Moving and turning 52

Today my wife and I are moving house.  Specifically, we’re hauling boxes from the house into a van, driving said van to a U-Haul transfer station, then driving back for another load, repeatedly.  The cats are nervous.  Our son, Owain, is helping.  Ceredwyn and I are managing what feels like a thousand details, and are tired.  Yet bit by bit our move proceeds.  We have one more day of this schlepping, and then we hit the road.  In a few days we’ll be living in Manassas, Virginia, close to Washington, DC.

Also, today I turn 52.

Over the past two years I blogged about turning 51 and 50, so this has now become an autobiographical blog series.

It’s strange, this new sign of mileage, partly because it is unremarkable.  There’s nothing special about the age as far as I can tell.  Even the number 52 is a bit dull, offering few interesting resonances, except for the classification of this poor whale.  (Go on and listen to its sad song.) Moving house cross-country after living in one spot for almost 20 years is a far, far more meaningful and fraught event.

As a child of the Cold War’s last and most apocalyptic phase, I am sometimes surprised to be alive past the half-century mark, and not long dissolved into radioactive ash, sifting down across a ruined world.

52 by duncan c


Looking ahead is what I prefer to do.  I’m still following the plan: working on the future of education and technology through a variety of means.  Along those lines I’m making media, writing, teaching, consulting, speaking, and learning.  I’m not slowing down.  Indeed, one reason for our move to the DC area is to improve my work efficiency (better infrastructure in particular).  It also means I can do more virtual work, make my travel more efficient, and hopefully do less of the personal-carcass-hauling stuff.

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I remain consumed with the desire to do more.  To push ahead, to search, to make, to learn, to listen.  I only feel the desire to rest when my traitorous body sabotages my plans.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breathe were life!

I’ve been checking myself for the typical signs of an aging American male, and do see some of them.  Nostalgia hits me more strongly than it used to, mostly for history, aw I can’t get enough of the Cold War.  Also for reading as I find myself remembering reading certain books in specific times and places: Borges by an upstate New York waterfall, Bradbury on a Michigan lawn.

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  Not so much nostalgia for music, which surprises me.  My tastes remain weird, broad, and uneven.  There’s some goofy love for movies I saw in the 70s and 80s.  Weirdly, I find myself looking for stuff online about two of my teenage gaming hobbies: wargames and roleplaying.   We Are the Mutants makes me happy.

Comic book cover: 52Yet nostalgia is selective, as it is for everyone.  For every song I cherish there are dozens that just seem sad at this distance.  Sorting my comics into keepers and donations, I have a hard time reconnecting with the youthful enthusiasms that led me to buy so many.

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  Most of what my cohort remembers fondly leaves me cold or embarrassed.

Along those lines I do cherish a small generational resentment.  Since most discussion of generations focuses on Millennials and Boomers, this Xer is left out – which is both typical and expected.

I don’t feel any desire to dun “kids these days.”  I still dislike when people my age or older bash Millennials and Gen Z.  Instead people under 30 fill me with optimism for the future, often more than I feel for their elders.

Related to this: I do not think of retirement.  I suspect I’ll work right into the grave for a variety of reasons (politics, my disposition), and can’t foresee a way for me to slow down in a significant way absent a health emergency.

My health is ok. I can still bench about my weight (240 pounds) and enjoy a full day’s energy level, yetI seem to be more vulnerable to very cold weather than I once was.  I’ve been consumed with the house madness on top of work, which has wrecked my exercise routines; I should resume the walking and weight-lifting in the new digs, and maybe add cycling.  BMI is still too high (37), so this has some urgency.  Otherwise, no sign of entering so-called andropause. No afternoon naps, no concentration problems.  I still don’t feel the desire to talk about health issues with other people.

As a futurist I am keenly interested in medical advances, and try to look ahead to their impact down the road.  I just don’t think many will apply to me, thanks to the way America allocates health care.

I am more frightened of losing cognitive functions than of just about any other degradation.

Related: I am more conscious of allocating my time.  I’ve pushed away some books, conversations, movies, and especially tv series because of the dreadful sense that my available window for experiencing those things is shrinking fast.  I multitask with a greater sense of desperation.

Musical interlude!

Related: I can’t tell if I’m speaking less.  I don’t mean in keynotes and addresses, but in social settings.  Over the past few years I’ve been focusing on listening to people more carefully, as well as not exercising older white man privileges.  I encourage people to say more, and ask them questions. Usually I am more interested in what and how other people think than in convincing them of my ideas. (Those of you who’ve known me for a while, please feel free to comment.)

Apparently one sign of aging is valuing friendships more strongly, and I do get that.  Living in a remote spot and working a lot has meant I maintain and enjoy many of these virtually, which is ok for now; hopefully I can increase those connections in our better-connected new home.  For all of its annoyances and evils, social media works for this purpose.

The flip side of this gaining love for friends is bitterness about friends and colleagues falling silent. I’m told that older folks are more self-sufficient and less dependent on the opinions of other people, but I’m not getting that yet, possibly because my profession relies so much on reputation.  Being cut off by people I once had a connection with doesn’t sadden, but galls me.

Thinking of betrayals or past mistakes is something I have disciplined myself to quash, as a kind of cognitive optimism.  Death metal helps.

What also helps is checking back over the past year to see what I’ve accomplished.  I turned in the manuscript for my new book and the editor likes it.  FTTE switched to a paid subscription model successfully.  The Future Trends Forum reached its third anniversary, connecting with nearly 2,700 people.  The BAC business continues to grow.  More conversations, more learning, more creation… and we sold our house to move to a much better situation.

I’m teaching again.

And my wife and children infuse every single day with love.

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Onward.  Onward!

(photo by Duncan C52 cover from Wikipedia)

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13 Responses to Moving and turning 52

  1. mary ildiko mester says:

    Enjoy this birthday tune from folks who i met up here at the Ripton Coffeehouse a few years back.

    I am saddened to see the Candy Uhaul going up/down the street…knowing that you will soon be gone. 🙁 I know how stressful moving is….have been doing it over 20 times in my life and I am a few decades past your years. It gets old after a while, and it does not get easier with the years.

    Wishing you well and many more years of personal growth and infinite fun challenges!

    Mary/Ildiko, your former neighbor

  2. Dona says:

    Happy birthday, Bryan. Hope to meet up sometime once you are settled.

  3. Michael Haggans says:

    I’d say you have had a very good year. Safe moving.

  4. Michael Haggans says:

    You have had a good year. Safe moving.

  5. Linda says:

    Happy Birthday and Good Luck on your new adventure.

  6. John Sener says:

    There’s “52 pickup”, and then there’s ’52 pickup and move on to a new life journey.’ Have an enjoyable and productive journey, on the road and once you get here.

    One quibble: sounds like you’re not quite ready yet, but perhaps soon you will come to appreciate afternoon naps as a feature, not a bug. 😉

    Here’s to another good year for you and yours.

  7. Jenny says:

    Happy birthday! I came to your blog to see if you were talking about Linfield College but you are in the middle of a move, so I’ll look for that later. Don’t get rid of all your winter wear, that’s the big mistake I made when first moving to the south.

  8. Bryan,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and introspective post. I appreciate the time and reflection you put into it. Some side notes from a Boomer:

    It is appallingly true that my age group (I’m 68) talks about their health even though I studiously try to show no interest. It is embarrassing oversharing for some new male acquaintance to start talking about the results of his prostate exam, yet this happens.

    I have also noticed the tendency of friends and acquaintances to fall silent. I try not to be that person even though when you’re not talking about family or digital storytelling, my interest is less engaged. I have retired from teaching (one class online per term for insurance), and I retired profoundly disenchanted with the education system. I don’t believe in grading as a way to teach or learn, and that is such a seemingly foundational stone to our system that I pretty much don’t believe in the future of education at all.

    Students will grow up into people who I hope will teach themselves what they are passionate about if they aren’t so browbeaten by teachers and the system before then.

    Staying connected is important to me, and I find ways even as friends fall silent on social media or worse, die.

    So I celebrate your birthday and reach out to stay connected with a long distance virtual hug.

  9. Caleb Clark says:

    I liked your post. I’m 53 this month. I’d be interested in how you keep in shape enough to bench your weight? As in what time of day? And for how long you do weights and walk?

    Or if you’re too busy with the move, maybe someone else out there would comment? I’ve just been laid off after 10 good years at a micro private college in Vermont (struggling with all the issues reported so well here.) and I’ve let myself go physically.

  10. Roxann Riskin says:

    Hppy Birthday Bryan!
    Yes, I’ve left out the a in Happy so take notice your eyesight is 20-20 ! And I’ve recently heard 52 is the new 25! The move holds in store so many wonderful new adventures for you and your beautiful family!
    May you have safe travels and soon enough you’ll settle into your new home with a nice warm beverage- (no coffee :)).

    I’ll pray for your safe travels now and in the future,


  11. 52 cards in a standard deck of cards. Sounds like your time to be dealt a new hand and see what you can make of it.

  12. Chris L says:

    Very late here, but…so much this:

    “apparently one sign of aging is valuing friendships more strongly […’
    The flip side of this gaining love for friends is bitterness about friends and colleagues falling silent. I’m told that older folks are more self-sufficient and less dependent on the opinions of other people, but I’m not getting that yet, possibly because my profession relies so much on reputation. Being cut off by people I once had a connection with doesn’t sadden, but galls me.”

    Except that I continue to be more sad than galled in most cases. It’s particularly painful to discover how many people I thought were friends but really weren’t—or maybe better to say I thought were one kind of friend, the kind that is about a personal connection regardless of location or vocation, but turned out to be something else. That’s proved to be the overwhelming case in my life.

    (I’m sure many of those lost ones read this blog, but I’m not sub-blogging here)

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      I’m so sorry, Chris.

      It *is* sad when that occurs. It is painful. I should think about why I respond with anger.

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