I’ve been struck by lightning three times in my life. Well, not literally, but that’s how I know I’ve found my passion. It hits me like a lightning bolt.
The first time it happened, I was 10. When I strapped on a football helmet and stuck my fingers in the dirt to play for the very first time, I knew there was no other sport I’d rather play. I can still vividly remember my first practice, as a kid being nervous and unsure of myself, but also the joy I felt when I got to play. I played other sports of course but none with the love, dedication and obsession I had for football. I played until I couldn’t play any longer and then coached until I couldn’t coach any longer.
Then, when I was 20, the lightning bolt struck again. A friend asked if I wanted to meet a nice blonde. I was 20 and unattached, so, I was like, “Who wouldn’t want to meet a nice blonde?” Our arranged meeting was at a Little League baseball game. (Of course it had to be a sporting event) I was sitting in the stands when I saw her walk into the complex and knew it was over for me. We’ve been married for 45 years and my passion for her and our family still consumes me.
And then, at 64, I sat on a rowing machine. When I grabbed that handle and pushed for the first time, I felt the lightning bolt hit again.
I never expected rowing to become my passion. I certainly never expected to find a new passion at 64. But you don’t really find passion, do you? It finds you. It finds you through experience. Maybe the first time you pick up an artist’s brush, or touch the keys of a piano, or lace up your shoes and start to run. Passion runs through your body like electricity. And it doesn’t care how old you are.
Old Man Thinking
I never envisioned rowing in retirement. When I was still working, I envisioned escaping the stress and daily grind of working. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working, loved my profession, proud of my accomplishments but, I was ready for it to be finished. As I started nearing retirement age my thoughts usually went to less strenuous activities like reading (I love to read) and long walks with my wife, vacation trips, and traveling to see our family who are spread around the country. And we do all those things and we enjoy them but, there’s just nothing passionate about them. (Yes, of course I am passionate about my family. I’m just not passionate about the process it takes to go see them! Hahaha!) These activities are also things that, as a younger person, you think senior citizens should be doing. “Take it nice and slow ol’ man, nothing strenuous, don’t hurt yourself.” You know, like an old decrepit person. There’s only one problem. In my brain, I’m still 17! (There are many times when my wife will tell me that I am way more juvenile than that!) And when I did retire, I found myself floundering.
Floundering Through My Retirement
There were times, usually when I was waking up with my morning coffee, I would sit and think “What the hell happened to my life?” “How did all these years go by so fast?” But time works like that, doesn’t it? Remember being a kid in school and thinking that summer vacation was never going to get there? And then when summer was over, you think “Wow, that went fast!” And that’s how it’s been with my life. I can remember being in my early twenties, just starting my family and my career and thinking how far away retirement was. It seemed like it would be F O R E V E R. When you are in the middle of the race, the finish line seems so very far away.
And then, BOOM, it’s over.
Lickety-split, the kids are grown, out of the house, graduated, married with kids and careers of their own, my career comes to a close. Next thing you know, I wind up sitting at the kitchen table staring at The Warden (yes, she knows I call her The Warden) wondering “What the hell just happened!?” And to make things worse, I had no plan. I floundered. Got lazy. The Warden told me I needed a hobby. So I tried lots of things: drawing, cooking (I do like to cook), wood carving, gardening (need to kill a plant? Call me!) Nothing stuck. Until I sat on that rower and the lightning struck again.
The physical benefits that result from rowing are proven. But, it’s the process that is the passion. It’s the connection with the machine. And not just the simple physical connection (hands, feet, butt) but the mental connection. Feeling the rhythm of the movement between me and the machine, the WHOOSH of air or water with each stroke, and the movement of the seat beneath me. The synchrony of rowing becomes almost an emotional experience for me. When I’m finished, physically spent, dripping with sweat, it’s a feeling of euphoria.
I’m thankful I found rowing and discovered my passion at 64. It’s something I look forward to every day. And we all need something to look forward to. Something that charges our batteries, gives us joy, and feels rewarding and fulfilling. If you haven’t found your passion, why not try rowing, maybe the lightning will strike you, too.