Thursday, December 14, 2017

Piss, Vinegar, and Immortality

Today I went to our annual Christmas Luncheon. With “our” I mean that it was our annual get-together of old colleagues from when I started out in the business – that was 1979. To be precise, I became a landed immigrant and started my first geology job on May 10, 1979 right off the plane.  Well not quite that. First, I scoured the streets of Calgary in February 1979 and knocked on the doors of some 80 companies, until finally one company offered me a job as a junior geologist. That was during “the Boom”. It was cold that February with minus 20 degrees Celsius and the winds screaming between the office towers. That was quite a contrast to my native Netherlands where we consider minus 8 extremely cold. Mostly temperatures don’t fall far below freezing and it is always humid – rain not snow. It was rare that we had a white Christmas. 

We were all 25 to 35-year-olds, except for the managers who were anywhere from 40 to 60 years. We were all so exited and barely forgot that we were no longer in High School. We were so passionate and of course, we knew the in-and-outs of this world.  When looking back on the teenage years of my son, which I sarcastically call ‘the dark years’, I realize now that it was not only that the developing brain may be in a somewhat psychotic state. It may also represent the energy and rebelliousness of reaching and becoming a young adult who is eager to start his or her life as an adult. Parents and other old people better don’t stand in their way.
That is how we and every generation there-after and before always was. We certainly were like that, as young members of the oil patch and when the old managers were ‘retired’ we hopped as little school kids across the office floors because it was our turn now. This eagerness to act and live, that ‘piss and vinegar’ disappeared over the years. We mellowed and when I saw my old ‘piss and vinegar’ peers again, now far in their sixties, I saw all grey and tired smiles. Some couldn’t wait to retire but others are putting up a bit off a fight.  ” In the first year of my retirement I missed the action, I wanted to get up at 6am, have my morning coffee at 7 and be downtown at 8am. But why bother? There is nothing for me to do. So the rest of the day is spend in boredom.” “I still had so much energy but that disappeared after a year of two of retirement and now I finish my breakfast around 10am.”
Myself, I seemed to be out of place. Yes, I am 65 but… I am far from grey; last year I restarted my consulting company. This year I am proudly building a new house on a lot where my previous residence of 35 years was bulldozed over. And there may be a day that the industry considers me too old for a consulting geologist, but I won’t go peacefully! Heck, maybe I’ll start a career as house builder in my 70s. Maybe I will fill a seat on a board of directors – most senior managers are idiots in my books. I like to think there is enough piss and vinegar left for me to work another 20 or 30 years and that combined with a lot of experience may make me quite valuable to have around. My last employer kept me on until only 4 geologists out of an initial 60 plus were laid-off and until I ‘encouraged’ senior management to lay me off by placing a provoking posting on Linked-In.
But really, what really did hit home to me at the Xmas reunion was that if our lives last longer, if we aspire to become ‘immortal’ and technically we may not be that far off, we also need to have a different attitude about life. We must retain our ‘piss and vinegar’ because I do fear nothing as much as living out those last 40 or 50 or… 70 years as a vegetable. When I saw that old crowd, including the occasion walker and remembering colleagues that passed on over the years, I realized that there was no piss and vinegar left… or at least not a lot.
We can all worry about beating heart disease or diabetes or a bad leg. But if there is no life energy left, the old cooks will be gone soon anyways. That would be sad!  And how would I take it when all my old friends and colleagues fall by the wayside until only I at the young age of 114 still stands?
Can I really handle being a geologist for another 40 years? What else is there to do in life? Not much when you’re bound to a walker or wheelchair! We can keep on spending money on medicine and pharmaceuticals; it wouldn’t matter except for the pharma stocks and industry unless we find back that life energy; our piss and vinegar because otherwise we would be better off being dead.  It is not only medical prowess; that wouldn’t do much unless we have the mental attitudes to make that extended life worth living.

No comments:

Post a Comment