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is that all there is?

Posted by raharris on Monday, September 6, 2010

So I'm a month short of 50 years old and am not handling it well. For the most part Age hasn't bothered me. Yes I had a mini-crisis @ 30, but was the result of the culture shock of moving clear across the country and changing careers all at once. The shift from being a professional chef in San Francisco to a doctoral student in New York turned into more of a trauma than I'd expected.

50 years old -- where has it all gone, and what do I have left? Good but not brilliant college student, good but not brilliant chef, the same as a history professor and now an instructional technologist. Thirty years of professional life and three different careers. I can stay in this career -- at this university -- the rest of my life. O happy day.

I'm a lousy banjo player, can hold my own as a country blues guitarist and am making rapid strides on the mandolin. Good but not brilliant. Too shy to play with others. Vocation and avocation in slow motion. Life as still life: a bowl of fruit as painted by an amateur.

Arthritis a 50. Everyone tells me I'm too young. Not too young to have had total shoulder and hip replacements

Lots to be thankful for. A better wife than I deserve. Not wealthy but comfortable. Nice home. I *have* a job, which is more than some people can say right now. I don't feel sorry for myself, but at this point in my life I have to ask: is this all there is? Good but not brilliant is the best I can say for myself. Growing up everyone said I was going to be brilliant, if only I lived up to my potential. Guess I haven't. 
Look at the bright side: when my new shoulder heals I can go back to being a lousy musician!

10 comments on “is that all there is?”

ltjgcag Says:
Monday, September 6, 2010 @12:52:16 PM

Only a month away from 50 myself - I hear ya! Hang in there. I am!

Oalbrets Says:
Monday, September 6, 2010 @2:37:57 PM

Good or brilliant, who cares, just be yourself and take life as it comes and have the most fun with it. Good luck Wayne and keep on pickin when you are down.

kc8tby Says:
Monday, September 6, 2010 @4:22:42 PM

Well Robert, I hear you ! I just celebrated my 58th birthday and, trust me on this one, I know what that arthritis is all about!! (Retired Postal Letter Carrier here so I have a lot of aching joints!)
Hey, who says you aren't brilliant? The smart money says that your wife would think that you have more than lived up to your "potential", as you say! As for being a "lousy musician"...well, if you ever heard me try to play ANY instrument, well, you would truly know what a real "lousy" musician sounds like! :)
Hang in there Robert...and keep your chin up.
We "Jersey" guys gotta show them the way, right?
Best to you!
Tom < Former Jersey City born and bred
kc8tby - member name

Paul R Says:
Monday, September 6, 2010 @6:02:38 PM

Robert, I retired from teaching at 56, and immediately we moved from our Toronto house of twenty years and relocated to Kingston. Retirement, moving - it was traumatic and somewhat depressing. But life goes on, and there were things to get involved in and people to meet.

I wondered about how my teaching career went. But now I look back fondly at many of the successes. I'm sure you can do that too.

Occasionally I think about the turns we take in life, and what would have been if I'd turned the other way. But what wouldn't happen if I'd made other choices? Many great things might have happened, but many other great things would not have happened. There's always that tradeoff. I would think that I could have been Prime Minister of Canada (yeah, like that could ever happen!), but the brutality of politics was not my thing (I'd experienced enough of that on Student Council at university). Professional musician? Most likely a ticket to poverty. Business? My father was in very big business, and it never, ever, appealed to me.

I think we are restless creatures who feel regret. The trick is to see the good things, and to realize that, while there will always be "what might have been", there is also "what might not have been". I think that you, as someone obviously rational and reasonable, will find satisfaction with your life choices, if not now, then before too long.

Besides, who else has a chorus of singing dogs?


Marc Nerenberg Says:
Monday, September 6, 2010 @9:13:50 PM

You're only turning 50, for goodness sake. You have another 30 something years ahead of you to accomplish plenty. Speaking from personal experience, I would say that the bulk of my most significant accomplishments have come after the age of 50, and I have serious plans to accomplish plenty more. If you want to look back at your life and feel you've done what you set out to do, then you have to seriously decide what it is that you want to do, and then go out and do it...not sit around regretting that you haven't done it yet.

Karen Kruske Says:
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 @5:39:31 AM

Here's hoping that your music, no matter how proficient you are, will be the tonic that puts a smile on your face and a lift in your heart. Music is so important in our lives. Keep on playing. We all have regrets, but don't dwell on them. Look at what you CAN do.

raharris Says:
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 @8:08:42 AM

Thanks for all your support. Likely my existential drama about turning 50 is tied in with my being homebound for the last month while I recover from shoulder replacement surgery. All that time with nothing to do but read and think would drive anyone mad -- and I was already half-way there!

frailin Says:
Thursday, September 16, 2010 @5:38:18 AM

"Good but not brilliant." I like that! My dad used to call such endeavors in life - "fleeting moments of brilliance." That's been one of my mottos.

I'm 58 now and feel the same way about the incredibly fast passage of time. Regarding your "good, not brilliant" observation of your cooking/banjo playing skills, I CAN tell you that, in my own mind, I feel I CAN be brilliant in the gifts I'm to pursue... and share. It seems to work. So, I find it more of a mindset than an actual skill level.

I've also observed that, the more I'm into what I'm doing, the more my skill achieves in assisting/motivating. And that's what I feel it's all about anyway... sharing gifts for the good of others.

BryanWB Says:
Friday, September 17, 2010 @1:22:43 AM

Robert - I've just turned 74 (let that be a warning to you!) and even without a shoulder replacement, I can play rubbish banjo - how skilful is that then? !!
Take care and best wishe - Bryan

Jane C Says:
Friday, September 17, 2010 @2:27:25 AM

You do sound a teensy bit sorry for yourself, so you're fifty, you've had more than you're likely to get but Hey look at the alternative! For myself I'll be overjoyed to get to be 54 next year, as that will mean I've lasted longer than both my parents did. There's an upside to most things ;-)

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