2013: My Year of Living Nostalgically (Yes, You Can Go Home Again)

Turning 60 is a b*tch. All of a sudden it seems as if your whole life is behind you, as if you’ve accomplished all you ever will, as if the good times are really over for good… or so I hear. I have no idea what those people are talking about. Myself, I’m still having growing pains. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. I don’t even know where I’ll be this time next year. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be any other way. Oh, wait, yes, I remember now.

I tried it that way once, or twice, with the 9-to-5 job and the white picket fence (actually it was yellow). That lasted a year or two. I was pretty miserable, pretending to be Steve Jobs’s brother Mr. S. Teddy Jobs, nom de guerre Mr. Biz Niz, with ten bank accounts and a Macy’s credit card, late-model car and runner-up trophy wife. Naah… I just made most of that up, but the concept is mostly true if not totally accurate.

If 55 is the new gap year, then 60 is the time to get serious… about nothing, that is, or nothingness, I should say. If the first part of a youngster’s life is to be spent in studies and discipline, and the second to be spent in creation, procreation, and recreation, then the third should be spent in reflection, and the synthesis of opposites, the reconciliation of previous theses and antitheses.

And for us travelers, this is the time for time-travel, something that younger adventurers can find only in science fiction and fantasy novels. The longer you live, the easier it is to find—in memory. But maybe best is to mix the two—time and space. As the big 6-0 creeps closer, I find myself going out of my way to re-live certain chapters of my life, revisiting old friends and old flames, just to see how they’ve changed and how I’ve changed, and whether there’s still anything left behind undone and/or yet to do. And I guess I want to make sure everyone’s okay.

FaceBook is not a bad place to start for this, of course. The results can be startling, not surprisingly. Sometimes the people are barely recognizable. Other times it’s like no time has transpired at all. I’ve done this several times in the past year or two, making major trips and detours to accomplish it. But one of the most interesting of my time-travels has been underway for the last few weeks in Thailand, a place where I once lived for many years, eight to ten, depending on how you count.

The phrase, “you can’t go home again,” is usually taken to mean that the worldly big-city guy can’t go back to his provincial small town. He’s outgrown all that. But for me, it means something different. Heraclitus said it best: “You can’t step in the same river twice, because it’s not the same river, and you’re not the same person…” or something like that. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, though.

‘Home’ may not be the same place you left, but the same thing that kept you there in the first place, just might suck you in again. What have you got to lose, after all? If nothing else, at least once you’ve got that out of the way, then you can move on, knowing that the past is buttoned up tightly and put in its proper place. I only pity those folks who never really had a ‘home’ to begin with.

The future is infinite possibility, always room for one more equation on an empty page. Now which countries are left on my list of places to travel? How many books do I have left to write? How many hearts do I have left to break? How many ways are there to break it (them)? I can think of quite a few, actually. This should be interesting. The Big 6-0 is no big deal. The Big 8-0? Now that’ll be a big deal, if… when… you know…

I’ve long figured that I’d write the final chapter of my life’s book at a Buddhist monastery somewhere pleasant (and not too hot, please), under a vow of poverty, if not silence. That’s the endgame. Next stop: India. I can’t believe I’ve traveled almost forty years to almost 150 countries and never been there. It’s time. The past is over. Everything’s different now. Happy New Year!