Will you still read me / Will you still heed me / When I'm 54
It's that time of year again and I'm also recognizing 2000 consecutive journal entries
A couple of months ago I noticed something unexpected: on my 54th birthday (May three zero), I will have written 2000 consecutive journal entries. And that total doesn’t include the journal entries that I’ve written off and on for the past four decades. I wish I could say I planned this but I’ll sacrifice some cleverness and prestige points
and just settle for milking this coincidence for all it’s worth and be grateful that interesting intersections of activity can still happen. It feels right to tie together these two milestones in today’s newsletter.
Long time H.A.T.T.E.R.s (How About This Terribly Enthusiastic Readers) will remember this newsletter about my journaling habit:
I kept a journal with sporadic entries in the late 80s/early 90s, had brief resurgences in 1994, 1999, 2009 - 2011 and then started back at it again on January 1, 2016, though never with consistent daily entries until Dec. 7, 2017, which was the start of my daily journaling practice.
In preparation for this newsletter I skimmed through the entries in this journaling streak. I’m going to summarize some of the funnier or more interesting tidbits, organized by year. But first, let me talk a little bit about method.
I used weather (temperature in particular) plus key events of the day as my prompts for journaling. I did not strictly adhere to those prompts. The length of a journal entry varied greatly. Some days all I wrote was a single line - those entries were normally written in the shadow of fatigue, work stress or boredom. Half a page per day is my normal goal (equivalent to 2 - 3 paragraphs in my small handwriting). One day I wrote a three page journal entry: very much the exception.
Let me tell you: when you write 2000 journal entries in a row, you have to expect that a lot of them will be clunkers. Lots of my journal entries were perfunctory bullet points at best. Boring as dust. So it goes.
The four major topics I wrote about included: weather and temperature; food; my career; and TV shows/movies/books. What can I say, I live a quiet life. Banalities form most of the text of an average life.
Thank goodness. Who could live life at full throttle ALL OF THE TIME? Not me.
OK, here are some years.
I only reviewed the entries from the start of the streak so much of the journaling year gets lopped off with a start date of Dec. 7.
Towards the end of December I wrote a note about how I had ended my associations with two communities I’d been part of for a number of years: Toastmasters and my local running community. I gave up both due to extra time demands coming from my career, I couldn’t spread myself that thinly. At least one of those departures was a mistake, in retrospect. I do miss the people but sometimes group associations become all consuming for me so it’s good to step away.
Life is an unending experience of loss and accretion. You lose days, you gain experiences and memories. Wear and tear accretes on the body: in many cases, repetition (the wrong kinds of repetition) aren’t good for a body, just ask any ageing athlete.
And pounds. The pounds cannot be forgotten, they are you. Though, in the right circumstances, you can exhale some of them.
Hopefully the tradeoff for wisdom and maturity creates an acceptable transaction.
Found references to commonplace books and mind maps, some of the seeds that germinated intoseveral years later.
Jan. 16: a note about my 54th blood donation. I haven’t donated blood since 2019, due to low iron and then COVID-19 disrupting things. I feel like I should start donating again.
Feb. 4: apparently I wanted to take part in one of the Star Trek themed cruises, the ones that include cast members. Not so sure about this now.
Mar. 9: Yannick Bisson (the star of Murdock Mysteries) is exactly two weeks older than me but looks a heck of a lot better.
Mar. 12: apparently I emailed- I remember thinking he was a good fellow because he responded to my email. Good fellow.
Apr. 14: commonplace books are referenced in the A Serious of Unfortunate Events TV series
Apr. 28: “gotta keep looking ahead to the future, the next thing(s)”… apparently trying some self-motivation…
June - July: a cracked molar and my first root canal… whee - I cracked the molar while chaperoning my two kids on a choir/band trip in Atlantic Canada in May and it got worse
June 28: noted the death of Harlan Ellison
July 1: a reference to Stoicism, something I should write about
July 19: fiction writing? Inconceivable!
Dec. 7 - 8: trip to Halifax, NS to watch Sloan in concert and visit with longtime friend Scott Marshall
The lead up to starting a new decade can be nerve wracking, can’t it? Closing out the year at 49, wondering about that next decade to come.
A couple of medical issues popped up this year, including the need for hearing aids. Sadly, medical problems become more likely as you age. Just have to roll with it.
May 30: turned 50 years old, more on this to follow
July 1: “Canada Day. Governor-General in a kayak. Blah, blah, blah.” Governor-General Payette (a former astronaut) would resign several months later after disturbing accounts of a toxic workplace attributed to her and her senior staff.
Aug. 6: short road trip to find the graves of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother Dykeman. Both my father and grandfather lost their fathers before they turned 30: fortunately mine is still alive and in decent health.
Sept. 13: in a different universe, this would have been the 20th anniversary of the Moon leaving our solar system.
Sept. 15: reference to notebook harvesting - on brand.
Oct. 2: I created a ‘zine but only shared it with a few folks - again, foreshadowing.
Oct. 28: 10,000 Demon Cons! (The Good Place)
Nov. 2: my daughter and I toured the CBC studio in Fredericton, NB as part of some university open house activities.
Nov. 11: “you can hate war but you can respect soldiers” - Remembrance Day
The thing about turning 50 that I didn’t expect was an increase in confidence, even a bit of gravitas. You realize that some of your insecurities were complete bullshit and solely a figment of your own imagination. And if you can couple that age with a long tenure of doing something (for me, being with the same employer for more than 27 years), it’s definitely a feather in your cap.
It felt good to turn 50 without any major health issues plaguing me (or at least having any chronic conditions under control).
I highly recommend turning 50: the alternative is usually much, much worse.
For reasons that will probably seem obvious now, most of us were under extreme stress this year. I found it very hard to read books in 2020.
Jan. 31: series finale of The Good Place (sniff)
Feb. 29: this would have been my grandmother’s 104th birthday, she and her twin sister were both born during 1916, a leap year.
Mar. 5: first mention of COVID-19 in my journal even though it was a growing topic of discussion at home and at work
Mar. 17: my first day of work from home, originally expected to last 2 weeks. Little did we know.
Mar. 28: I started playing Everquest again because why not when you’re not sure about the fate of the world: hadn’t played it in over 19 years.
Apr. 5: apparently there is a gigantic mosque in Mali made mainly of mud and every year the local villagers have to work to reinforce the mud - COVID-19 TV.
Apr. 8: thoughts about the world being on pause
Apr. 17: I try to put social media to good use, sharing short messages about the good things in life that we can still be grateful for (Twitter and Facebook)
June 15: my daughter graduates from high school, having spent the past 3 months learning from home like all other public school students. To minimize risk the school organizes a series of mini graduation ceremonies over a three day period, with students in groups of 5 - 6. My daughter’s ceremony includes a number of her close friends, which was great.
July 13: two deer in the backyard, walking calmly and stopping about 20 metres away before ambling onward - a rarity.
Aug. 17: apparently this is the start of my really irritating habit of occasionally falling out of bed (3 - 4 times/year).
Sept. 8: first September when I don’t have kids in the public school system - both of my children do distance learning with their universities, which makes for an interesting year.
Sept. 18: death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - a huge turning point for the US, in retrospect… and the world, really.
Oct. 6: death of Eddie Van Halen, guitar virtuoso
Oct. 18 - 20: I get caught up in chasing some conspiracy theories revolving around COVID-19, some people thought that the Canadian government was going to build quarantine camps for the infected and for those who didn’t want to follow the rules. Hoo boy.
Nov. 7: Biden/Harris election win!
Nov. 27: started watching Schitt’s Creek
Dec. 7: pondered the meaning of “back to basics”
Dec. 31: Death to 2020 special on Netflix: here, here.
We’re all sick of hearing about COVID-19 at this point but holy crap the pandemic and restrictions turned 2020 into a blur of anxiety and exhaustion. I think I aged at least three years and the gray hair I’ve been fighting for years started to establish a foothold.
It was a tough few weeks as I got used to working from home but it felt very natural as the year went on.
50 turned into 51. Ho hum.
Jan. 3: “Bean Dad” (musician John Roderick) was the main character on Twitter for a few days, writing a satirical thread describing his hungry daughter’s attempt to open a can of beans as a life lesson of sorts - Roderick is accused of child abuse and exits Twitter, at least temporarily.
Jan. 6: watched in shock and horror
Jan. 15: the sea shanty obsession rolls over me, I particularly liked the version of the Wellerman song that included Kermit the Frog
Jan. 24: a week or so of obsessing over notebooks and paper planners - foreshadowing!
Jan. 28: I’m kind of fed up with #bellletstalk - it’s a public campaign to increase awareness about mental health and raise some funds in the process but it feels like a drop in the bucket and some other acts seem to dilute the value of doing this campaign - I’ll say no more.
Feb. 12: amidst a stressful few weeks, I start to think about blogging again, like I did from 2008 - 2011.
Feb. 23: temporary obsession with pimple popping videos, sorry about that
Feb. 28: smacked my face on a cement floor when tumbling out of bed: fortunately my CPAP mask takes the worst of it and I just have a couple of bruises and scrapes.
March 19 - 20: messing around with a Space 1999 fan fiction project I’ve been playing around with for years
March 26: desire for a home recording studio
March 29: I coin the acronym MMDP (Monday Morning Dick Punch) - I wish I could remember why
May 3 - 5: roof replacement, thank goodness. No more messy DIY shingle repairs!
May 16: silly hashtag games on Twitter to lighten the mood
May - June: for awhile I change up my journaling into two column spreads: the days events on the left, the day’s food on the right; I give it up after a few weeks.
July 12: my second COVID-19 vaccination, got the first on May 12 - quite a relief
Sept. 4: playing around a bit more with my King of Clubs fiction project
Oct. 10 “Watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - lots of women with dirty feet”
Oct. 19: Twitter thread about having been a Twitter user for 14 years
Oct. 23: two hour conversation with Scott Marshall, which we record - I keep it around for future use; foreshadowing, as we talk about a number of topics that I eventually cover in- thank you, old friend.
Nov. 10: “Long, long day. So very tired, like several thousand days all stuck together with Krazy Glue”
Dec. 1: remembering Australia, a country I haven’t visited for 25 years.
Dec. 31: death of Betty White, who almost made it to 100
I got a special watch this year, celebrating 30 years working for the same corporation. Still a long way to go until retirement.
Still working at home, this time for the full year. COVID-19 restrictions persist. I’m used to things at this point and have come to prefer working from the comfort (and privacy) of my home.
I turn 52 - the number of regular cards in a playing card deck. The number of weeks in a year. The number 52 is cool.
The quality of my journal entries improves this year, the quality of journal entries was spotting before this. I’m using a Leuchtuurm1917 A5 notebook as my journal with the goal of fitting all of my year’s journaling into one notebook.
Much of this year was focused on, so I’ll let the newsletter speak for itself.
More dental problems this year, including another root canal and then a tooth extraction.
Jan. 20 I watch Squid Game, which kindles an interest in Korean dramas and modern South Korean culture.
Unrest in Canada in January - February due to a trucker convoy/occupation of Canada’s capital city.
Feb. 24: Russia invades Ukraine, which directly impacts me because I’ve been working on a project with European/Russian colleagues for several months - the project is canceled several weeks later. It’s surreal and disturbing.
March 19: receive home treadmill, almost ruin my back while moving it
April 11: one family member tests positive for COVID-19 - it’s a miserable couple of weeks but no lingering harm done
April 25: Inciting Incident: Elon Musk enters into agreement to purchase Twitter for a ridiculous sum of money
May 3: firstnewsletter is published in reaction to Musk’s Twitter purchase: I need a new digital basecamp.
May 31: No Mow May ends for me!
June 7: I set a goal for H.A.T. to hit 150 subscribers by the end of the year (narrator: he should have set a higher goal.)
June 30: reflecting that H.A.T. has added some much needed new purpose to my life (I had plenty of purpose but it was refreshing to change that up a bit)
Aug. 4: musing about how long a person should stick with a creative project (my current H.A.T. goal is to keep going for 20 years)
Aug. 17: growing realization that, for several good reasons, I should abandon Twitter
Sept. 8: death of Queen Elizabeth II
Sept. 19 - 23: a business trip to Toronto, my first trip in over four years
Oct. 5: uh oh, looks like Musk will complete the Twitter acquisition
Oct. 19: 15 years on Twitter, some reflection on that
Oct. 27: Musk completes Twitter acquisition
Nov. 2: I pull the pin and deactivate my Twitter account (as of the writing of this newsletter I haven’t returned)
Nov. 7: I start into an intense project (really a program at work) that will consume me for months
Dec. 17: more work on commonplace books, which I started exploring again this year
Dec. 27: the day after Boxing Day needs some celebration, you know?
Dec. 31: I just barely squeeze the last of 2022 into my journal!
53 is a weird age. The number 53 is a prime number which just doesn’t feel important. It feels off, too. Who celebrates turning 53 or the 53rd anniversary of anything?
I still feel like I’m ageing too quickly. I’m in poor physical shape and I can’t quite motivate myself to make the necessary changes. Lines in my face are more noticeable. I’ve got gray streaks in my hair that won’t go away. I don’t mind the latter, actually: it feels like I’ve certainly earned them.
I’ve gotten used to avoiding crowds so the reentry to hybrid working this year makes me feel anxious at first as I’ve managed to avoid contracting COVID-19 so. Nothing happens, I manage to stay healthy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: starting this newsletter has made a huge difference in my life and I’m not sure if I would have begun H.A.T. without the dual impact of Musk buying Twitter and COVID-19 (even though the danger seems to be waning with the increased number of vaccinations).
This year is still ongoing. I’m using another L1917 notebook but I have a smaller notebook to help complete the year if I feel the need to write more.
My day job was very intense during the first four months of 2023. At some points I wasn’t sure if I could maintain my newsletter. My solution was to drop back to one post per week, which for many reasons was a smart thing to do. And I kept up with my daily journaling habit.
Different types of aches and pains tend to pop up. Most of the time they fade into the background and I ignore them like I normally ignore my tinnitus. Some of them seem to linger, though. I look at my middle fingers and they seem to twist at each joint. Have they always been like that?
Energy and clarity of thought seem more fickle these days: not horribly so but enough to notice a bit. I can probably improve this with some simple, not necessarily easy, changes. I really need to get on this.
I’ve still managed to avoid contracting COVID-19. As far as I know.
I think about retirement a lot these days, which many of us do as we get closer to our mid fifties. I am fortunate: I will get a pension for the years of life I’ve traded off in service to my employer. The earliest I could retire is two years from now, although I would take a significant cut to my pension to do so. I could work another 13 years for my current employer before I’d have to retire. There’s probably a point in between those dates where I could retire with a decent pension.
Not trying to brag about getting a pension but it’s something you can’t help but think about, how you’re going to finance the later stages of your life, especially if it will make sense to spend at least a couple of decades on new and different pursuits.
I don’t talk a lot about my career, mainly because I work for a privately owned company that has some firm rules about what employees can or cannot say about the company. I also don’t like the idea of mixing the personal and the professional so this suits me fine. By the way, the company has done well by me over the years and vice versa. I’ve never been part of a labour union and so my point of view might be different from another person’s perspective. But it is my point of view.
But here’s the thing: I have no desire to become mentally inactive at any point, which means to me that I will want to do some kind of work for as long as I possibly can. I don’t see myself retiring to a life of vacationing and playing golf and let’s be honest: that’s a pipe dream for most people these days. Many of us will probably have to work in traditional jobs for longer than we’d probably like to for financial reasons. I will always want to keep my mind sharp and active, which means that I will want to keep writing and otherwise keep my mind engaged for the rest of my life.
Back to numbers for a moment: I have some slightly superstitious beliefs (let’s call them preferences instead) when it comes to numbers. I’m glad that 54 is evenly divisible by both 2 and 3, if only for aesthetic reasons. I’m ending 53 in no worse shape than when I started it (well, not much worse) and that’s a great thing. Also, there are 54 cards in a playing card deck when you include the two jokers. Everyone should have a couple of jokers - they aren’t just agents of chaos.
If there’s a TL;DR version of this post, I’d put it like this: getting old is inevitable and really not so bad (for the most part) as your expectations change, and it’s valuable to have these flashes back to the previous versions of yourself as the radio receiver of your life gradually tunes in to the truths that we all eventually must face; be ready to discard which illusions need to go and embrace what can and should be accepted at the right times.
So bring it on, 54. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra: la-ah la-ah, life goes on.
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There’s a bunch of people writing about middle age during the past few weeks,among them.