The Circle of Life–Coming Back to Where We Started

My sister Becky once remarked that we started off life living pretty much in one room, and then we spread into several rooms as we become toddlers, and then out of the house as we become kids, then off to school to find our group friends, and slowly we travel further and further from home, making more and more friends, but then as we get older, we travel less, and we start having fewer friends, and then we start staying in our house all the time, and finally we end up in one room again.

the-road-we-travel-400

If you live long enough you end up back in a crib with people changing your diapers.

My friend Peggy has started hanging out with other people in their sixties, at a dance club that’s a lot like a high school hangout.  Her friends have created a new subculture around old tunes and dances they learned in their teens. 

Many older people I know have begun reconnecting with childhood friends and schoolmates through Facebook.  We have an urge to return to friendship groups like we had in K-12.

Nostalgia means returning home.  I’ve reached an age when my peers look backwards.

I’ve also noticed something else about getting older – people want less from life.  Back in high school and college we all had such big ambitions about what we wanted to do when we grew up.  Now we want less and less.  We want to retire.  We often return to the hobbies we loved while growing up.

I’m reading books and watching television with the same passion I had in junior high.  And my passion for new music is much like I felt for music in the 1960s.  I listen to it alone in my room just like I did in 1965, and find the same immense pleasure  I once did.  Somehow I didn’t pass back through the phase of listening in groups of friends getting stoned.

I do feel somewhat different from other friends my own age – I like new music, and they dwell on the oldies, or stuff that sounds like it could have been on the charts in 1961-1969.  I know this will sound sacrilegious, but listening to The Killers at the moment is more meaningful than replaying The Buffalo Springfield.  I don’t think none of us are the same, or can become who we were, but so many of us are swimming towards the past like lemmings.

My older friends divide into two distinct groups:  those with children and those without.  The ones with children and grand children follow a different circle of life than those childless.  When I talk to friends with children, our conversations often remind me of talking to my parents and grandparents.  Talking to my friends without kids, often feels like we’re still back in tenth grade.

My wife Susan, and some of my other lady friends have gotten into watching TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s again.  I think we all are drawn to different aspects of the past we loved so dearly.  Or does watching old shows just recreate old feelings?

In my book clubs, we often talk about our favorite books, movies and TV shows from childhood.  All of us Baby boomers have commonality even though we’re all extremely different.  We will relive the 1960s one day at a time, each a 50th anniversary.

And getting old means becoming weak again like a child.  I can no longer lift and do things I once did.  Eventually we’ll get too old to drive, and finally we’ll get too old to even take care of ourselves.  Dementia and Alzheimer’s is like evolving mentally backwards.

Even sex seems to diminish, like we’re returning to a kind of re-virginal state.

It’s also hard to befriend people in a different part of the circle of life.  When we’re kids we play with other kids, when we’re teens, we hang out in gangs of teenagers, when we move away from home, we hang out with other single people, when we get married we hang out with other married people, when we have kids, we hang out with other people with kids.

I’m not old yet, but I already feel the urge to fly south to live in a 55 Plus community.

Should I fight this urge?  Or should I just go with the flow?  Do I have a choice?

If you’re around my age, 60, are you feeling this too?

JWH – 10/8/12

6 thoughts on “The Circle of Life–Coming Back to Where We Started

  1. Great post Jim. As I head down the path to my mid-life crisis (I’m turning 40 next month) I find myself increasingly trying to recapture my youth in various ways with increasing frequency these days (more often failing than not). I think this is natural for everyone. How many times have you thought, “If I only knew then what I know now.”? If you’re like me…probably more times than you can count.

    1. I think about “if I knew then what I know now” all the time. I’ve even written a science fiction story about it. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and wise up my dumb ass younger self!

  2. I don’t feel that way at all. I have old as well as young friends. I want to travel and get out of the house. I do feel like my body is weaker but I blame that on my sedentary lifestyle more than my age. In my head I’m still in my 30-40’s. and last but not least, I think about 99% of new music today sounds fake and I hate that.

    1. Susan, yes, you do do lots of things that keep you young and contemporary. However, you also love watching Hazel, The Monkees, The Flying Nun, McHale’s Navy, Gidget, and other shows from the 1960s. And most of the songs on your iPod are from the 1960s and 1970s. And hell, we’re living in the house you grew up in!

  3. Funny you are going back to old tv but prefer the killers to earlier music. Personally I like “music” that has the same attributes as the music I ended up loving in my youth. Oh yeah, the early stuff helps memory too.

    1. I think what’s happening to me now is not whether I like new or old music, but I’m rediscovering the same passion for music, books, movies and television that I had in junior high.

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