[SB 224] At 50, what are the Fs you have left to give?
I’m Matt, and welcome to Steady Beats. If you like to walk for a better life, and also like Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” you just might like this newsletter.
At 50, gravity is both friend and foe.
Gravity is a foe, in that its wretched relentlessness has spent five decades trying to pull your various bodily components onto the ground. Wrinkles form, battle scars against the laws of physics. Components once high and tight are … less so.
But also, gravity is a friend.
The force over time makes you let go of so many Fs you once had to lug with you. Fs that are just too heavy to justify the strain of carrying them through the final third of your voyage.
But we don’t drop all those Fs. Instead, we double down on the Fs we still have left to give. One shouldn’t have no Fs to give; that’s an empty existence. Instead, we treasure the Fs we still have to give and leave the rest in the dust.
What Fs do you still have to give? At fifty, here are some of mine.
Football (the college variety)
Some remaining Fs are frivolous and fun. College football is ridiculous and rudderless. It is constantly affected by the king tides of money with no single captain at the helm.
The amatuer ideal, the giving it your all for Dear Old U., is dead.
But yet … the games are fun as ever. You know, I’ve never tried crack, and have no aspirations to do so, but it has to feel something like the Saturday afternoon YouTubeTV Quad view on rivalry weekend.
College football is an F to give. Go Green.
Let’s not go gently into that good night. Let’s be strong, let’s prop up that VO2 Max. And sure, let’s look good doing it. Midlife fitness is a superpower, because fewer people in that age bracket chase it.
I can’t imagine life without working out and don't care to.
Most of us in our fifties have older kids. But we’ll always be mom and dad, here to support our young adults and work out ever more complex issues—while trying to walk the line of helping without over engineering.
Some of us still have parents in good health, and that’s a blessing. But there can be some difficult situations to navigate there, also.
Family at 50 is a new set of challenges and rewards.
The skeptic would say there’s a reason church demographics tilt toward middle age and older patrons. People are cramming for the final exam, which looms closer.
But it’s more than that.
I’ve leaned hard on my faith in recent years to sustain through some difficult situations—perseverance that would not have been possible otherwise.
So when times are better, it’s so important to maintain that gratitude. My faith is important in everything I do now.
I don’t know how I could go back to simply chasing a revenue target ever again.
That chase left me beat down and broken, desperate for something with more meaning. And it took time to find it. But now I have been gifted a role where I can see the impact of our work on hundreds of students around the world, students who bravely stand up, write things down they truly believe, and publish them online.
And then their lives change.
What a rush. Fulfilling work is a must for the remainder of my career.
Freedom of expression
Making stuff might be a fountain of youth:
Studies show that participating in activities such as singing, theater performance and visual artistry could support the well-being of older adults, and that creativity, which is related to the personality trait of openness, can lead to greater longevity.
AI can do its creative thing, and I plan to keep doing mine, whether that’s writing or some other form of media in the future. Self-expression in any form is vital to our sense of well-being, and it gives us vitality.
Some critical Fs that are no longer given
(Fake) News and politics
For the last 60 days, I’ve been completely unplugged from news—all I see are the headlines that flash across the flatscreens at the gym.
“But you’re not informed!” Nope. I wasn’t “informed” when I was consuming never-ending streams of news and made-to-make-you-mad political content, either.
Part of my news blackout is rooted in cynicism. I don’t have much faith in the institutions and ideals I once did. And that might not be healthy, either.
Right now, I’m better off reading online essays from friends, a book, or or even information about some wide receiver the Spartans are trying to recruit. At least the latter enhances the enjoyment of one of the aforementioned Fs I have to give.
Flights of fancy
This is a deeply offensive thing to say in the current age: I don’t care about traveling right now.
I know, I know, but don’t block me just yet. It is indeed a violation of the terms of service in modern social media culture not to worship travel. If you’re not flexing by posting your latest photos from the Swiss Alps or Thailand or a beachfront resort, why are you even online?
Meanwhile, we’ve turned air travel into a combination of a visit to the DMV and the dentist.
Long waits. Pointless ritual sacrifices to the gods of governmental bureaucracy. And it’s capped off by being strapped into a cramped and uncomfortable chair with strangers close enough to view your dental work detail.
And we don’t even get the laughing gas.
Seeing a new place, exploring a new culture, eating a new meal – it’s interesting, and yes, it can change your point of view. But only marginally so. Wherever you go, there you are, as the saying goes.
My grandparents rarely left Michigan. They seemed content: socially engaged, being of service, enjoying family and life right where they were.
Travel is erroneously deified. Come at me in the comments.
Choose your own Fs to give
My friendwarns writers to avoid “Live, Laugh, Love” moments — storytelling where something happens, we change something, and then live happily ever after, ever wiser, richer, and happier for the journey.
Choosing your own Fs to give is not that, however. These are hard-fought choices, lessons stained with blood, sweat, and tears.
And the choices can still be erroneous. Maybe I’ll regret not traveling. Maybe I’ll still get sucked into the 2024 election.
The point is: Being fifty has upside, if you let it.
We can consciously choose the Fs we have to give. Carry on with the ones you want, and scatter the others to the breeze, where they’ll settle in as part of the memories and wisdom of your journey.
Don’t worry about littering the landscape with your Fs you no longer have to give. Fifty years creates plenty of space.
Thank you for reading.
Let’s keep the Steady Beats going. 💚
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