The drawbacks of age outweigh the benefits.
That said, if you take away the health concerns, the aches and pains, the memory lapses and the decline in stamina, old age isn’t really that bad.
Age teaches you things.
For instance, it teaches you not to take things for granted.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, I assumed I’d always be able to wade swift trout streams, climb steep mountains and carry a heavy pack for miles and miles.
Chronic back problems robbed me of the ability to carry a heavy pack by the time I turned 50. Those back problems rendered me sedentary for years, and I gained so much weight I could no longer climb hills. At 60, chemotherapy from two bouts with cancer affected my ability to feel what my left foot was doing. Now I can’t confidently wade big water.
It should bother me not to be able to do those things. In my younger years, it might have even sent me into the depths of depression. Nowadays, it doesn’t bother me much at all.
I might never be able to fish The Roughs of the Cranberry any longer, but there are still hundreds of streams I can fish. I’d have a tough time climbing the steep hills of Logan County, but I can still handle gentler slopes. I can’t carry a heavy pack, but I can carry a lighter one just fine.
As you might deduce from the preceding paragraph, the second thing age has taught me to focus on the things I can do, not the things I can’t.
I can still shoot. My eyes aren’t as good as they once were, but my hands are still steady and my reflexes are still pretty quick. My hand-eye coordination hasn’t diminished.
I’m no longer as strong as I was — not by a long shot — but I’m in pretty decent shape for a guy my age. Five-mile hikes, 20-mile bike rides and half-mile swims aren’t as easy as they once were, but I can still do them.
And if I still have an outdoors-related superpower, it’s the ability to tie really nice trout flies.
Thirty years ago, I would have taken those abilities for granted. Today I’m thankful for every one of them.
Someday, when I close my laptop for the final time and retire, I won’t be the outdoorsman I once was. That’s a given.
And you know what? I’m OK with that. I’ll do the things I’m still able to do and be grateful I can still do them.
At this time of year, when people focus on gifts, I’m determined to be thankful — not so much for the material gifts I might receive from my loved ones, but for the truly meaningful gifts I’ve already been given.
I have a wife and son to love.
I have a job I enjoy.
All things considered, I live a comfortable and reasonably healthy life.
As Christmas draws near, I’d urge everyone who reads this to pause for a few moments and reflect on the gifts you’ve been blessed with, and to be thankful for them.
Merry Christmas, everyone.