I’m getting ready to turn thirty in about two weeks. Thirty is a significant milestone for a man–I say man because men live, on average, shorter lifespans than women. So, it makes sense that thirty is a reflective year for a lot of men–myself included–especially when the average age of death for a man is about 68 years old. That makes thirty-four that halfway mark for a lot of guys out there.
In this reflective time in my life, I can admit that my feelings toward physical things is also carried through to my feelings of my physical body–I want permanence. I wish my body came with a 100 year guarantee, but the truth is, it doesn’t. At thirty, I am already beginning to see that this body of mine is not a permanent home for my soul. So, I’m not going to even try to bury my head in a bunch of actions that will lead to immortality–the body just doesn’t last forever.
In the last year, I have had more members of my family pass away than ever before in my life. My uncle’s liver literally wore out and he died–and we miss him. These bodies we have are very fragile things, when we think of them over the span of time.
It seems when we are on the verge of losing something that we appreciate it the most. I now appreciate my eye sight more than I ever have. About two years ago, I noticed something in the peripherals of my vision–it always seemed like it was a gnat buzzing around my head–you know how annoying they can be.
It wasn’t a gnat. Early one afternoon, as the sunlight was beaming in through the sliding glass door, I squinted and I could make out what looked like some kind of micro-organism with a long tail–like from biology textbook. It didn’t move until I moved my eyes, and even then I could tell that it was being jerked around by me and not making any independent movement on its own.
They are called floaters. They occur naturally to almost everyone, if they live long enough. They are simply pieces of protein that accumulate and break off inside the eye. They float in the liquid and get in between the light coming into the eye and the retina that receives the light–think solar eclipse, but with really small moons. They are harmless–annoying–but harmless. In very rare cases, they can prelude retinal detachment–you go blind–but if you immediately go to the hospital, they can reattach your retina. So, I just have to keep that in mind.
The problem is, until my vision gets worse with age, I will continue to notice these floating proteins for years. I am a little younger than the average age for typical floater onset (ages 50-75), but I now see it as a good thing. It is a humbling experience that I needed.
I say this because at twenty-nine, moving toward thirty, I am just coming into my prime. I feel physically and mentally better than I have ever felt in my life–yes, even better than when I was a teenager. My feelings tell me that I will feel this good for the rest of my life–my dad told me that it doesn’t last forever. From experiencing the invincible feeling of my prime, I can understand why some men take such huge risks when that feeling is coursing through their body.
Seeing these flecks of protein bounce around in my vision is a constant–and likely permanent–reminder that I am a human being and my body is not permanent. I don’t have to wait through a life of eating double and triple portions at each meal, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, or not getting my heart rate up for thirty minutes at least three times a week to find out I had control of my health after all. I can see clearly now (you see what I did there–oh, I did it again), that there are things that will begin to breakdown without my choice being a factor.
As much as I want this body of mine to last, like my prime, I know that–even if not every part of me truly believes–it doesn’t last. So, if I cannot have physical permanence of the body, I should strive to have the best functioning body I can have while I am in control of it. I don’t want to use a poorly functioning body for the next thirty-eight years.
You really do have to take care of what you’ve got. Maybe some of you out there are in your prime–male or female, we both go through it–and you got an unobstructed prime. I would encourage you to talk to someone you respect who is ten years older than you are, just for the sake of gaining perspective. Your body is super important–it sounds dumb to say it–but it’s true and we take our bodies for granted. Yet, our bodies are the vehicle that let’s us do all of the things we like to do. You really only get one and you can’t count on science to figure out how to make you a new one in the next twenty years.
I hope that anyone reading takes away that they are in control and they do not have to let anything erode their body that is within their area of control. You don’t have to drink energy drinks and put that stress on your heart–drink water instead. You don’t have to eat fast food everyday for lunch, if you are near fast food, you are near a supermarket ,99% of the time. Buy a fresh baked roll of bread and a little block of cheese–I kid you not, that is what Ben Franklin survived off of and swore by for years–at least 5-7 years (it’s also cheaper and leaves you feeling better). You also don’t have to listen to others if you ask you to put your body on the line–don’t do it. Hulking that 200 pound box up three flights of stairs by yourself is a one time event–waking up with back pain will last the rest of your life. And back pain is a very special kind of pain–I would put it in the category of pain that causes people to contemplate suicide, seriously. Ask a friend with back pain to describe how they feel.
Anyway, thirty, here I come. I may have a few annoying flecks in my vision, but I know what my goal is. Tim McGraw said it pretty well in a song he wrote a few years back: My Next Thirty Years. As good as I may have been in my first thirty years, I want to be even better in the next.