Almost a year ago, I set the wheels in motion for one of the biggest decisions of my life, and that was to retire from my industrial job. My time there of 38 years carried me through all the major phases of adulthood, from nineteen years old when I began, to getting married, having children, raising a family and the struggles that entails, to divorce and starting over. It saw me through the rebuilding process, finding love once again, creating volumes of new memories, and reaching for dreams so long kept at bay. Then came the time it finally felt right to step away, but to say it was without its fears would be a blatant lie.
When I follow a road on a map there is always a sense of direction, a series of choices, and ultimately a destination. I’ve often used the analogy of “Life is a Highway”, but life has some very real differences, chief of which is unpredictability. In life, the end of the road is the end of the mortal journey and none of us knows exactly when or where that will be. One thing is certain, as the years advance it becomes evident the road ahead is shorter than the miles behind you. Many call this facing your own mortality, but I can tell you without hesitation that it is also something that doesn’t come without its fears. Suddenly, when you look around and see other people whom age has taken its relentless toll upon and you wonder, were they just like me not so very long ago?
I’ve spoken with elderly people and the dreams they still have are just as vibrant as my own, but they have resigned themselves to the regrets that dreams will stay just where they are because either health or monetary status stands firmly in their way. For some, monetary issues are not the problem but the limitations of age and health present very real barriers that money simply cannot overcome.
A few days ago, I washed and shined my car as I have done countless times but the soreness I felt the next day made me wonder how much longer will it be before that simple task is beyond my reach? I have already noted I don’t spend nearly as much time as I used to pondering over which car I might want to strive for next. Instead, I see the finite number of years I have until retirement or medical restrictions may make those things impossible. Is this the early warning signs of the death of a car guy?
I have been told in semi-jest many times by several members of my family that they rue the day when someone is forced to ask me to hand over my keys to my car. My son told me he might want to be in the next state when that day comes, but I have to wonder if my zeal will fade before that day ever arrives? Once again, the destination is uncertain.
The job I took when I made the jump from industrial shift work has been in steady transition almost from day one. Mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace words these days and with it ever more uncertainty. One cannot cry over burned bridges, and in honesty, I have no desire to go back from whence I came, but even though I’m working fewer hours, my writing time has become almost non-existent in the face of learning new job skills.
I poured years of time, research and effort into writing Moonracer, and I was elated when I held the first printed copy in my hands, but I have since learned many hard truths about the realm of books and people who buy them. Those who love racing don’t tend to be avid readers, and those who are readers don’t tend to be fans of racing. The fact that the story is centered on the human conflict and aspiration doesn’t matter if those who browse the shelves aren’t interested enough to pick it up. Another hard fact is over seventy percent of the book-buying public are women, and romance novels outsell everything else by a wide margin. So, if you aren’t writing in that genre, your chances aren’t very strong from the start. I’m sure I’ll keep plucking away at my imagination but the prospect of making a living at it doesn’t look rosy. But I know I’m not in unfamiliar company, and I think about that every time I pass a bin of “dollar books” and I realize those people gave just as much effort as I did.
The loss of my mother still weighs heavily on me at the most unexpected times, and early this year my wife lost her mother as well. We lean on each other as we are now both “parentless” and that presents its own image of mortality. I see my children growing and facing the same difficult trials I faced at their age, and my memory of those struggles is all too vivid. I still see my granddaughter occasionally and she is growing so fast its almost as though she is a new person each time that I need to get to know all over again.
They say change is the only constant in the universe and that we should embrace change as the doorway to our future. I believe there is a great deal of truth in that statement, but sometimes the change we are forced to embrace is the loss of the things we leave behind. That isn’t all bad and it makes the colorful story of life, but there few who savor running out of paint when the canvas isn’t finished.
The road ahead is still full of turns and hills with an end not yet in sight. I can only hope it isn’t around the next corner. The full realization of dreams is promised to no one, we can only hope and keep moving each day. Hope is what fuels the machine that we are, and luckily that isn’t a finite resource.
Finally, there is love, and if you have that one person you share your life with, the one you miss when you’re apart, the one you can’t imagine living without, then the road ahead, however uncertain, will be filled with things to be shared, savored, and cherished. Only love can do that, and I count myself fortunate to have a wife that fills that role and so much more. Here’s hoping what’s left of the journey is long, winding, and filled with beautiful things to behold.
T. August Green