Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'll keep my torch for now, thank you

In a chat today with a couple of business professionals, I was caught up short by the realization that I am old by some societal standards.

Old as in pretty-much-over-the-hill old. Career-practically-over old. Remembers-vividly-stuff- from-40-years-ago old.

I heard myself talking about an internship I had in the summer of 1968 with my hometown newspapers. I wasn't out of college yet, but that summer was pivotal for me, not only because of all the things I learned about writing and journalism, but because the events changed the world: Bobby Kennedy was assassinated the first week I was in the newsroom; the Democratic National Convention saw protests from the Chicago Seven which brought unrest over the Vietnam war to a different level.

And then I explained "type lice" -- and I realized at that moment that billions of people have no memory of life without computers that handle things like typesetting and pagination and photo "developing." (Not to mention instant access to data formerly available only through libraries and the ability to shop 24/7, communicate with anyone in the world 24/7, and so on...)

The things we remember, that way of life, are merely trivia bits of fairly ancient history to them.

Geeze. I sounded like my parents, ferpetesake!

And I also realized that there's a lot left for me to do, to be. I ain't dead yet. And I'm not ready to be passing any torches to the next generation, to take whatever position one is supposed to take in your dotage.

There are experiences and events that should not be forgotten nor relegated to a musty footnote in some academic tome. Life has changed drastically from what it was when I was young, just as it did for my mother and father, my grandparents, their parents. It has not gotten easier; it has become more complicated, more frustrating, and also tremendously exciting.

I don't live in the past; I honor the past, I remember people who influenced me along my path -- like the crusty, green-eye-shade-wearing editor I worked for back in that amazing summer who taught me how to write headlines, edit copy, and write tight, to check my facts twice, and to be fair and objective in my writing.

Maybe what I do and say will be remembered some 40 years hence -- maybe there's already a legacy through all the years I taught school or mentored employees or led groups. And I'm not done living. I refuse to sit down and shut up, to take a back seat, as long as I have functioning brain cells that allow me to learn and grow and contribute to this world, to the people with whom I come in contact.

Yeah, I have some good stories about the past. But I live in today. And I'm hanging onto that torch for now.

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