Back in February, I started blogging. My intent was to write about business, life and writing — 30 posts later, I’ve managed but one post on life (Lessons from 9-Year-Olds), and one on writing (Branding the Aspiring Novelist). Today’s musing is about life, and it is personal — a reflection of a special time and a special place. A few months have passed since my 65th birthday. I feel different. Rather than looking ahead, I’m glancing over my shoulder into the past…feeling a little melancholic and wondering where all those years have gone. Last year, in preparation for her wedding, my daughter asked for some childhood pictures from the zillions stored in boxes and photo albums. Going through those archives, I rediscovered my kids’ baby years, their birthday parties, sports teams, class pics, and celebrations with friends and family. There were so many that I was faced with the massive task of editing these glossy mementos. The picture I’ve included happens to be one of my favorites — it would be even better if my wife was in the shot, but in those days one of us was required to snap the photo to immortalize the moment.
So what is it about this 1984 photo that warms my heart and soothes my soul? I was 38 at the time; the little girl on my right is now 36. Her younger brother is wearing a blazer and a tie for the first time; he is proud of his new apparel, although the look on his face doesn’t support the premise. This was the day the Bell family went to the theatre to watch Yul Brynner perform in The King and I. The occasion was special; the following morning, my wife and kids would say goodbye to Daddy. I was heading to the other side of the country for five intensive weeks of executive study at the Ivey School of Business.
Those weeks at Ivey helped change my life. I returned fit in body and mind, and ready to tackle every new challenge and opportunity. I didn’t know it, but I was on the way to a midlife crisis. Superficially, the crisis that began two years later was benign; I avoided the flashy new Porsche and the younger woman, both expensive coping mechanisms. I became a running man. First it was a neighborhood 10K race — then a half marathon and finally the big kahuna, the 26K. So I could run at lunch, I began using the shower my predecessor had installed in the C-suite. From 170 pounds, my weight plummeted to 140. People peered at my drawn and haggard face with grave perplexity. A few said what was on their minds. Was John Bell seriously ill?
“Course not,” I said. “Never felt better in my life.” They saw a withered young man. But when I looked in the mirror, the person I saw was Superman. Running became a two-year addiction. Lucky for me, I kicked the habit after my second marathon which qualified me for Boston, and I moved on to a life-long relationship with tennis. Take it from me — don’t wait until you are 65 to cherish the memories. Revisit the joys of your life every day, but keep looking ahead. Hmm…I’d better take my own advice. The content of this blog was just the therapy I needed for that melancholic lapse. Already, I’m back on track in a new footrace to the future.