Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were
I started swimming yesterday.
Most of high school I swam with some level of competitive aspirations and like many in my position, I stopped. I don’t remember why I stopped. One day I was doing lap after lap, staring at a black line. The next day I wasn’t. From then on, the next day just looked like the one before until it had been twenty plus years since I was staring at black tiles on the bottom of a 50-metre pool.
There’s a long story as to what happened as a result of stopping. Turns out it was a significant crossroad in my life. But that story, and many spin off stories can wait for another time.
This is about how Speedos reminded me of Neil Young.
I had known for six weeks or more that I had to get back in the pool (more interesting stories about this – stay on track Nathan). Resistance showed up and took up prime position to keep me from the pool. Knowing I had to break resistance I drove to Rebel Sports to buy a new pair of board shorts, so I could start swimming. At the eleventh hour though I opted for the Speedos of my youth, paid for them and went off to swim.
Speedos are rather revealing attire and flatter few. Those they don’t flatter often end up being the subject of derision. This was how resistance revealed himself. Sneaky little guy.
So I just embraced my station in life. I stood triumphantly at the end of the pool in my black budgie smugglers. I am a middle-aged man in Speedos. Looking around, then I noticed that I was not the only one. Everyone else was similarly attired, though I was the young guy by comparison.
“Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were” floated through my brain.
Most of my life has a soundtrack, and I often quote music lyrics in conversation rather than find my own words. It’s a trait shared by a few friends. Apparently, it can be annoying to spouses. Who knew?
I got thinking about Neil Young and why he wrote “Old Man”. It suddenly dawned on me that I have more in common with the “Old Man” than with Neil Young when he wrote it. That is, I find it hard to relate to the line “Twenty four and there’s so much more”. I also had way more in common with the old men at the pool than the young man I remember from my youth.
Initially, this was confronting, but not in the way I thought it would be. At some point, I’ve embraced the role of the old bull. I kind of like that this happened without me realising.
With this song stuck on loop in my mind, I looked through a writing task I did some time ago. I was imagining myself as an older, wiser version of me giving advice to my current self. I found myself thinking about how I would like to hear what the Old Man would say back to Neil Young.
This is what I wrote:
“Always play. Play with your daughters as often as you can. These will be the stories you tell in years to come. You are starting to realise that you are a collection of stories, and not a catalogue of items, that you collected over the years. Stories matter. Art matters. Fun times with family matters. When you are feeling most lonely, play. Play like you did as a child. Whenever you have the opportunity to have the whole family sleep in one room, or even one bed like last night, take it. It is a gift from God. Looking back over your life it will give you great joy that once upon a time, the most prized experience for your daughters was to cuddle up in between Mum and Dad to fall asleep.“