It is hard to believe that we have just closed out yet another decade. It really does not seem that long ago when it was a new millennium with the Y2K fears, which was 20 years ago. The 10 years after that went by fast, and it seems these last 10 years have gone by even quicker. Where has the time gone?
As I looked back and reminisced over this past decade I was amazed by the number of changes I have had. Part of it has to do with me growing older. But it also has to do with the world changing so fast. If I don’t keep up, I will be left behind in the dust. So here are my own 10 personal changes and challenges that have had the greatest impact on me over this past decade.
1: Returning to School
This past decade started out with a massive challenge of going to college as a 51 year old. My college journey started in January, 2010, right at the beginning of the decade. I had just come off of a very stable, and secure work environment of working in a factory for the previous 11 years. Unfortunately, the factory operations closed and relocated in Mexico leaving myself and 211 others out of work. My hope that with a college diploma I would be able to begin a new career. College was extremely stressful. I felt like I was a fish out of water, but I studied and worked very hard and graduated with honours with a final grade of 86.9% over two years. Unfortunately I was never able to secure employment in the field I had studied for, which was Social Service Worker.
2. Computers and the World Wide Web
I only learned the very basics of operating a computer including compiling and sending an e-mail a few months before the beginning of the last decade. Losing my factory job late 2008 made it imperative that I had better learn computer if I were to survive and provide for my family. It is just as well, as I really needed to know how to use a computer for when I started college on January 2010. In 2009 my wife had also set me up with a Facebook account, which I got to learn how to use regularly. In December of that year I thought I would become really hip and signed up for Twitter. It remained inactive for the first 7 years. It has only been these past 3 years I have really started to use it. My Twitter username is @canuckcarl. Most people have their favourite social media, and Twitter is by far my favourite and most active form of social media.
3. Lay Pastor of a Church
I did not see this one coming. Over the years I have spoken in different capacities. With my factory job I worked at, I was on the safety committee and did safety talks. And occasionally I would be asked to speak at various churches. Although I do have a couple years of formal Bible training at a non-accredited bible School, I am not officially ordained. Almost nine years ago in the spring of 2011 I was asked if I would speak for a Sunday as pulpit supply at a small struggling local Presbyterian Church. Unknown to me a congregational meeting followed. Out of that meeting I was to be asked to speak for the rest of the month. That was almost 9 years ago. The church congregation is very much like family to me. Every year I conduct one, two or more funerals a year for those who have died. Because of the strong relationships built, it is tough to share the funeral message. But also an honour. I also speak at church anniversary services and decoration day/memorial services for cemetery boards, as long as they are Sunday afternoons and do not conflict with my Sunday mornings. After almost nine years of being lay pastor and speaking around 450 times I have always endeavoured to share a fresh message and not repeat anything over the years.
4. Becoming the Oldest Generation
This one is all a part of growing older but I did not realize how hard it was going to hit until it actually happened. When I was born in 1958 I had a mom and dad, grandparents and great grandparents. The oldest generation (my great grandparents) was the first to die off. Then at 47 in the year 1973, my dad died before my grandparents. But my grandparents in time also died, leaving just my mom. On February 12, 2012 my mom breathed her last breath on this earth. And leaving me as the oldest generation.
I never ever saw this one coming also. But back in 2013 when my doctor said I needed to get my blood pressure down, running seemed to be the prescription I needed. After several times of saying “no” I decided to give a running club at my work a try. It had been 36 years since I ran in high school and I hated it as much as I hated running in high school. But I had committed to a half marathon that fall. The thought of running a half marathon at 55 was so overwhelming. Crossing that finish line of that first half marathon in Toronto felt like I had just climbed Mount Everest. I could do this. I now run because I love to run. It has greatly benefited both my physical and mental health. The following year in 2014, I ran my first marathon. Something I never ever dreamed of ever accomplishing. According to a 2012 study by Runners World, Everyday Health, approximately half of one percent of the US population have run a marathon before. This equates to about one out of every 200 people. In 2015 I ran my first trail race, and loved it so much that I transitioned over to trail running. In 2016 I ran my first ultra, and in these past 4 years there has been 14 ultra finishes. Anything can happen at these longer distances. Each one has had their own unique challenges, and always there is a sense of great accomplishment at the finish.
I never saw myself as a writer. When my dad died when I was 15, it was the darkest time in my life. Struggling to keep the farm going and finish High School I failed English. When I couldn’t get a book read in the time allotted, and complete the important book report, I got an automatic fail. Lazy, unmotivated, a failure were my descriptions on my report card for English. I took that report card very hard and personally. For decades I never saw myself as a writer. But when I was training for my 1st half marathon I wrote updates on Facebook. It kept me accountable both to myself and those who were generously sponsoring me for my charity. I soon realized that with Facebook I am very limited with what I can do with my writing. So I purchased a blog domain, naming it “The Old Fellow Goes Running”. And my writing journey was launched. This will be my 104th article on this website. I also started a second blog. I am sometimes asked what my message is about from people who may not attend my church. It may be they live a long way away. Or simply they may not be into attending church, but are interested in what I have to say. My website/blog is called “My Sunday Blog”. It is a devotional that gives a taste of what the Sunday message is/was about. I don’t nearly get around to writing for each Sunday. But I do have 71 articles written on this website blog. When I was working for Busch Systems, I was also given the opportunity to write for the company blog. In total I have 47 environmentally related articles written. Blogging has been an amazing journey for me this past decade.
7. More Environmentally Active
I am not sure if I would call myself an environmental activist. All my life I have always had a deep love for nature and have had a desire to protect it. I would walk and cycle places instead of driving long before “carbon footprint” became a buzzword. I had my own garden, and allowed milkweed to grow for the Monarch Butterflies. Even though for decades milkweed was declared a noxious weed, I continued to grow it. Despite the possibility of being charged if I did not eradicate it. But as I have gotten older I have become more proactive in environmentalism. I don’t expect to be around in 25-30 years, but am very concerned what kind of world my children and grandchildren will be experiencing. One of my greatest highlights this past decade was being asked to be ambassador for a 4,300 kilometer relay called The Monarch Ultra. A very special and unique project that combines Ultrarunning and the Environment.
8. Empty Nesters (sort of)
This is also part of growing older. With two of my children working full time and my two other in university and college there are many times when it is just my wife and myself. I so love and cherish those times when my children come home. It has been a beautiful and wonderful Christmas having all four children around. My oldest daughter is now teaching full time in New Zealand. It is so wonderful to have her spend a good part of her New Zealand summer holidays to be with us.
9. Travelled More
When my children were younger, because of work commitments I hardly travelled anywhere. When the kids were off school for the summer it was my busy time of year with well drilling. So our holidays were weekend day trips throughout the local area and weekend camping at my cousins secluded property. This continued even when I was working factory work. Too exhausted to plan an actual holiday we continued with the same routine. But we still had some really great memories. This past decade I have travelled far more than the previous twenty years. There are various reasons. One of the reasons was my daughter is now living in New Zealand. So I took a trip down under to attend her graduation from teacher’s college and then embark on some epic touring together. This was the 1st time I have been back to New Zealand since getting married there 28 years earlier. My running has also enabled me to travel more. I really enjoy these running events, but really struggle in that they conflict with my desire to keep my travel carbon footprint low. So I will lean towards supporting local races by participating in them. Through invites of fellow running friends, I have run some races further afield. One time I took the bus/train to Rochester to run Sehgahunda, south of Rochester, New York. With my biggest ever race, the Bad Beaver Ultra, I took the train to Ottawa to run this. This past October after a Monarch Ultra invite, I rode the bus for 55 hours to McAllen, Texas in order to meet up with the team to run some sections in Mexico. In the past 4 years I have run 14 Ultras, but have turned down at least that many invites from other runners to meet up at different races. If it involves a lot of hours of driving or a flight I will turn it down because I cannot justify the car and airplane emissions just to get there in order to participate in the race.
I definitely did not see this one coming either. I fully expected to be working full time to 65 years old or beyond. Working full time and pastoring the church on the weekends has made these past 7 years like I have been always on the edge of burnout. So when my wife got a full time postmaster position and I was offered her part time crossing guard position I jumped at it for a semi-retirement. I would no longer have a stressful daily commute. My daily grind would not be as overwhelming, with having so much stuff to do in so little time. Even though the crossing guard was less money with no benefits, it was a gamble I took. With it being much less physically taxing, it was something I was hoping to do until at least 70. To have that same daily influence like my wife did with her school children she crossed that got her the title of Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard in 2012. Those who I would be crossing in kindergarten this year with a smile and “Have a great day” and have that opportunity to celebrate with them as they graduate into high school in eight years time. With a new traffic light system in the works for my crosswalk in Hillsdale possibly by late spring this year, it is now questionable how much longer I have before my position becomes redundant. Something I did not see coming. Having taken me 2 years to find full time employment when I was 54, I have no illusions about job prospects when I am 62. It is going to be extremely challenging. My layoff has not happened yet, and I am still trying to process everything. I will deal with it when the time comes. Until then it is one day at a time. When I look back through the positives that come out from all the challenges over this past decade, I know that deep down everything will work out okay!
Just like this past decade, where I did not see things coming, I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing 10 years down the road in 2030. I have lost so many friends and acquaintances my age or younger these past few years. With my dad dying of a heart attack at 47, there is always the question looking ahead a years time or in a decades time, “Will I still be alive?” This is always a given. Even though I am not one for resolutions, I know I need to take better care of myself. Even with me running these long distances, I am still actually 10 pounds heavier from 10 years ago. And 10 pounds heavier from the decade before that. In fact I am 40 pounds heavier from when I was a “skinny as a rail” 20 year old. A lot of this has to do with emotional eating when I am stressed and anxious. Something I have struggled with since my dad’s death when I was 15. But it is also that term called “sarcopenia“, where we all lose 1% of muscle mass per year. So with a clean slate in front of me I am going to do my best to bring some of that weight back down. Here is to eating healthier and stepping up my strength and mobility in 2020. Thank you so much for all your support. Through whatever lies ahead, I wish you all the best. Both in 2020, and throughout the next decade.
Has there been something major happen in your life this past decade that you did not see coming?