Odometer Reading

18,994 days.

My heart has beaten approximately 1,899,540,442 times in total.

i have taken approximately 417,523,886 breaths in total.

The moon has orbited the earth 695 times since i was born.

30,592,757,589 miles – the distance i have traveled as the Earth revolves around the Sun.

My finger hovered over the ‘submit’ button, but i’d already missed the deadline to apply for early retirement, at least for the current offering.  “Once you submit your retirement application, it is irrevocable.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing i missed the deadline this time.  Perhaps i’m not quite ready yet.

The job i have is amazing.  i’ve returned to my wheelhouse – science and technology program management.  Getting ideas from “proof of concept” into the realm of “prototype”. Serving as translator between scientists and customers . A necessary function, and i’m good at it.

But i keep thinking about those heartbeats…  Those breaths…  Those miles….

Not a milestone birthday, but today i start my 53rd year on Earth.  At best i have 25-30 years left.  During a good portion of those years, i will run into more physical limitations. Within the next ten years the motorcycle will certainly have to go, horseback riding will cease, and adventure travel may start to include the occasional comfy cruise…

My chances to hike into Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate decrease with each passing year.

i spent the evening doing motorcycle maintenance.  Changing out a dead thermostat on the ’91 Suzuki.  Coolant flush.  Oil change.  And thinking through the future.. Not so much “What’s next?”, but “When?”

Zen and The Art of...

And wondering… “How many heartbeats do i have left?”

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*Calculations extracted from this page.    Highly recommend running your own numbers…

Round and Round

Thirty one years ago today… Driving up that same hill.  Trees blasting color.  An unexpected forest of maples lining a four lane access road on the way into an industrial research park.

It was my first day of work.

Every October, there’s a flashback.  When the morning light is hitting those trees, the anniversary knocks me on the head.

i started as a student lab tech.  There was this guy, and we worked together in the laser test cells.  He was a long-haired genius, and kinda cool, and offered to give me a ride to work if i ever needed, because he lived near the university apartments.

i went over to have dinner with him in December of that year.  i stayed for 25 years.  We jokingly referred to me as the “thing that wouldn’t leave”.

Somewhere along the way, we bought a house, got married, had a kid, bought a different house, and then had another kid.  Raised those kids, bought a vacation house, separated, divorced, and moved on as those kids went off to university.

Through all of that?  i drove up the same hill every October.  Catching the incredible color of those maples in the morning light, and remembering the day i started work.

It’s pretty unusual to have such tenure with an employer.  The “Thirty Year Company Man” is nearly extinct.  It’s been a good ride, that’s for sure.  i’ve done nearly every job available…

Go Fer” Student Trainee.

Toxic Waste Removal Technician Research Assistant.

Junket Queen Research Area Lead.

Benevolent Dictator Program Manager.

Adult Day Care Manager Supervisor.

Referee Tech Advisor.

Evangelist and Marketeer Portfolio Manager.

Fortune Teller Strategic Planner.

Rather than looking forward to what’s next?  i now plan my retirement – five years left if all goes well.  Trying to earn the paycheck.  Trying to be useful.  Trying really hard to still give a shit.  Thankful to have it – but frequently spending time in meetings trying to stay awake by calculating the number of days i have left.

But there were those trees this morning, showing off their autumn finest in the bright sunlight.  They’re thirty-one years older, too.  Like me?  They’re a bit thicker around the middle.  They’ve weathered some storms and are still standing.

But i’m out in five.  They have to stick around…

amazing photo found here

Just say “no”…

Take a moment to read this*.  Go ahead.  i’ll wait.  It’s important…

It instantly transported me to my mid-30’s.  The years i was an active volunteer, and member of the Board of Directors, for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.  In a medium-sized town (about one million people in the metropolitan area), we provided free, or low-cost, reproductive health care to about a thousand individual women per year.  Very few of the patients could pay much.  Subsidies came through Medicaid, or state funding for low-income women.

We noticed a disturbing trend.  Each month, an alarming number of young girls between the ages of 10 and 13 were coming in for free pregnancy testing – the same troupe of girls would be there virtually every month.  Of course they got a medical check-up, education, and an opportunity for free birth control (condoms, as a minimum). 

But they weren’t looking for birth control.  They were disappointed to get negative results.

We had an intern** on staff, and she studied the troupe.  More than gathering demographics, she interviewed many of them.  What we found was heart-breaking.

The short version:  The girls wanted to be pregnant.  They were being fucked by 15-18 year old man-boys.  Pregnant girls got attention.  Presents.  A seat on the bus.  All their sisters, aunts, cousins, friends had babies and they wanted one too.  It opened the possibility of housing subsidies – a ticket out of a bad situation.  Their boyfriends might stick around.  The grandmothers?  They were effectively encouraging the girls — Grandma liked having grandbabies: “Oh, honey, you are WAY too young to be a Grandma”.  Grandma wanted attention, too.

This was in the era of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex” campaign for abstinence.  Right.  Let’s replace ALL of the medical and educational work we do with some pamphlets on “Saving Yourself for Marriage”, and “Respect Yourself”.  Oh, and throw in some mindless folksy wisdom – “The man isn’t going to buy the cow if he can get the milk for free” – just for good measure…

Never mind the 21-year old married mother of three who KNOWS she can’t afford to get pregnant again.  “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex With Your Husband”.  The party line:  Well, poor people really shouldn’t have children, should they?  What’s wrong with them?  They breed like rats… We would much rather spend our tax dollars teaching them morality and catchy slogans than actually providing factual information and medical testing.

So i have to ask myself:  When did i stop trying to do something useful?  Why did i give up?  Sure, my own family and career started to consume more of my time and energy.  Life happens…

i have dedicated this particular phase of my life to ‘farting around’.  It’s where i need to be at the moment.  When asked what i will be doing in the future:  “i can retire in 7 years and 14x days.  Plans?  Tend bar, play in a band, and fuck off as much as possible”. 

Maybe…

photo found here

* Thanks to rob for the link…  i always try to go where he sends us.  Usually either makes me laugh my ass off or think harder than i’m used to…

** Through AmeriCorps… a domestic version of the Peace Corps…