A friend and I had just finished climbing the stairway of a downtown building to the 48th floor last week when he said, “That was fun.” I agreed, and asked him, “How many guys our age do you think would call this fun?” My friend is 56, four years my junior.
Our conversation was the perfect introduction for Part II of Age is Only a Number. In that post I talked about the time I bumped into an eighty-something year old mountain climber on Mount Rainier, and shared a ski lift to the top of Big Boulder with a seventy year old skier who told me he didn’t start skiing until after he turned sixty.
Maintaining that youthful edge isn’t just about physical activity, it applies to anything that excites you, the reason you pop out of bed in the morning–the thing that puts a glimmer in your eye. I bump into people with that unmistakable glimmer who write books, create recipes, sculpt raw materials, construct homes, mold young minds.
Scottish novelist Muriel Spark published her last book, The Finishing School, when she was 86 years old. So inspiring I found Spark that I lifted one of her quotes for Twenty-four Years to Boston. Spark said, “… be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.” Simply put, the prime of your life is not bound by age. Poet, singer songwriter, Leonard Cohen has a more active lifestyle at 80 then many of my contemporaries. Legendary Buddy Guy is still killing them with his blues guitar at 78, BB King was touring last year with the blues he pioneered in the 1940s.
World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will be 39 when he steps into Madison Square Garden on April 25th against a much younger Bryant Jennings. Inside the boxing ring, 39 is geriatric, yet Klitschko says thinking about leaving the boxing game makes him sad. He takes the decision to hang up the gloves one fight at a time and says he will continue to box as long as he has motivation and health. In Klitschko’s words, “If one of those two is missing, then time has beat me.”
As a Philadelphia guy, I’d be remiss if I overlooked the incomprehensible former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins who is still boxing at age 50. Professional boxing, arguably the most physically demanding and brutal sports on the planet, isn’t a place you’d expect to find a 50-year-old, yet there is Hopkins always looking for the next opponent.
If you are ever tempted to use age as an excuse not to pursue your dreams, think about Bernard, Muriel, BB, Leon and Buddy. And if you have a friend who attempts to use the age cop-out, send them this post.