I have caught myself in in a vain habit. While waiting for the shower to warm up, I’m often plucking out chest hairs that have gone grey or white. It’s not entirely new. I long said my principle vanity was a fear of having the long wild eyebrows of an old man. As I result, I pluck eyebrow hair that gets long and curvy. I’ve done it enough to have a bald patch.
This morning I got wondering why this one aspect of getting old, greying of chest hair bothers me. I realize I’m fighting age, but I haven’t in more traditional ways. I not only accepted baldness, but was wearing my hair close cut twenty years ago. I’m more apt to let it grow now. I never tried a comb over.
But my mother’s father was bald in his twenties, so I knew I was doomed. Going bald wasn’t a sign of age to me. Greying is and, given the general lack of hair on my head, it isn’t most obvious there. That said, when it has gotten long and I’ve seen a white hair standing out, it gets the pluck of doom.
So, why am I afraid of this sign of aging.
There are two reasons I hear people give for not wanting to lose youth. The obvious reason is you cannot do what you once could. I think I have dodged that by accident. I was never a very athletic person. My best fitness was the day I left boot camp, not equaled before or since. The most physical things I have enjoyed have involved impact, be it the brief time I fought SCA heavy, a healthy game of ‘Smear the Queer’ (a name I doubt kids may use anymore), or the most common, climbing into a mosh pit.
I’ve climbed into several this year. I often outlast people half my age, mostly men. The toughest characters in pits these days are tiny women, often still young enough I can them girls, at least by me. They can hang with the best.
So, by accident of not being into baseball or football and enjoying most a physical experience that centers on your ability to just take a beating, age has not slowed me down in physical activity, not yet. Nor have my mental facilities declined noticeably. My memory remains too damn good. I want to forget. I am busy learning a second language. Writing is an occasional hobby most of my life I am turning into a side-hustle. The goal is to ‘retire’ to writing at pulp speed as a last career.
I am not missing youth because I could once climb mountains, but now cannot.
The other common answer is regrets. I have a lot. The key one is when I say ‘my boys’ I mean Sable and George, two cats. If only I could mean Joshua and Timothy, two sons to carry the family name forward as my father had wanted. I regret my Navy time, not having been in but having done it haphazardly at best and a derelict one at worst. There is regret over all the opportunities lost because of laziness, pride, and here the two big examples involve women, absolute cluelessness.
Yet, all lives have regret. I have at least enough wisdom to know most regret comes from choices. Had I made a different choice, I’d regret not being where I am. Some others, children being the big one, were not a failure on my part alone.
The regret over lost opportunities, though, comes the closest to what I realized is the reason I miss youth this morning staring at the latest white hair I plucked.
My father died at 73. I will be 54 in five weeks. If I live as long as him, I have twenty years left.
I have over twenty years of books to write. As I noted in yesterday’s newsletter, at my current pace of finishing stories I’ll complete those 1,000,000 words Stephen King says you write before you become readable in 2062. Even in the best case, I’ll be dead a decade before that.
Sure, I can write faster. That number was closer when this year began, 2059. I want to do more than write. The twenty things I want to do, but I’m to ignore includes running a triathlon and building a retro-computer. Each of those can fill multiple years. My list could fill the life I had if I could have the youth I had at 24 back.
The lesson is you do not have enough life to do all we desire. When we are young, we don’t see the clock running out, so instead of getting things done, we add things to do. The older us looks back and wonders why young us set us these burdens for late in life.
The desire for youth is the knowledge of things undone.