Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Young Blood

"Who is going to take care of us?!"

My friend, Thomas, exclaimed this several months ago over a happy hour before karaoke. He said it half jokingly, but there was more than an element of cutting sincerity buried in the sentiment.

Thomas and I met 18 years ago when I was interning at what would be my first employer after college. He was a green news producer with a wee bit more newsroom experience under his belt. We had no idea we'd become such good friends over the years, celebrating weddings and births together, and later major career successes. Thomas and I even turned toward each other in a moment of deep grief a couple years ago, finding comfort in bonds that were cemented over bleats of a police scanner and cans of cheap Busch beer.

With some friendships, time can ebb and flow, but the connections remain as true and vibrant as they were in the good ol' days.

Today, we both have good jobs that belie our newsroom roots. Every so often we carve out some time to catch up, celebrate, and reminisce about a life that seems a world away.

During this months-ago happy hour, our conversation took a very nuanced tone. Most of the time we spin yarns about remember whens and whatever happened to so-and-so. We chuckle over tales about when we were young and poor and sometimes dumb asses.

But this time, we deeply measured what lies ahead for us over these next 40 or 50 years, and worried about how we singletons without children would make it through the rough times. Rough times come occasionally, measured with obituaries or doctor visits. But other times, they're counted in holidays without plans or celebratory occasions that pass with little fanfare.

Thomas and I both have strong social networks and great friends, but we wondered - who will come visit us on Christmas Day in the Old Folks Home when we're old and don't have children? Whose pictures will we hang on the refrigerator door?

He teased we needed to make friends with younger people - millennials who are 10 or more years our junior - so that we could at least count on cocktails with those younger, spry people in our golden years.

Most people have children for other reasons - the pride of raising a family, the love of seeing your genes in the next generation; crossing over to 40 has made me fiercely aware of the situation of elder care and the benefits of having kids.

This is the kind of thing I worry about - not whether my kid will get into a good college, or if my spouse will be healthy in our twilight years. I worry about how the choices I've made in my 20s and 30s will affect me in my 70s and 80s.

I have a dear friend with three sons. I believe those kids will come visit me when I'm in a nursing home, if for no other reason than to get a good story or two about their dad, who passed away in their youth. My niece and nephew might come visit, especially if they remain the beneficiaries of my assets.

My friends without children - we've talked before about how we're going to have to retire together to take care of each other. Aside from the benefits of communal living (nightly dinners together, activities like crafts and Cocktails 101), we'll be able to enhance our golden years by chipping in for an in-house masseuse, a pool boy, and maid/cook.

Okay, so maybe I won't have as many crayon-scrawled Picassos in my kitchen. But if Plan B allows me the jack to cover a maid and cook who will have homemade guacamole and a vodka martini ready for me at 4 pm, I think I'll make it just fine.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Slam Click

Being "on" all the time can suck the life out of you.

I am a textbook introvert; I have the capacity to be the life of the party, the wild one everyone wants to talk to. But after hours of giving up my best stuff - my passion, my self-deprecation, my ferocious joie de vivre - I relegate myself to a confined space with a good book or my Netflix feed.

Unless you are an introvert, there is a strong chance you misunderstand the concept. We are not anti-social. In some cases, we can be even more gregarious than those extroverts you know. Julia Roberts, Amy Schumer, and Tom Hanks are all introverts. Robin Williams was an introvert. This breed of people is not afraid of the stage or limelight. Introverts make excellent public speakers because they have a penchant for rehearsing and over-rehearsing their role, their lines, their script.

We plan. A lot.

Because, like the dying charge on an iPhone with a ravenous operating system, we need to know when we are going to be able to plug in for some downtime.

Where extroverts get their energy by being around others, charging up on conversations about new ideas or fun stories, introverts are the people who give up that energy to the crowd and have to go back home to revive their battery life.

As part of my introversion kink, I really need to think about whether I have the capacity to spend time with strangers.

The art of conversation with strangers is especially draining for me; I struggle with making idle chit chat with people I've never met.

I know this is a tricky proposition; strangers become lovers and best friends if you give them a chance and let them in.

A couple nights ago, my friends geared up to meet some people who live across from our vacation villa in Puerto Vallarta. The day had been a long one involving a trek to a rustic ocean side restaurant with a secluded beach. We dined on octopus and plantains and delicious herbal margaritas. A couple of us made an adventurous swim to an offshore floating island complete with a hammock and palm tree. The climb onto the float left me bruised and bloodied, and I was exhausted after a long day of sipping margaritas and cervezas.

(Ed note: I admit the above paragraph reads like obnoxious whining about First World problems. And that's exactly what it is.)

The entire day was full of sensory overload, and it sucked my energy dry. The last thing I wanted to do was make nice and play Cards Against Humanity with a bunch of people I'd never see again.

But I felt like an asshole. I was the only one in the group who didn't want to go. Rather than hit the wall and completely shut down in front of a crowd, I decided to stay behind with my book, some smokes, and a couple Tecates.

Ultimately, it was the best thing for everyone involved because by the time I reunited with the group I felt recharged and ready to happily reengage.

Years ago an old friend who worked for Delta Air Lines told me about the Slam-Click. This is a term flight attendants use for the occasions when they need to disengage and recharge after a day of serving others salty peanuts and flimsy plastic cups of Diet Coke.

Slam-Click is when you go to your hotel room, slam the door, and click the lock shut. Every flight attendant has had to slam-click at one time or another. It's a tactic that should no doubt be embraced far beyond the airline industry.

Everyone needs to pull back on occasion.

We all need to withdraw to the toys in our attic, think about things that are important, and how we can carry on to the next moment.

Here's to recharging and saving up the energy for the next great occasion.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

40 Is The New Fabulous

Life is full of a series of coincidences.

Today marks my 40th birthday, and for the occasion I chose to enjoy a four-handed tantric massage. The masseuses mentioned the massage style was called Shiva's Dance, in honor of the Hindu god.

I learned about Shiva when I went to India five years ago, and he has become one of my favorite spiritual symbols.

Shiva is both a symbol of destruction and rebirth, a philosophy I've held to dearly  in the years since that trip. Change - whether planned or unexpected - can transform us in ways we can never anticipate.

In many ways, that trip to India was a dramatic catalyst for change within me. It was after that trip that I took up running; I've since run nine half marathons. I've grown professionally, personally, financially. I've formed new relationships with people who inspire me and push me to grow. 

I grew up quite a bit.

The 30s have been wonderful to me, and I'm excited about transitioning to this new decade. Right up to the very end, my 30s served up many beautiful surprises - and I can't wait to see what lies ahead in the next ten years.

Whatever they may include, I am certain the next ten years will be fabulous.

Agra, India - May 2011         /       Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - December 2016

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katycrossen.com by Katy Crossen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.