    Don't worry, your still young, those aches and pains and bad eyesight won't kick in high gear for another year or two……..

    On the other hand, there was something really that really helped me embrace my inner codger last year. I yelled at two kids to get off my lawn.

  23. JohnR Says:

    "How about having realistic goals?"

    Yeah – if you wish for a tuna-fish sandwich, you're a lot more likely to get your wish. Still and all, what you said is true, Ed, but it's a small part of the picture, and I have to say, an overly pessimistic one. I figure it's always better to have a range of goals that includes some pretty far-fetched and idealistic ones. I didn't reach a number of my goals, but I got to some I didn't think I was going to attain, and I may even have a few more years to shoot for more. Life is just screwy that way. So, what you wanted may not be achievable. Pick new goals. Your horizons may seem to be shrinking, but maybe you just want to focus your gaze closer. One of my most admired teachers in my youth described his career path to us once as (paraphrasing here): "I started out studying birds, but they just move around so much; so I switched to insects, but they still move around a lot. That's why I ended up studying plants." You don't have to be Tigger – even Eeyore found unexpected success where he least suspected it (cf popped balloon and empty honey jar). Also, too, I think it's extremely important that you keep this blog up so the rest of us takers can mooch off your makings.

  24. Drangus Says:

    Well, fuck.

    I'm on the opposing end of this spectrum, I think. Youngblood full of stupid aspirations and dreams.

    I'm 24 years old and I am very cynical. I grew up in poverty and could probably turn my life into a heartfelt story if I desired. Moving forward, I feel like I have a lot of potential to do the things I wanted. Mostly because I strategically put myself in a position to move forward.

    I blew a lot of money away in college fitting in with rich kids and their family wealth. Spent bunches of money on a fraternity. Took unpaid internships and drank myself into oblivion, all while living the "American Dream." I'm fucking paying for that dream, believe me for that.

    But I graduated, my GPA at a solid 2.9, which was pretty good for what my buddies were doing. I found a job at a job fair, from a boss who happens to be a member of my same fraternity. I'm now in a leadership development program that could take me anywhere (I've done 4 business trips in my first year). All of those stupid things I did in college seem actually worth it now.

    The point I'm making here is that you have to be ahead of your time and see the bigger picture early. Poor Drangus, pissed off at the world Drangus, not playing the game Drangus should and would have fallen through the cracks if he didn't study psychology and learn a lot about social engineering.

    Not everything is peachy, but you bide your time while you keep looking for envelopes of open space to jump to. Consider it like going to a concert, if you just keep pushing forward, its ineffective, people push you back. So you start early, start fast, make small movements, keep jumping from island to island until before you know it, you're at the front.

    Sorry if that's annoying, naive or whatever. There is a way around stuff, you just have to have the balls to commit to it. As I get older, I do see my potential window shrink further and further. That's why I constantly try to keep reinventing myself.

    Mr. Gin and Tacos.

    https://www.freakonomicsexperiments.com/

    That's Freakonomics coin toss experiment. Ask a question.
    Questions I would suggest (even though I technically don't know you): pursuing comedy career, quitting your midwestern job, getting a new rat, the motivation to ask the previous 3 suggestions.

    The site also gives you the option to get a friend involved, to hold you to your coin toss.

    It's for "science" and it might spurn some priority shift that you probably need. In my experience depression and anxiety are more of a response to your lifestyle than an inherent problem.

    Despite however you may feel about freakonomics, I imagine it isn't a good feeling. You should still do it.

    I'm normally not this happy go-lucky (I do read this blog…), but today I'm feeling generous and have had a deep crush on all of you for contributing all of the time.

  25. Aaron Says:

    A friend of mine from high school is a painter. Not a rich and successful hot-shot in the art world. She teaches art classes to children and runs a bring-your-own-wine-and-paint-stuff studio for grownups. It's not stardom and the heights of success, but she's making a living as an artist.

    I thought I was going to be a poet until I turned 22. Now I write in marketing and do freelance copyediting and write poetry for fun. I'm not as brilliant as David Foster Wallace, but I write for a living and on the plus side, I'm not David Foster Wallace.

    You may not have a New York Times column but you're a public intellectual with a sharp wit and a real contribution to the public discourse. And you get paid to know stuff and share that knowledge. Not bad!

    And think on this:

  26. Number Three Says:

    43 going on 44. So, yeah. But it's perspective. I look at life less about goals and more in terms of "role". As you get older, your role changes, or probably more accurately, you add (and then subtract) roles. In addition to being a son (or daughter), you become a father (mother). At work, I see myself going from the energetic researcher I remember having been to a less energetic researcher but a mentor to junior colleagues. Fewer research presentations, but more time as discussant and reviewer of the work of (junior) colleagues. Also, as my skills get one more year removed from graduate training and thus more behind-the-times, my institutional and historical knowledge grows at a faster clip. There are things that the old(er) man knows that the young(er) man cannot perceive or understand. Maybe this is a kind of wisdom, maybe it's just the life cycle of the professional.

  27. Aaron Says:

    Dammit, it took out my Neal Stephenson quote about how until a man is 25 he thinks he can become the baddest m-f in the world, etc.

  28. In It For The Long Haul Says:

    Goals? Ed, honey, goals are for positive-thinking people. You're out of your league.

  29. Misterben Says:

    Goals are the map you draw before you've even been to the territory. The road turned a different way from what you expected; you've probably changed, too. So re-think, re-evaluate, set new goals, and keep on going. And be prepared for the fact that the road might take even more unexpected turns.

  30. Da Moose Says:

    Dude, you are dealing with the late February Midwest winter blahs. Look to Spring and then take a road trip to a place you've never been. Life doesn't give up during long winters–neither should you. And by the way, don't be such a whiny bitch. :)

  31. planb247 Says:

    Come down to St. Louis and I'll take you to a real hockey game. And yes, the winter blahs do exist and I have them too. So let's get drunk and watch people beat each other up!

  32. Bob Savage Says:

    Get outside, find some sunny warm place to sit and enjoy the blue sky. Spring is around the corner and life gets better with additional warmth and sunlight. Alternatively consume a bottle of bourbon and listen to Eric Clapton play the blues.

  33. acer Says:

    I had a lot of incredibly lucky breaks in my 20s and got to a much higher point in my chosen career than I was ready for. I was miserable, paranoid, and abusive, never quite believing that I'd paid enough dues and always wondering how I could score another unfair advantage.

    A few years later, I was a suicidal drunk and utterly finished, every bridge torched and my creative fire extinguished.

    I floated around in limbo for awhile until I had a serious cancer scare and finally learned to love something beyond my grandiose fantasies and my precious victim complex.

    I'd still like to have that house on the hill and get my visions on stage and screen, but now I finally enjoy sitting in the grass and taking another fucking breath.

  34. Eric Titus Says:

    Well you must be a real downer at hockey games!

  35. SeaTea Says:

    So many people making my point, but I'll pile on. I worked my ass off. Blood, sweat, tears, every penny I made… missed out on college, missed out on a career… just to make it as a musician. Wrote and recorded CDs. Played a billion gigs all over the place. Had more fun than should be legal. But I never "made it". Thank god.

    Knowing what I know now about the fates of even the upper 1% of the .001% who "made it", I couldn't be more thrilled that I didn't get a recording contract and become a full-time professional musician. Eventually I realized, not that I COULDN'T make it, but rather that "making it" wasn't what I wanted. It happened slowly, but there was a point where I was watching videos of myself on stage from some years earlier and realizing I wasn't that guy anymore.

    At 37 I went back to college part-time and got my degree in computer science. I got married. I got a career. And now I play a few gigs a month to have fun and help pay the bills. It's all good.

    As Garth Brooks once wrote: "Some of life's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

  36. xynzee Says:

    BTW Ed,

    The reason you probably stay at the 2000 mark has to do with the fact that you force your audience to engage with your writings.

    If you decided to scrap your integrity, I'm sure you could far surpass any of the wretchedness that passes for writing by K-Lo, Coulter, Morris etc.

    But your sense of self won't let you, so you won't.

    How about couch surfing for a week or two? Come to the Great Southern Land. I'm sure a few of us will put you up for a night or two.
    Whilst the class of yobbo we have won't be much above what you can find in the American South, but they'll sound funny so you won't notice. :)

  37. ladiesbane Says:

    1. Do you want to be happy? Y/N (Here, the state of happiness is defined by waking each morning with an eagerness to attack the day and does not imply chirpy mannerisms.)

    2. Do you think the goals you set in childhood are (and should be) the same goals you have now? (Or: would you let a 17 year old design your adult life?)

    3. Are you the sort of morose bastard who views his to-do list in terms of "what I didn't accomplish yesterday" rather than "what I can get done by tomorrow"?

    4. One thing that works for a lot of people is finding someone to come home to who is sweet, smart, cheerful, and totally for you. A real buddy as well as a sweetheart. Work on that, and a lot of slings and arrows bounce off or sting less. Just a thought.

    5. Try to keep in mind that, for all the brittle replies and caustic reminiscences, you have a bunch of people who are rooting for you. Think of the number of towns in which folks would buy you drinks and not hesitate to introduce you to their cute friends. Postpone Antarctica and go on tour this summer. Kickstart that bitch.

  38. zombie rotten mcdonald Says:

    Well. That was cheery.

  39. zombie rotten mcdonald Says:

    2000 readers and one zombie. It counts, dammit.

    Hey, I have like twelve readers, but my current blog location just hit the 10,000 comment mark, in a bit less than 2 years.

  40. Mo Says:

    My Rule Numero Uno is, upon awakening in the morning, to never, ever think of anything until I've got at least one cup of coffee in me and something to raise my blood sugar level.

    Otherwise I'd never get out of bed.

    It never ceases to amaze me how a brain with a few calories and caffeine pumped into it will magically brighten up – just like my dog is continually amazed by the deliciousness of dog biscuits.

    I'm a cheap date, too.

  41. HoosierPoli Says:

    I dunno man, even the greats only last until their mid-30s. In some way they're worse off; they lived their dream and then aged out, with no skills and no ability to cope with the disappointment. Minor-league lifers are probably a pretty realistic bunch who are still grateful for the opportunity.

  42. Guitar Slim Says:

    This is my first visit to this site. I like. I need to correct something you wrote however, the worst thing about getting old, so far is having to search for one of your 8 pairs of eyeglasses, just so you can turn the stove on or trim your toenails.

  43. daveawayfromhome Says:

    At 48, I've got to say that I'm okay with things not turning out like my 18 year old self thought it would, because that idiot didn't have a clue.

  44. Desargues Says:

    You know, there's still time for lateral moves. You just started out as an assistant prof — by the time you come up for tenure, you may have gotten a better offer from a better place, where they do standup.

    As to the realization you're talking about, I believe they call it, unhelpfully, wisdom. It's an early onset of useless knowledge — coming to see the truth about things that can't be changed any more. Kinda like the knowledge of historical scholars.

    But, as Dave above says, some of that wisdom is just coming to see that some of our 'dreams' were silly. I used to dream about becoming a rockstar in a silly little field that no one really gives a shit about. I've now settled for remaining competent, and a reliable expert on a tiny slice. It's still hard, mind you. But it beats pining for things I can't do.

    Then there's another kind of silly dreams, which Americans who grew up in the age of abundance still grow melancholy after. It's a youthful version of the bucket list — a preposterous inventory of self-regarding plans whose only point is to gratify a monstrous first, and make one's life a better, worthier life second (at best).

  45. mothra Says:

    Oh, this makes me smile. First, those minor league hockey players (and minor league anything players) understand very well, probably from the moment they start playing with the "big dogs" where their place falls in the sports world. As BuckyBlue says, they keep doing it because, hell, they trained for it, they get paid SOMETHING and it's better than the shit jobs their friends do.
    Second, yes, people in their 30's and 40s are still young and it cracks me up to no end to hear you talk about how crappy it is to get older–as if most people in their 30s and 40s really have that much falling apart. Just wait until you get into your 60s–or even your 50s. The the fun really begins.
    Third, yes, even though you are still young, probably some dreams are not within the limits anymore due to diminishing time, need to divert resources elsewhere (such as saving every penny you have for your old age since Congress is bound and determined to fuck us up the butt ), but there are others within reach. One good thing that happens with getting older is just accepting shit and letting a lot of stuff go.

    And then there's always acer's point: some of us are just happy we are alive to enjoy not doing much of note.

  46. draftmama Says:

    Wow – that's a downer. I'm coming up on 65 and so freaking busy with all the stuff I do already and all the stuff I don't have time to do I'd never thought anyone would think like this.

    Sure the body is falling apart, but taking care of it as best I can is part of the fun time of day in the morning, so I can spend the rest of the day playing.

    I haven't had so much fun now I don't have to work full time.

  47. hwooda Says:

    Truth. You and I are so kindred sometimes. Bless.

  48. Amused Says:

    Okay, time is not kind to athletes and dancers, and very few people become stars in anything. So what? It would be a bit extreme to suggest that most of our lives are a waste of time, or that it's all downhill from the time when you are twenty, and it's clear you ain't gonna be conquering audiences at La Scala — don't you think? What a narrow and superficial way to look at life; you surprise me sometimes, Ed. Much depends on how you define "success", and what you want out of life. If you are ready to write yourself off in your early thirties because you aren't professoring at Harvard, or whatever, I'd say you need to reexamine … like, A LOT. Just a thought.

  49. Rosalux Says:

    I think it's important to step back for a minute and recognize that in no other time and place in history has "fulfilling one's career aspirations" been elevated to such importance. In most times and places, people's concerns have been sheer survival, family, religion, the well-being of their community. I think we sound like petulant children bitching that we didn't get to accomplish all the fabulous dreams we thought we would. It says something about our values – the primacy of individual "achievement," our concern with status-seeking.

    "none of the things you wanted to do with your life are going to happen…"

    I guess it depend on your values. I tend to cherish my friends, my relationships, a good cup of coffee, wine, a long walk in the woods. As an aspiring writer, I want to write well (but it's not important to me to be published or recognized). All the things I want to do with my life are happening.

    The problem is that our values in America are fucked – too much "running for the money and the fame," in the words of Leonard Cohen.

  50. Rosalux Says:

    Correction: that's "running for the money and the flesh." But you get the idea.

  51. acer Says:

    Seems like a good place to leave this…

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2013/02/will-bernard-lagat-live-forever.html

  52. BB-Idaho Says:

    I'm old enough to rest on my laurels.
    But, too old to find them…

  53. BB-Idaho Says:

    I'm old enough to rest on my laurels.
    But, too old to find them…

  54. Daniel Says:

    The status-seekers and social climbers are always the most miserable people on earth. I have friends like that. Always trying to run with the rich folk, buying ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH. Going to fancy dinner parties with people they have little in common with. Trying to play golf at fancy courses. And when they do play golf with me at public courses, they seem embarrased to play with me because I don't use Golf Gloves or I use a rented set of clubs for three bucks. Or I am wearing regular shoes instead of the actual spikes Arnold Palmer wore at the 1986 Masters. I sort of resent them for their passive-aggressive behavior and shared looks.

    My main point is try to enjoy the public golf courses. It's fun to hit a ball around, and I think this translates to other facets of life. Riding in economy class on an airplane may not be as comfortable as first-class, but everyone is getting to Houston at the same time.

  55. Daniel Says:

    I think I meant Jack Nicklaus. Shows you how much I know about golf.

  56. an old lady Says:

    Yesterday my microwave oven died, which is a minor first-world problem. I'm 65 and have some health issues, so after testing another microwave I had, which also didn't work, I drove to Target and bought a new one.

    Well, after carrying three microwaves here and there I was exhausted and could barely walk. This was shocking to me, that I was so far gone that I couldn't do the kind of lifting and carrying I used to do without thinking about it.

    It also occurred to me that I probably won't ever be able to move from my little house until I die, that someone else is going to have to deal with my stuff. I could put stuff in boxes but I couldn't carry boxes even to the car, much less move any furniture.

    Mortality is okay but the slings and arrows suck.

  57. JazzBumpa Says:

    This is a needlessly negative post. Never accomplish ANY of your goals? Well, then they must be lofty indeed.

    I could never make it as a professional musician. So I had a mundane career in industry where I accomplished a few things, and had a few moments that I'm actually proud of. After a long hiatus, I picked up my horn again, and now I'm a happily active amateur musician.

    This is probably on a par with minor league athletics.

    But so the hell what? I'm decent enough at my level, and I get a lot of enjoyment from it.

    There are a lot of different ways to have a reasonably happy and productive life. Not making it in the big leagues isn't failure. It's a sign that you have to find success somewhere else, and there are lots of options.

    Cheers!
    JzB

  58. JazzBumpa Says:

    @ beejayemm

    No. Ed posts his suicide notes on FaceBook.

    JzB

  59. Cheap Jim Says:

    Yeah, but who won the game?

  60. stickler Says:

    An old lady:

    Sure you can move: hire movers. It's not THAT much money, and anyhow, if you've already done lots of heavy lifting, then you've experienced the joy of hauling crap. There's no sense in discovering your new physical limits the hard way, and anyhow, that's what those guys are good at and get paid to do, better and faster than you.

    I say this as someone (granted, only 45) who just recently got the "opportunity" to move all my stuff into a small rental house. Hey, I'd always moved everything myself, right? Why not this time?

    Well, I discovered that I'm not in the kind of shape I was ten years ago, I nearly threw out my back, and friends pointed out to me that doing everything myself was stupid and dangerous. Hmmm. They're right.

    It's a little like wallpapering a room: everyone should probably try it once, but once you've done it, you NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN. Hire it out, sell what you don't need, and throw the guilt by the wayside.

  61. Duff Clarity Says:

    'I thought, "This is it, this is as far as this game goes". I'm not capable of going any further. I made the mistake of having a little bit of hope…'

    -Joe Simpson, Touching the Void

    The secret is to start out with your eyes open – be born a nihilist. When I was young I didn't want to accomplish anything, I just wondered what games I would need to play to forget about myself until I died.

    There are fun games out there, moments of actual joy to be had. You aren't going to accomplish anything with your life – that very idea is insane.

    For the Lifer in the hockey game, it's the full speed moment when he has the Prospect in his sights and is about to slam him hard into the boards. Nothing to lose, nothing to gain, just a moment of the game to enjoy. It's perfect.

    Or as Denis Johnson wrote, "She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I've gone looking for that feeling everywhere".

  62. cromartie Says:

    1) Set low goals. You can't do nothing for a living unless you're born or fuck your way into that opportunity. Since it's too late for one and not likely for the other, my suggestion to those that read that is to set modest goals.

    2) Far more importantly, set goals that center around things you can accomplish. When people complain about failing to achieve goals in life, those goals, without fail, are centered around their failure to reach the subjective standards of others.

    Unless and until you take a deep breath and understand that the only goals you can achieve in life are learning to be happy with what you achieve to do on your own terms, and that what matters most is how you feel when you look at that reflection staring back at you in the morning, then you'll always be miserable.

    My spouse could leave me tomorrow, and I wouldn't be crushed and wouldn't feel like a failure, because I can get up, look in the mirror and say to myself, without having to lie, that I did the best job that I could. And just because that didn't make her happy, doesn't mean it wouldn't make someone else happy. But I'm happy with what I accomplished within the context of our marriage and that's all I have at the end of the day.

    At the end of your life, all you have to live with is you. You have to learn to be happy with what happens once you click Publish, and stop worring about the hit counts.

    For some of the old guys out there on the ice, it's a job. The competition is nice, and the prospect of making the AHL or NHL has faded, but it's a job, a steady source of income and they've already outdone 90% of their peers. So they find peace with where they are. They get up and say "I'm going to do my role as best I can."

    Also, I'd suggest yoga. Get some flexibility working and some meditation in before you get to old to stretch effectively.

    Finally, I distill all of life's work into the following: 1) Am I treating people as I would like to be treated? 2) Am I leaving the people and organizations I interact with better than they were when I arrived? If the answers to both of those questions are yes, then there's nothing to be unhappy about.

  63. Robert Says:

    At 52, I'm married (sixteen years) and have two kids. This was beyond my youthful imagination. I would have more easily believed that I would become vice-president. Looking back, being a husband and father were very high on my life list, but how could I ever marry another man?
    life has a way of surprising us sometimes.

  64. lofgren Says:

    At 50 years old, my mother quit her job to write a book. She figured it would be a fun way to spend a year. My parents' finances being what they were, she knew that she would likely have to work until she was 70 and if she didn't take the time now she would be too old and too tired by the time she retired.

    Today she is 59. She has two published novels and a 3 book deal. My father quit his job too and together they write mystery-cookbooks. My mother writes the story, about a chef who seems to find himself at the center of murder mysteries with the kind of frequency that amateur sleuths often do in novels, and my father invents the dishes that the main character serves. Then at the end of the novel they include the recipes. They are happier, more free, and more excited about life than they ever thought possible.

  65. ladiesbane Says:

    p/s: too bad we can't all get together and watch Slap Shot. I mean that.

  66. Mal Rootkit Says:

    It always cheers me up when I reflect that Michael Jordan
    was unable to get around on AAA curveballs.

  67. Ursula Says:

    That is true if your goals never change and your industry prizes youth. In my industry – loosely stated as the corporate IT world – I'm considered very young in my early 30s with 7 years of experience. I see the same thing in this world, just with people that are decades older. They're at my level, still trying to gain knowledge and have influence, but I look at them and just wistfully wonder how long it will be until they retire because usually, they are painfully stupid.

    Then there is that issue summed up in the lyric 'life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.' If your goal can only be achieved in your youth, life is probably going to suck for you, no matter what (though if you manage your money, that can be a good buffer if you do achieve success).

  68. Benny Says:

    I recently turned 60. When I was 25, I wanted to do one particular thing in the entertainment industry; it didn't work out. I fell into something else in the entertainment industry — it worked out very well but I threw it away with partying and drugs. By 30, I was a has-been. I got sober, started over. By 35 I was working again and had a great 15 year run. But I didn't reach "the top", and by 50 my career had pretty much petered out. Then, wouldn't you know it, I got lucky, and had more success and made more money in the next 10 years than I would have imagined possible. Now, that's over. I don't have to work anymore. So, for the first time since I was 25, I get to ask myself "What do I WANT to do?". And I haven't come up with a satisfyling answer yet.

    One of the richest, most successful people in my area of the business wanted to be something else. It didn't happen, and no matter how much money and power he accumulates, he's really not a happy guy.

    The point? There may exist people who both accomplished the goals they set for themselves at a young age AND achieved real happiness in the process, but I haven't met any.

    I see Ringo Starr at AA meetings. If being a fucking BEATLE didn't fix everything for him, it may be time to rethink the whole "I have to reach the top of my chosen profession in order to be happy" idea.

  69. pjcamp Says:

    Didn't you watch Bull Durham? Susan Sarandon's boobs always save the day.

  70. E* Says:

    The people at the top of my field are largely douche-bags who succeeded through hard work, but also through luck, stepping on others, and ignoring their families.

    It that's what it takes to be successful, count me out.

  71. rijkswaanvijand Says:

    'Those of us raised in First World countries already won a lottery just being born here, remember that. All of us are sitting at computers

  72. rijkswaanvijand Says:

    'Those of us raised in First World countries already won a lottery just being born here, remember that. All of us are sitting at computers

  73. rijkswaanvijand Says:

    'Those of us raised in First World countries already won a lottery just being born here, remember that. All of us are sitting at computers…more riches, right?'
    Must be a babyboomers perception, for us younger people there is much more to need and much less ways to afford it.
    This creates a lot more stress than simply living in a society in which there's not much to get at all, so much apparent potential but no way to really get in on it. No way to say for sure the lower classess in western society are better of than those in other societies, apart from people starving of course.

    Yeah we've got computers, but not to have one serverely limits our ability to tap our already severely limited resources. We need those things!

  74. rijkswaanvijand Says:

    stupid scripts!

  75. NickT Says:

    Jenny Kiss’d Me
    (BY LEIGH HUNT)

    Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
    Jumping from the chair she sat in;
    Time, you thief, who love to get
    Sweets into your list, put that in!
    Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
    Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
    Say I’m growing old, but add,
    Jenny kiss’d me.