From the Mouths of Members: Age is Just a Number to This 'Old Man'

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/31/2009 4:23 PM   :  117 comments

UPDATE: The paperback of THE OLD GUY RULES was released on July 30th. The book can be purchased at SmallDogma.com, which is the publisher's website. The first chapter of the book can be read on the author's website, www.theoldguyrules.com. The price of the book is $13.95 plus shipping.

Jim Rodgers, a SparkPeople member known as CONAN76 (above, with his son), learned the hard way that life doesn't work out the way you planned. Now 44, with a great marriage, a wonderful teaching job and a loving family, he is far removed from the heart-breaking divorce that left him a struggling single dad.

Through it all, Jim kept his chin up, even when life seemed unbearable. When he turned 43, he decided to share his life lessons, writing a book called The Old Guy Rules. Jim believes in the power of fitness and wants to prove that life--for guys and gals--doesn't begin or end at a certain age. In our youth-inspired culture, he discusses how he feels simultaneously wise and naive. He shared his inspiring story with the dailySpark.


By Jim Rodgers

What does it mean to be “old”? I began writing my book, The Old Guy Rules, on my 43rd birthday. As I write this article for SparkPeople.com, I am 44. Do I feel old? Absolutely not. I feel like I’m a baby, just getting started. That could have something to do with the fact that I’m a teacher and most of my friends are retired teachers, ranging in age from 55-75 years old. I’ve been at my current school, Glenbard North High School in the Chicago suburbs, for more than 15 years now, and many of the guys with whom I taught when I first came here are now retired, much to their delight and my dismay. But not a single one of those guys thinks he’s old or acts old.

In the summer, I work out at a gym with six of those retired teachers every morning and have a ball. I can’t help feeling young around those guys. They never fail to remind me how old they are, but they act like they’re still in high school, and even that might be stretching the level of maturity at times.

My kids and my students think I’m positively ancient. My daughter, who is almost 18, calls me “Pa” and “Old Man” when I fall asleep on the sofa watching House with her at 8 p.m. But I get up at 4 every morning to work out before school, and I feel pretty darned young when I do that. I can still outrun my kids, though the margin of victory isn’t quite what it once was.

Recently, I’ve started thinking about my mortality. I’m not going to live forever; I know that. I’d like to hang around another 40 or 50 years--God willin’ and the creek don’t rise--and there are a lot of things I hope to accomplish in those years. Still, I know they will go fast, and I do have to admit that even though I know that I’m not 21 anymore, I honestly feel like I am. I work out twice a day, practice martial arts, have tons of energy, have kept myself in great shape, and honestly can’t wait to wake up in the morning. I have so many friends and colleagues who ask me how I do it, so I thought I’d write a book. After all, I’m an English teacher. I ought to be able to write a book about myself and how I’ve chosen to live my life now that, according to my daughter, I’m screaming headlong into my “twilight years.”

I decided to call my book The Old Guy Rules as sort of an ambiguous paradox. My kids say I’m old, so in one sense this will be a set of rules by which I, an “Old Guy,” have chosen to live each day. But I also wanted the title to express a confidence, almost a cockiness, about being an “Old Guy,” kind of like when a kid says, “Metallica Rules!” We live in a society that worships and rewards youth, and I think it’s about time that someone stuck up for the Old Guys out there who still have a lot to bring to the table. And just to clarify, by “Old Guys” I mean both male and female, like when someone says to a room of men and women, “you guys.” Our club doesn’t discriminate against women. We seek out women. By including them, we become much smarter and better looking as a group. Being 44, I may not be the most qualified to call myself an "Old Guy," but my kids and my students call me old, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, I am one of the last of the baby boomers, so I think that qualifies me as well.

I don't have unrealistic expectations--like becoming a millionaire in two months or looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in just a few minutes a day--but The Old Guy Rules is an honest attempt at helping people improve their lives and perspective as they head into the latter stages of those lives. I’ve been able to live a truly blessed life, and I wanted to pass on some things that I’ve learned to others so they could be blessed as well. I’ve put those lessons in the form of a list of rules in my book, some of which I would like to share now with the members of SparkPeople.com.

Rule Number One: Learn the Value of Hard Times
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those that he has.” (Epictetus)

Many people look at my life now and think I’ve got it made, and I guess, in a lot ways, I do. But much of my life today has been forged in the heat of some tough times. My first wife left me with two small children (ages 5 and 2) to raise on my own. My son contracted spinal meningitis at 18 months and nearly died, going through years of physical therapy, suffering seizures, and enduring endless neurological evaluations while growing up. Those two experiences shaped many of my attitudes and strengthened my resolve to make the most of my life.

Rule Number 2:
Get Your Attitude Right

“There is nothing either bad or good, except thinking makes it so.”
(William Shakespeare)

So many people talk about having a good attitude, but how many people actually work at it? You must diligently, painstakingly work on your attitude every single day. Only through filling your mind with positive, uplifting thoughts can you change your life significantly.

Rule Number 3:
Use Your Time Wisely

“Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.” (John Randolph)

Time truly is our most precious commodity. Think about your biggest fear in life: losing it. When you lose your life, you’re losing time. It stands to reason that you should make the most of every piece of time you have. As a single parent, I had no choice but to make the most of the little free time I had every day. I got my master’s degree by going to night school while kids from my high-school classes would baby sit my kids.

I was getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night most nights after returning from class, grading papers until after midnight, and then getting up at 4 to get in a quick workout before getting the kids ready, taking them to the sitter, and heading off to teach. I learned through necessity different ways to manage and make the most of my time, and, although I have more free time now that my children are older, I still use those techniques to get the most out of every day.

While space prevents me from sharing all the “Old Guy Rules,” (there are 15), I hope this inspires you to create your own list of rules. I think Ben Franklin had it right when he worked hard to perfect his list of virtues, which forced him to work toward making himself a better man each day of his adult life. For me, that’s the only way to be truly successful and make the most of the time we have.

For more information about The Old Guy Rules, visit www.theoldguyrules.com.

How do you feel about age? Is it just a number? What lessons have you learned as you've aged?


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Comments

  • ASANTIAGO2
    117
    So true. We loath tough times but that is when we learn the most. - 10/9/2010   5:20:26 AM
  • 116
    I think that age is just a number. Attitude is what counts! I've always been a late bloomer and didn't use to like it when I was a kid, but since being an adult and always looking younger than I really am, I think it's wonderful :) The saying "you're as young as you feel" really holds true for me. I'm 59, but always receive compliments "No way!" "I didn't know you were THAT old!" "I thought you were like 35." It's funny to hear (and nice!), but I have made it a point to take care of myself and am glad I have. I just didn't want to be that 'old', unhealthy person when I got to the higher numbers of life. - 6/17/2010   8:44:50 AM
  • 115
    I needed to see this post-I am 50-But I don`t FEEL 50 most of the time!I will now push to continue this journey to GOOD HEALTH & FITNESS!THANKS! - 5/3/2010   2:42:10 PM
  • STRAWBERRY*MOON
    114
    Hi Guy,

    I'm older than you and don't feel the least bit "old." I look forward to reading your book.

    Tonight I went to the first in a series of lectures put on by a top-rated hospital about neuoscience and neuroplasticity. The good news is that we can all do things to help us avoid what were considered "givens" about aging.

    Pax vobiscum,

    Michelle - 4/8/2010   1:34:59 AM
  • 113
    I totally understand the "old" part of this message...
    it is all about 'comparisons...
    we are older to the younger set.
    Young to the older set.
    But it is also a state of mind. Attitude is everything!
    I also want to live well into my 90's...
    actually my goal is 102, and if that comes along, then I want to live longer!!!
    Usually, what we feel inside is what makes us call ourselves OLD or YOUNG.
    I am 59 years young! - 12/5/2009   11:01:21 AM
  • JAY75REY
    112
    Agree with "learn the value of hard times". this creates wisdom and meaning for us...a chance to realize that we survived, we got through it, we learned something, we are strong, we can take a punch.

    Don't agree that 44 is "old". I guess if I worked daily with high school students, I might consider 44 old. I'm 52 now. I know I looked and felt very different at 44 and definitely felt vigorous and youthful. Now I have to work at feeling young. I have to ignore what is happening to my skin and face, and focus on what is inside of me. That's when I feel the youngest and most alive now.

    A local health plan is running a TV ad right now that I absolutely love. There's a bluesy song being sung in the background "When I grow up I wanna be an old woman". They show the beautiful faces of old women with their wrinkles and gray hair, smiling or looking like they have funny secrets to share or they do whatever they want without giving a hoot what other people think. That's what I wanna be when I grow up, too! - 11/13/2009   10:54:30 AM
  • 111
    I m 58 and some days I feel 20 and some days I feel older than 58. Age is just a number and it helps me a lot when people are shocked to hear that I am 58. I don't want to ACT old and I don't want to ACT young. I just want to be! - 11/12/2009   10:28:43 PM
  • COOPIE1212
    110
    I am ready to turn 50 and your post was very inspiring. - 11/12/2009   5:31:45 PM
  • JARLY1
    109
    Good lord, you rock! I intend to read your book - we are on the same wavelength, I believe. Your blog inspired me to post a lengthy blog on my own page. Go old guys!...and gals! - 11/7/2009   10:51:39 AM
  • NEED2LOSE45
    108
    My parents are in their 60's and as the years go old is no longer a number. I think it is how you act how you feel about your age etc. You are as young as you feel. - 11/7/2009   8:51:48 AM
  • KOKOKISS
    107
    I am a true believer that age is just a number so much so that i do not remember peoples ages not because i am forgetfull but because it does not matter to me how old or young someone is. What matters is the kind of person they are and the life they live!!! But i am aware that no one is perfect and thats cool to!! By the way i will be turning the big 40 next year. - 11/4/2009   12:58:54 PM
  • RACHELTESTA
    106
    My mom is 65 and my dad 72. I look at them and think, there is NO WAY! They don't "act" their age at all. I think of my mom as 50 and my dad 60. I guess it's their attitude toward life. For me, I don't feel my age either. I feel younger every year. I look forward to my birthdays. I enjoy seeing what I am capable of as I get older and "wiser"! LOL!. And,my husband has such a healthy perspective too. He lived a very "risky" life when he was younger and never thought he'd live to be 20. He's 45 today and wakes up every day thanking god for another day of his life. He makes the most of each day and enjoys the changes he goes through as he ages. It's refreshing. - 6/30/2009   3:05:00 PM
  • 105
    I celebrated my 60th birthday last week. All day I kept thinking....I'm not really 60, am I? When I was a mere babe of 40, I was back in college, raising 2 girls, an active PTA member, a wife, and not only the "chief cook & bottle washer," but the ONLY cook & bottle washer; and I thought 60 was very old. Now that I'm here, I'm amazed. My grandchildren think I'm their only grandparent who is NOT old. It's my silliness and playfulness and constant wonderment about all things. As I've aged, one of the most valuable things I've learned is not to take everything personally. It isn't always easy, but I try. I've also learned that everyday we wake up, we get to start over. We can't go back and undo our mistakes, but we can learn from them and change the things about ourselves that make us uncomfortable. And, yes, age is just a number. I even laugh to myself whenever I get a "senior" discount! - 6/22/2009   11:03:22 PM
  • CASEYFM
    104
    I think this person is giving some wonderful advice. However, I'm a little annoyed that he titled his book Old Guy Rules - he's only 44. Since when is that old? - 6/5/2009   10:18:52 AM
  • 103
    I laugh when my students feel embarrassed to ask my age (Mama said you should never ask a lady that). With everything I've done, learned, and gone through, I am proud of my 34 years. - 6/4/2009   2:58:38 PM
  • 102
    When i turned 40 this January 09 i was not ready to face the world and tell them
    HI I AM 40!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11
    i would say i am 35 (as if that would be better)
    then i sat with me and realized i am more healthy at 40 than i was at 35 even 30
    i am eating healthy, i am walking, i am counting the calories i take in and i am counting the time i am working out thus buring calories
    i am more conscious about my health

    The only thing not better than when i was 35 or even 30 is i am not praying enough
    i aim to be more religious
    other than that I AM PROUD TO BE 40 - 6/4/2009   1:21:52 PM
  • 101
    I turned 49 in March and I certainly feel alot younger now that I am 35 lbs lighter! Thanks for an inspiring message! - 6/4/2009   11:04:58 AM
  • 100
    3-4 hours of sleep a night?!? I'd rather do a little less and get my 8-10. - 6/4/2009   10:48:35 AM
  • RINKRAT
    99
    Age is only a number - and it's amazing how much a person can do if they look at life that way. Being 44 is only the beginning of the adventure. - 6/3/2009   6:03:20 PM
  • 98
    Funny about this blog. I just finished a Rita Mae Brown book, "Hounded to Death." It has a 73 year old woman as the main character. She feels young, and goes fox hunting as often as possible. She's a master of a fox hunting club. Now, THAT'S young.

    I also do a lot of walking with Leslie Sansone. She has a walker, Alton, who's 72. Let me tell you, I hope I look like him when I'm 72! Except a female version, LOL. I'm 51 and feel pretty darned good. My adult child does not think I'm old (just mean, LOL).

    Great article. - 6/3/2009   9:06:47 AM
  • MACHELY2
    97
    Jim,
    I admire you so much for all that you have accomplished. You are an inspiration to me and many other members.
    I'm 61 and I don't feel old at all, when I go to the gym I see a lot of younger people having trouble working out with the weight machines and the weight they are lifting is lower than what I do, that of course makes me feel good. I do circuit training that young girls can not do. So you are right it is just a number.
    Thank you for sharing your story - 6/3/2009   1:48:04 AM
  • KAREN214
    96
    What a great way of thinking. I am 45 and feel great for my age. I feel it is only a number and life is about living but looking at the numbers. - 6/2/2009   8:12:40 PM
  • 95
    Thank you to everyone who has contacted me either personally on my sparkpage, via email, or by leaving a comment here about the blog on my book. Many of you have asked about the book's availability. Currently, it's available as an ebook on my website, but the first printing should take place later this month. I have posted the first chapter on my website, www.theoldguyrules.com , and if you'll drop me a message or an email, I'd be glad to let you know when the book comes out in hardcover. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind words and great comments. I've read each and every one.

    Sincerely,
    Jim Rodgers - 6/2/2009   3:42:25 PM
  • 94
    My Mom always said, "Age is just mind over matter...... if you don't mind, it doesn't matter!" She never had a problem telling anyone her age. She died last year at age 100 years, four months, and 5 days. No one could believe her age, as she looked 20 years younger. I'm 64, about to retire and ready to roll! - 6/2/2009   3:17:13 PM
  • 93
    At 61 years of age, I am younger than people 20-30 years my junior. Good vitamins/nutrition and exercise are key, as well as, not being afraid to speak my age. My daughter is your age, a single mom with a 10 year old grandson. To stay young, be active and hang out with young people. At our church, they have a "legacy" seniors group -- my husband and I refuse to be relegated to that category. Go, Jim. You are an inspiration. - 6/2/2009   2:00:08 PM
  • 92
    Jim,

    I just finished reading chapter one of your book. I'll admit that I was getting a little concerned. I was wondering if it was going to have a happy ending. ;) You certainly had to overcome a lot of adversity to achieve your goals.

    And that's where your story is a real inspiration. You didn't let adversity get you down. Chapter One spells it out. Rule Number One: Learn the Value of Hard Times, you learned value from your hard times.

    Some folks faced with the same adversity would have turned to alcohol or drugs. You didn't. You set a goal and you stuck to it. The problem with today's society is that some people are afraid to do a little hard work. They expect life to be handed to them on a plate. They don't know how to deal with adversity. They can't cope.

    No, when the pieces of your life were strewn about, you pieced them back together better than before. That takes resolve and hard work. Two things that we need more of in this day and age.

    And what really amazes me is that with all this going on i.e. your educational studies, taking care of your family, etc... you still managed to make time to stay fit.

    Thank you once again for posting on Spark People.

    - 6/2/2009   11:23:44 AM
  • LADYMOONWILLOW
    91
    I love this story, but, 44 isn't old, I'm 60 and disabled and in a wheelchair, but I have more energy and stamina than my 30 year old daughter. Yes, its only a number, and I for one am very grateful it is. They say you are only as old as you feel, well I for one feel very young yet.

    - 6/2/2009   10:13:37 AM
  • 90
    I too am 44 years old and I feel better than I did when I was 25. I am at a healthier weight, I maintain a much better diet, and get more exercise. I love me more now too. Blog posts like this are great motivation for me and others and I’m glad I stumbled upon this today. (I found you in my quest to earn some Spark points for the day, and voila! There was your page. ).

    These rules are key, and I think Rule #2 is the most important. Having the right (or wrong) attitude will make all the difference in the world. - 6/2/2009   8:56:35 AM
  • 89
    Funny how when my parents were my age they seemed ancient and now when I am 43, I am just starting to live and feel better than I did at 30. It's definitely how we perceive ourselves. Great Article!!! - 6/2/2009   7:22:26 AM
  • SUNNY950
    88
    Age is just a number - at 45, I feel great! - 6/2/2009   2:49:11 AM
  • 87
    "Growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional".

    I'm 57 years young ~ don't look or act my age! lol

    One can be as young as they feel....... - 6/2/2009   12:48:57 AM
  • 86
    Jim thanks for this article! You Look AWESOME!! I am 47 and wish I was 27 again because in my mind I am! I hate to look in the mirror and see age creeping in! But inside I feel great and still love all the things I did when I was younger. Best of luck on your book! - 6/2/2009   12:40:00 AM
  • POISONS
    85
    I am 68 & enjoy white hair expirience - 6/2/2009   12:27:47 AM
  • FREETOBEMYSELF
    84
    You are as old as you feel! I am 34 with a 13 year old son and I feel like my life is only beggining! - 6/1/2009   10:58:34 PM
  • 83
    You just reminded me how I feel satisfied with life.
    Until recently, I was feeling a bit down because I had gained weight and was no loger in good physical condition.
    I got serious, found SP and now am pushing 20 pounds less. I am walking and now adding other exercises.
    I am fortunate to feel the benefits of age rather the ravages. It doesn't hurt to work in a nursing home where even t 55, the residents still cal me a "nice boy"! - 6/1/2009   10:42:40 PM
  • 82
    My 'age is just a number' is 54. I know I waited 20 years too many to get serious about my health and weight but at 34 I didn't think there was any hurry! Although the medical problems that come from maturing seemed to have hit me all at once at about 53; my mental age is only about 24. My physical age is about 45, I would say. I am much stronger, much healthier, but I still have a long way to go. But I will make it! - 6/1/2009   9:53:49 PM
  • 81
    Age is just a number. And next month I'll be 49 years young and I'm going to walk my first marathon in October! And 1/2 marathon in 2 weeks!
    - 6/1/2009   7:25:23 PM
  • 80
    Age is most definitely ONLY a number, and completely relative. When I was 17, I had my whole life planned out; my fiance's 36 year old parents were old-old-old, and my 50-ish parents were older than dirt! When I hit 36 myself, I realized just how YOUNG they were; and now that I'm 52 - WOW, what an eye-opener.
    After two bad marriages and a LOT of heartache, I met my now-DH when I was 39, and began a whole new unexpected happy and blessed life! It seems like we've been together just a blink of time, not 13 years, and with this new love, my brain feels like I'm in my 20's or 30's. The only time I feel old is when I see some former celebrity teenage heart-throb playing a grandparent on TV! - 6/1/2009   7:14:12 PM
  • 79
    I wonder sometimes if there's something about the 40's that causes us to think more about our mortality than at other times in our lives. I know I went thru a phase like that when I was somewhere in that age range. Now, at 59, I rarely think about it, or that number, which just turned on me today. - 6/1/2009   7:01:03 PM
  • 78
    I'm 53 and reaping the benefits of a reasonably healthy lifestyle. I look at least 10 years younger and, since joining SparkPeople, I glow with health. I don't feel old and never say things like "I'm having a senior moment". I've had a hard life and learned young that my future is in my hands. It still feels like the best is yet to come. - 6/1/2009   5:01:05 PM
  • 77
    You positively ROCK! - 6/1/2009   4:42:10 PM
  • TAFOOT1
    76
    From one Illinoisan to another...thanks for sharing your story and your upbeat attitude with us! Yes, age is a number, but my number is soon to be 64, and, let me tell you, that's a shock! Somedays I fee every bit of that 64...aches, pains, and other sorts of lovely gifts that advancing age gives. But in my head, I'm still about 30! I'm trying to coordinate the two "virtual" ages by being more aware of what I eat, how much I sleep, what kinds of exercise I do, keeping close ties with my family and focusing more on the spiritual than I used to. Hopefully, I'll "grow up" to be just like you one day!
    Linda in Naperville (our older daughter graduated from Glenbard East!) - 6/1/2009   4:28:12 PM
  • 75
    One of the most important things mentioned in this piece was how people handle adversity. Human beings seem to be easily wired to be negative rather than positive. Rarely does hardship bring out the best in people, yet we constantly tell others to rise above adversity - here is a wonderful example to do just that. I hope many people read your blog and book and find the same strength in themselves. - 6/1/2009   4:10:30 PM
  • 74
    Great article and book. I know how old I am but sure don't look it or feel it. It seems the healthier I get the better I feel. My mom always said your only as old as you feel-and some days I feel 20 and some days I feel 80, depends on how healthy I am at the moment. - 6/1/2009   3:06:29 PM
  • 73
    I´ve been Sparking people a lot lately and some are responding! This will give ME one more way to encourage my friends to get moving towards their fitness goals! Thx! - 6/1/2009   2:50:15 PM
  • URCHRIS1
    72
    thanks Jim , you are a great inspiration to us all. What a great role model you are to your own kids and the students you teach. Can't wait until the book comes out in print. What a great father's day present!! enjoy. - 6/1/2009   2:40:04 PM
  • 71
    Gee, I turned 45 this year and I'm in best physical condition I've ever been. I can do things now that I couldn't do when I was a teen. I'm in my 40s and LOVING IT.

    Jim, your book is a inspiration to all the Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Me generation members out there. It goes to show that life doesn't end at 40 ! It's just the beginning.

    Also, you do bring up a very good point. We all do have to be realistic. Aging does happen to us all. I'm not a teenager. I don't want to look like one or dress like one. When I read magazines, it does some times seem like 40 something women are expected to have the same figure they had when they were a teen. That's pretty unrealistic.

    No, I plan on aging gracefully. My age is one thing I've never been ashamed of and tried to hide.

    Great article, Jim !


    - 6/1/2009   2:25:44 PM
  • 70
    I am 44, and I am in better health and shape than I have been in years. I love being 44. I would not go back to my 20s (or teens - yikes!) for all the money in the world, although I wouldn't mind re-doing my 30s, only for the sake of getting myself in better health before hitting my 40s. However...

    I couldn't even begin to tell you all the things I've learned over the years. But I will say that you should live your life to the fullest every day, because you never know how many days you'll have left. I mean that in the most positive way! - 6/1/2009   2:16:58 PM
  • 69
    Wow! This post couldn't have come at a better time! I'm facing my 30th birthday in about 10 days and I am so not happy about it. I never thought I'd be one of "those" people who worried about their age. This blog entry helps put things in a better perspective...although, I still have to work on obtaining the positive perspective. :)

    Thanks for sharing! - 6/1/2009   12:31:52 PM
  • STATCHO28
    68
    I loved this post! I'm a big stickler about not focusing on how fast time is flying by us but instead focusing on what we're going to do with that time so we make the most of it. I absolutely agree that age is strictly a number. We may physically, mentally, and emotionally but that certainly doesn't make our life any less exciting or special. In fact I think it may make it more so. I'm only 21 but I absolutely plan on living my life to the fullest no matter what my age is. We change as we age, but that is just another opportunity for us to experience a different chapter in our lives and make the most of every experience that comes our way! - 6/1/2009   12:07:38 PM

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