About Getting Older

Inspired by a colleague’s request to write about birthdays, I came up with a few thoughts. Here I am in my 60s, and not quite sure what it means—but not worried about it.

Supposedly I’m old—but I don’t feel old. Of course, it helps that I seem to still be mentally intact and involved, can still look after myself, and continue to be able to do the work I love. I think it also helps that I have a marvelous network of long-time friends who keep me feeling young. I think that is because we keep our wacky childhood and high school memories so fresh by staying close and seeing, or at least communicating with, each other fairly often.

Even if I did feel old, why would that be a bad thing? I’ve survived more than just the passing of the years. I survived a wide range of crises over those years, and that’s something to be proud of. It’s why I don’t let myself be pressured into coloring my hair when I go to the salon for haircuts (well, other than a splash of purple!): I earned every gray or white hair and see no need to cover them up.

I know how I got here: born, raised, lived; still living. That’s a good thing. As my mom used to say whenever someone complained about the infelicities and challenges of increasing age, “Consider the alternative.”

Some aspects of all these birthdays are a nuisance—my knees and hips have started to creak a bit and make it difficult to get up from a chair or the bed, and to negotiate stairs, but . . . consider the alternative.

Getting older does mean dealing with loss. Both of my parents have died, and I miss them constantly, but . . . I had my dad in my life for more than 40 years and my mom for 60; that’s a lot longer than many friends can claim, and those were all wonderful, loving, supportive, fun years—also more and better than many people experience. And it’s natural for parents to go before their children. When life takes the opposite direction, it’s unimaginable.

My beloved husband, who was 12 years older than me, died last year and I miss him every moment of every day, but . . . we had 30 delightful years together, which is—again—more than many people get from their relationships and marriages. He was a tough guy (a retired steelworker; my man of steel!) who accepted the limits of aging with surprising grace; rather than complain (“Consider the alternative!”) or give up. He focused on what he still could do. His attitude toward birthdays, aging, and increasing fragility was admirable: “I can’t do what I used to, but I’ll find a way to do as much as possible. If I can’t walk on my own, I’ll use a walker so I can still get around and go places. If I can’t carry all my cameras, lenses, and gear, I’ll switch to digital. If I have health issues, I’ll reconfigure my favorite recipes so I can still enjoy some of the things I love to eat. . . .”

Being “old” has its advantages. I qualify for Medicare, so I save a bundle on medical insurance, and can start getting my Social Security benefits whenever I’m ready to stop working (if that ever happens; I do find retirement hard to envision, but that’s because I enjoy what I do, and not—mainly thanks to my financial genius of a mom—because I have to keep working). And I get a kick out of senior discounts, even though I don’t see myself as “senior.” My recollection, although my brothers disagree, is that my dad loved using his 60-plus discounts; he said he deserved them, and I concur.

I see every birthday as a type of new year, so I have more than January 1 as a moment to reflect, refresh, and sometimes revamp. A birthday is an opportunity to celebrate still being here and to think about what new things I might do to stay as sharp, engaged, and active as possible, both physically and mentally; socially and professionally; intellectually and maybe even emotionally. This year, I decided that my birthday presents to myself would to be more creative and expand my interests beyond activities related to my work life. I’ve started playing around with painting and glasswork—neither of which I do very well (yet), but who knows where these might go!—and am looking into going back to a long-ago hobby of ceramics.

These projects are birthday gifts to myself that I think will take me into increasing age with increasing creativity and continuing mental and physical agility, a sense of joy and achievement, and appreciation for survival on many levels. They are my ways of fulfilling the concept of “I’m not (just) getting older; I’m getting better.” I am trying to embrace getting older and having more birthdays. After all, “consider the alternative.”

Here’s to happy birthdays for all of us, and graceful, grateful perspectives on getting older!

 

Ruth Thaler-Carter has been a full-time freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and desktop publisher for more than 30 years. She has been published locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally in, and does editing and proofreading for, publications, websites, service firms, and businesses. She sold her first freelance articles when she was still in high school. Renowned as a skilled networker, Ruth is a newsletter editor, publication author, speaker/presenter, blogger, program host or planner, and chapter leader. In 2006, Ruth launched the Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® annual conference to help aspiring and established freelancers find greater success and connections with colleagues. Ruth received the Philip M. Stern Award of Washington (DC) Independent Writers for service to freelancers; the Writers and Books Big Pencil Award for teaching adults and contributions to the literary community; EFfie awards for writing, editing, and newsletters; and the APEX award for feature writing. Ruth was also the IABC/DC Communicator of the Year.

 

Information Peddlers Are Making Millions, But What of the Writer?

Although book publishing may feel it needs a bailout, there is good news about the business of information and entertainment.

According to a Wall Street Journal article of May 9, 2011, six of the 12 most compensated CEOs in the nation come from companies involved in creating or distributing intellectual content, namely television stations, cable companies, and satellite TV, and a movie house. Here’s a look at the compensation for 2010’s elite:

  • 1 – Viacom CEO Philippe Davman $84,328 million
  • 3 – CBS CEO Les Moonves $53,881 million
  • 5 – Direct TV CEO Michael White $32.635 million
  • 8 – Disney CEO Robert Iger $27.219 million
  • 10 – Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes $26,012 million
  • 12 – Comcast CEO Brian Roberts $24,950 million

Is this a sign that one can still make money with information? I didn’t see any magazine or book publishing CEOs on the list of the top 20, but maybe that’s more of a reflection of how the industry pays its top hat rather than as an indication of the industry’s health. Not sure.

But the bigger question arises: Can the creators of content make good money, however you define “good money”? How many bloggers are making money? What do journalists get paid? Are most authors making money? There are companies getting rich off of content, through private stock sales and advertising such as Facebook, but the writers of its content are you and me and we work for free.

There are companies that peddle content, such as Amazon, and they are doing well. There are search engines that organize existing content that they don’t pay for, like Google, and they are making billions of dollars. But what about the individual who writes well, does original research, and performs at a high level in the crafting of ideas and sharing of information? Is he or she making enough to earn a decent living?

The New York Daily News reported on a branding study issued by a marketing firm, Millward Brown. They identified the top 10 brand values. Not surprisingly, six in 10 top brands are technology and telecom companies. That’s where the money is at. Just look at Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, AT&T, and China Mobile. They produce gadgets, move information, or provide a service for users to create and transport information.

Maybe instead of blogging, writers should just invest in the stocks of the information-peddling companies. It may be the best way to earn money off of information, since the creation of information doesn’t seem as valued.

 

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer of Planned Television Arts (rebranded as Media Connect), the nation’s largest and oldest book promotions firm. Brian has worked in the promoting industry since 1989 and has worked with clients of varied professions such as magician David Copperfield and best-selling author Og Mandino.