Friday, September 9, 2011

What age do you want to be?

“I wish I was young again’” is a frequent lament most of us have either heard or said at one time or another.  If we hadn’t said it, we thought it, wished for it or perhaps even prayed for it.  Sometimes we wish for the things other people have: their car, their house, their job or their latest gadget.  We usually never want to be them; what we really want is to be our old selves again, to be young again.  Wishing to be young again is natural.  We want to turn back the clock.  The question is how far back?  What age do you want to be?
High school was an uneventful time and place for me.  My family came from the wrong side of the track, or rather the wrong side of Clinton Avenue.  Most of my classmates were from middle class families who owned small businesses or were mid-level professionals and some were the offspring of fairly wealthy families with who I had little in common with.  In addition, I entered high school in the tenth grade; most of my new classmates came from a different junior high school and started high school as ninth graders.  Many of my junior high classmates went to a different high school filled with the children of working class families; crazy school boundaries made me an outsider.  However, a few of my really good friends from junior high school made the same trek to the other side of Clinton Avenue with me; those good friends made up for the lack of a wider group of close classmates. On the positive side I received an excellent education which laid the groundwork for my acceptance into Rutgers University and other institutions later.
Warren Lieberman
US Army 1964
In my early twenties I joined the army.  While it was a great experience, the male communal life style and bursts of youthful adventures (or rather misadventures) didn’t suit my personality and I’d rather not repeat that experience.  Some forty-five years later only one friend from the army remains in contact with me.  I married my girl friend, who waited while I served out my enlistment, and returned to college after my three years in the army.Being a married college student meant I was either going to class, studying, working part-time jobs or living the usual life of a low income married man with ample tuna casserole dinners.  There was one year between my graduation from college and the birth of our first son that was ideal.  A few years later the birth of our second son enlarged our family and we moved 1500 miles from our lives in New Jersey to Texas.  My military experience and life as a married college student created a strong work ethic that continues to the present day.  The greatest wonderment of this time was my marriage and the birth of two sons.  Those years were essential to my development as a mature, productive person, and laid the foundation for a strong, loving long marriage.
From thirty to my mid-forties I was either worked sixty plus hours a week, or barely made ends meet, and raised a young family.  I think we went on one vacation to Disney Land during this time.  The four of us packed into our station wagon for over a week.  Our car needed a serious cleaning when we returned home; week old food wrappers, soda bottles, and worse will cause strange odors to permeate inside.  One of my sons has no memory of the trip, my oldest son and I only have a few clear recollections but my wife remembers every ride and our reunion with friends from New Jersey.  While daunting times, these years strengthened our family bonds which are still vibrant today.  I came home every night to a warm home, a hot meal, helped my kids with homework and held my wife tight for fear of losing a good thing.
Not our station wagon!
My children grew up and created lives for themselves, and my married life seemed ideal as the late forties hit.  I worked at a great job, took a few vacations, and spent time at wonderful conventions with a side benefit of taking my wife with me.  Again, I endeavored in a sixty plus hour a week position, with meetings and calls seven days a week.  Community respect came with this work and a large measure of internal reward.  Major surgeries made my wife and I experience the frailties of life.  Thankfully, we both recovered.  I guess I had a late-mid life crisis because in my mid fifties I moved on to another satisfying position.  When I remember the good times I think I want to be fifty again.    
Now at sixty-seven I still work full time and love it.  My children live nearby and my wife is reading next to me while I pound away at the computer keyboard.  We’ve gone on thirteen cruises in the last seven years.  We both have active lives of work, volunteer activities, friends and hobbies.  Life is great.  I pray that it continues.
Each of the different periods of time in my life had pluses and minuses; each period built on the previous experiences and that carried me along life’s journey.  As I reflect on the great memories and wonderful times past I don’t want to relive them, not out of disappointment, regrets or thoughts of lost opportunities but with expectations of new and exciting times yet to come.
I wish to stay sixty-seven, except without two a.m. bathroom calls and the aches and pains in the morning.
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