Evolve.

In less than a month I will no longer be 50 years old. As we cross into my astrological sign, I can’t help but think about the first 50+ years of my life and reflect. I’ve been pensive lately. Am I where I wanted to be in my life?

I received a box of family photos in the mail today. My aunt and uncle, the keepers of the city side family heritage, came across a stack of photos from various decades and felt I should be the next keeper of these snapshots of memories. There’s quite a few that I don’t really remember, though I’m in the photos smiling. Happy times. A “Jetsons” themed t-shirt from 1992. A small red mustache dusted my lip. I’m smiling, standing in the back of the photo, taller than my mom but shorter than my dad. Looking like one with the coloring of the other. There’s no doubt where I came from.

When I was in my mid to late teens I had dreamed of living in a big city, though I didn’t know what big city it would be. My thoughts often gravitated toward London, because from what I had read in books and magazines and the like, London was much more open to ‘different’ folks like me. Plus, I really loved British pop music. In the late 80s and 1990 I spent a few years living in Boston and by 1992 had moved back to Central New York state. In 1992 I thought I had screwed up my opportunity to live in the big city and had kind of resigned myself to living in Central New York. I was happy but I didn’t feel like I was thriving. I was finding my way again.

And here I am 27 years later living in the third largest city in the United States. And Chicago has been very kind to me.

How we evolve.

As I looked at myself in this photo, with the cheesy mustache dusting my lip and the Jetsons dancing on my shirt, I couldn’t help but remember that while I felt a little resigned, I still felt quite happy. It would be five or so years before I got my first cell phone, we were nearly 10 years from the events of 9/11, and the subsequent after math.

People just seemed happier back then. Is it a sign of my age that I look back at the early 90s and think, “ah, the good old days”? I’m not so naive as to think that time was “the good old days”, as I was still attending too many funerals of friends dying of AIDS and honestly I would never dream of holding hands in public with anyone that I was dating at the time. Yet, there I was, smiling and looking genuinely happy with my dad, my mom, and my sister, who looked genuinely happy as well.

Happiness is such a good feeling.

I glance through the news and watch people on the street and read conversations online: Turmoil. Distraction. Addiction. Complication.

At first I thought, I need to find the happiness. But then I thought better of that, I need to bring the happiness. Pick up the mantle. Take the lead. Amass the troops. Be a positive, unstoppable force.

With less than a month of age 50 left in this life, I need to heed my own advice: don’t sweat the small stuff. Herd our evolution in the direction of a better world.

Maintaining Your Sanity Online.

Flipping through Twitter this morning, I found a link entitled “Rules for Maintaining Your Sanity Online”, originally posted by Sean Blanda on “The Discourse”. I’ve highlighted the ones I found particularly compelling.

  • Reward your “enemies” when they agree with you, exhibit good behavior, or come around on an issue. Otherwise they have no incentive to ever meet you halfway.
  • Accept it when people apologize. People should be allowed to work through ideas and opinions online. And that can result in some messy outcomes. Be forgiving.
  • Sometimes people have differing opinions because they considered something you didn’t.
  • Take a second.
  • There’s always more to the story. You probably don’t know the full context of whatever you’re reading or watching.
  • If an online space makes more money the more time you spend on it, use sparingly.
  • Judge people on their actions, not their words. Don’t get outraged over what people said. Get outraged at what they actually do.
  • Try to give people the benefit of the doubt, be charitable in how you read people’s ideas.
  • Don’t treat one bad actor as representative of whatever group or demographic they belong to.
  • Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about.
  • Sometimes, there are bad actors that don’t play by the rules. They should be shunned, castigated, and banned.
  • You don’t always have the moral high ground. You are not always right.
  • Block and mute quickly. Worry about the bubbles that creates later.
  • There but for the grace of God go you.

Inspiration.

This quote from my 1982 high school yearbook has been bouncing around in my brain lately. This was a response from one of the teachers to be included as a caption under her photo. Most of the other teachers wrote things like “knitting” or “filling out sheets like these”, but Mrs. O’Brien wrote this:

While I never had Mrs. O’Brien as a teacher (she taught what was called “Adjustment” or “Special Education”), she was active with the drama club and a couple of other organizations I was involved with. She was the teacher who practically “talked me off the ledge” after an 11th grade Ethics class whereas the class conversation around homosexuality turned, what seemed to me at the time, rather hostile.

I’ve never had the chance to thank her for that pep talk, not even all these years later. But her optimism and her zest for life continues to inspire me.

Evolution.

We went to the Chicago Expo today. It was our second time attending this Art Show; like last year, I found this experience to be quite enjoyable. Actually, enjoyable is probably an understatement. I found several of the exhibits to be powerful.

This photograph probably touched me the most. Taken by photographer Jess T. Dugan, the energy captured in this photograph brought me to tears. Such beauty. Such confidence. Such groundedness.

The story of Momma Gloria moved me.

Society tries so hard to force us into boxes: pre-defined existences that fall in line with the lowest common denominator. You’re either male or female. You act like a man or you act like a woman, and you better be acting the way that’s been defined by the genitals you were born with.

I don’t believe the world was meant to be so narrowly defined. This is so apparent to me. Earl remarked, “are you evolving”? I am.

Health.

I met with my new doctor for my annual physical in January. He had little interest in my health records up to that point, save for my prescription medications. He did his own thing, with blood tests and the like. Since I’m turning 50 years old later this year, I’ve started getting a little more serious about my health. I might as well try to be healthy for the second half of this life.

The physical in January was summed up with a follow-up phone call: cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight were all too high. It was up to me to fix it.

I like this doctor.

Last week I had a three-month follow up appointment. More blood work. My cholesterol is now an excellent number. Blood sugar levels are where they are suppose to be. And while I haven’t been talking about this as I have on similar journeys in the past, I’ve lost 22 pounds since January 31. It’s all about the Weight Watchers and SmartPoints. And walking, lots of walking. I was surprised when my blood pressure clocked in at 115/74.

There are times when I become very frustrated about not whipping through a burger bomb drive thru or when Earl and I used to enjoy “two supper Saturdays” during a Jeep ride, but in the long run if I keep things in check I’ll enjoy the second half of my life as much as I’ve enjoyed the first.

I have my sights on a goal and I intend to reach it. And that goal is to be as healthy as I can for as long as I can.

Wing.

I posted this on Facebook earlier today.

When I introduce myself to other pilots I tend to say, “I’m a third-generation Private Pilot. With the last name ‘Wing’, you kind of have to be.” Some will say, “oh, you’re a pilot like your Dad.” All of this is true, and while my Dad and I never flew together with me in the left seat, I’m sure he would approve of my aviator abilities.

On one hand, we are very similar pilots: Like him, I like smaller airports, I like seeing things fairly low and slow and I share his appreciation of the older GA aircraft that populate the skies. But in other ways we are somewhat opposite in our approach: I think the new technology is cool, I like low-wing (he did not), I like talking to ATC (he avoided towered airports) and while he wanted to build airplanes (and ended up building or rebuilding three of them), I have absolutely no talent nor interest in doing so. I want to continue my aviation path to CFI and maybe beyond, he was happy flying VFR in an open cockpit.

The one thing that is definitely common amongst all three generations of us Wing pilots: we have a big smile from beginning to end of each flight. In the photo of me standing next to the Archer III I’m wearing my Dad’s flight jacket. I wear it once in a while. It makes my smile even a little bit bigger. And I count my blessings for having a spouse that loves to fly with me.

#5SecondRule. 

I watch this TED talk by Mel Robbins on a routine basis. It’s the motivation I need to keep going, keep growing and keep living life. 

Watch this. Grow with me.