This morning, before I had even begun to drink coffee, I wobbled downstairs to find my wife sitting at her desktop doing some research. Next to her were a few reprints of our wedding photos she had recently made in preparation for Christmas. I glanced down and almost cringed at the half-as-old me grinning back. I was thin, too thin, like a stick. Glasses. Geek.
Many years have passed since then; nearly half my life to date. I’m still a geek, but I’m a lot older, greyer. No more glasses. Some would say I’m more distinguished. They would be wrong. My hair is thinning; my waist line isn’t. My muscles have opinions about the sort of mattress I sleep on and express these opinions well. My joints are holding out, at least so far, but I have noticed a curious inability to think as clearly and with as much focus as I did 20 years ago. I’m certainly much more wise now versus then; smarter too if you measure in terms of raw knowledge and data. I can learn things faster, being that I can leverage a history of previous similar learning experiences. But I feel (unscientifically) that I’m slowly slipping as an intellectual.
I’m getting old, which I’ve noticed for many is an uncomfortable thought. Some seem to want to try to hide this inevitable fact of life: that given enough life, you eventually start to wane. Some seem to fear the implications of getting old, the implication of the end coming closer. Some buy fancy sports cars or party like they’re still in their 20s. Others try to fight the visible signs of aging by dying their hair.
When it comes to the outward, visible signs of aging, I just don’t care. I’ve got more grey in my hair than not grey at this point. I could dye it, but I just don’t care. Maybe it’s because for the first half of my adult life, people thought I was 10+ years younger than I really was, and so now the grey supports the fact that I’m not in college anymore. Regardless, I just don’t care about hiding the natural waning of my physical body.
I do, however, care deeply about the waning of my mind. It annoys me greatly that I feel I can’t think as sharply as I did in college. I exercise physically only for the benefit of retarding my mental retardation. I exercise mentally too, memorizing, trying to work out complex concepts in my head as much as I can before going to paper.
There’s this great little tool called Anki I use to help with memorization. It’s free. It runs on my desktop, phone, tablet, whatever; and the data syncs automatically between all devices. I’ve been using Anki to build up a series of mnemonic decides. I have a loci system pretty much solid at this point. I’ve already got the major system and a peg system down cold.
I’ve also taken up the “Seinfeld calendar method” to ensure that every day I spend at least a few minutes on some key objectives: practicing with Anki, physical exercise, reading the Bible, prayer, making a code commit to some self-learning project. I also have a couple Seinfeld calendars for work-related daily objectives like business development for Golden Guru.
So does this all help? Not sure. But it’s fun. And unlike artificially coloring my hair or buying a Ferrari, expanding my mind means I’m more effective at what really matters in life: beating my son at Chess, Risk, and Monopoly when he’s in college.