Push it Real Good
I live near a cemetery and it makes for perfect running conditions. I need only to contend with the rare, slowly moving vehicle or person strolling through the passageways. Imagined souls cheer me on despite my slow pace and with zero judgment. It's ideal.
I prefer to listen to music when running and with a 54-hour-long Spotify playlist, there's no chance I'll suffer having to hear the same tune twice. When the Bee Gees came on with "Staying Alive", I immediately fast-forwarded at the risk of summoning up a spirit that may have been deprived of both a physical form and a sense of humor. It's silly, I know but it just didn't seem right. So, when "Can't feel my face" by the Weeknd popped on next, I was convinced the joke had to be on me. I get it - I'm running through the final resting place of the non-living - they're not feeling anything. I fast-forwarded one last time - and on came "Push It" by Salt-n-Peppa. My sick sense of humor automatically conjured up images of restless souls pushing up daisies in an effort to give me my comeuppance once and for all.
I stuck with the salt and the peppa and continued my trespass through the cracked arteries of Hillside Cemetery weaving through the markers of now familiar phantoms - the Morans, The Arnolds, and my personal favorite - Charles Prettyman. With a name like that, how could one fault him for having an entire monument structured in his honor? My real last name, Kerachsky, sounds more like a bad itch. I don't think that would ever really work etched at the head of any shrine.
For all my tracking on the Runkeeper app on my phone, it is clear in this vast landscape of trees, pavement, and granite that both my mileage and my time weren't going to amount to much in the long run. No pun intended. Before I knew it, I, too, would reside on the sidelines, silently urging other visitors on while reminding them that what they run toward is only as meaningful as what they run from.
Today I am steadily moving away from a fear of aging, for I have just turned 53. Old to some. Young to others. Unremarkable to most. Yes, just a number but another notch on a timeline that will have an ending at some point - at least in the physical form. I am grateful to be any age. Until very recently, I was embarrassingly reticent to admit how old I was, largely driven by the fact that I am far from where one might expect on the professional, social, or "normal" spectrum.
In the corporate world, if you haven't "made it" by 40, it's largely assumed you aren't smart enough. Rarely will anyone bother to think that, perhaps, not escalating the infamous corporate ladder was a choice and not a career death sentence. Reach 50 without VP in your title, and it's as if you are a charity case to be woven into someone's team to see what can be done. "He's a good worker" means outdated. The two - diligent work and strategic thinking - are rarely recognized in the same thought. A New York Times article showed that while 1/3 of the US population is both over 50 and part of the labor force, this group makes up a mere 15% of media images of which a fraction even shows them working at all. What's the message here?
In the entertainment sphere, you might as well wear a black t-shirt with the word "irrelevant" ironed on in large white letters. A recent Variety article cited the specific ageism that is part and parcel of the writer’s room, referencing such reasons for not hiring older writers as “we don’t know how to find them; if they can’t get representation they must not be good; they won’t be able to keep up with everybody else and I hired one once and it didn’t work out”. Can you imagine saying that about any other class of person and getting away with it?
Perhaps the most enlightening statement I read was from an advertising industry professional quoted in an article who went as far as to say that 50 and over is akin to, and I really need your undivided attention here, “being 50 years old as basically dead.” I'd love this person to meet Dolly Parton...just saying.
Conclude what you want, but for all of our social progress and "wokeness", there are still a lot of stigmas attached to aging in this country. This may sound like it comes from a place of bitterness but I assure you that is not the case at all. In fact, in a way I could not understand until I got to this point in life, I am oddly at peace with whom I have become versus what I have done.
All those 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 lists are impressive, for sure. At the same time, I'd love to follow up on each of those rising stars ten years later. How many were able to continue to cast their glow after the first starburst? Life has a way of dimming our light so we can make sure we don't blind people. There is such a thing as being too bright. Finding the right effervescence to illuminate without having people need to turn away is something that takes a level of self-awareness. That often doesn't present itself in our formative years.
Show me a 60 over 60 list. Find me the amazing 70, 80, and 90-year-olds who have not only done creative, exciting, and new things but have also done it with grace and authenticity - and a healthy sense of humility. They are out there because I meet them all the time. It's one thing to run a company or get your own special when you're 35 but try doing it when you have significant responsibilities outside of work, too - now that's a feat! Unfortunately, it takes recognition by those in long-held systems that don't truly value age. Hollywood, corporate America, and TikTok can say they are committed to diversity but largely exclude entire generations from the conversation. Age diversity is often removed from public discourse. However, it is as critical to progress as is cultural, racial, religious, sexual, gender, and disability diversity. At least I believe so.
I wish more of us could have an earnest dialogue about aging and why it takes on such dreadful tones in this country. It seems as if it is the last accepted "ism" - as if everything else is lauded for its resultant fruit over time - harvests, portfolios, wine, antiques, art, land - except for human beings. We hear about the wisdom that only arrives with age but do we respect, appreciate, or even seek it?
After all this diatribe around aging, particularly in the US, my only true issue with getting older is the time limits rendered as it happens. There is so much I want to experience and do, like so many others. I realize that every day, every moment is a choice that will either further this cause or distracts from it. My triweekly run is a clear sign that we can make up for many of our losses, with the exception of time. I am working on removing the pressure of having to be somebody special or do something memorable before I die. Instead, I am looking forward to each passing moment whatever may be given to me, with the knowledge that the friendships, experiences, memories, and love that accumulates is largely unexpected, mysterious, and even miraculous. The tombstones all standing at attention and guiding my passage remind me that these mysteries, however, are not for the passive. There is an eternity for that. Whatever additional days endure in my personal timetable, for as long as I can, I'm going to push forward with abandon. And I'm going to push it good - push it real good.