Thursday, December 29, 2011

20- 25 years, max…

Lately, folks around me have either been dying, dropping out or retiring. Yes, I know almost everyone living looks in a mirror and sees the young person they were or indeed they are. For the moment. After a day of throwing boxes in retail, my knees tell me what my mirror won’t: You don’t have that much time. And that goes for all of us.

I have seen some ridiculous things this year. Folks who got the boot who not only showed up for work, but who also stayed after the lights went out in the office. And other folks, who by merely being in the right place at the right time, caught the big fish. There is no pattern of reason – sometimes it just gets down to luck. But in the time department – time, the great leveler – luck has no chance. Whether it is a big-face watch that costs $5,000 or a $50 Timex, the clock, she keeps on ticking.

Let’s say you are in your early 30’s. You have a good job or a position in a company somewhere that allows you to think you’re in a good place. Let’s talk about the wine business, and let’s drill down to the Italian wine business. You travel, stay in places like New York, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Berlin. It all seems so important, balancing the travel and the business with the stuff you have at home. Maybe you live in the Tuscan countryside by the winery. Maybe you live near Alba. Maybe Palermo. And when you are out “in the world” you are making a difference, moving Italian wine forward. Maybe you allow yourself the indulgence to feel powerful, important. You are a game changer, a force of nature. You are young, with all of life handed to you on an enormous buffet plate. It’s all there; all you have to do is show up, wearing the nice clothes, whether it’s the snazzy suit or the shabby but chic jeans. You’re Italian, and Italians are known for this kind of thing. You come from a great country with a great heritage and a history and a mission and a purpose, and you are in the stream and you are fishing for your fortune and fame and you catch a fish every now and then, and life feels just bloody wonderful. Yes?


And you do this for several years. And then. Something. Happens.

You might have passed 40. Maybe you have gotten married and had a family. Maybe you are juggling all you had with this new course. Maybe you didn’t have time to get married. Regardless, life keeps flowing. Moving you forward. Or so it seems.

Have you looked at a newly born baby lately? Their little eyes, shut. They spend nine months safely swaddled in serenity. All they hear is the murmurs and the shuffles of the life express outside their berth. And then the moment comes, all hell breaks loose inside, and it’s time to go outside for the rest of their life. And swoosh, just like that, there they are. It all seems so odd, we being hatched like that. Oh, don’t get me wrong; it is one of the most amazing moments I have ever witnessed. But still, a little unusual, considering.

Considering that, as little as 20-30 years later, that little person might be shuffling along the street somewhere trying to sell Chianti or Prosecco. I don’t know, maybe it just feels odd to me, looking at it from the perspective in time I have.

The thing that always used to bug me about old people was they were always talking about the past. Like it was still alive to them. But they couldn’t remember something we had done 10 minutes ago. 25 years ago, that was even more resonant. Now, I begin to understand what those old folks were doing. Not that that I will agree with them or it and relent. I’m moving forward. Or so it seems.

A young blogger scolded me the other day. Seems in my zeal to illustrate a pattern and a progression, it came off as a “lecture.” Meg Houston Maker wrote a wonderful piece on her site, called Advice to Young Professionals. She is talking to the journalism crowd (what some young bloggers like to think they are). One of her points: Don’t assume you already know everything you need to be successful. Worth a read, whether you are 25 or 65. If you don’t believe me, read someone younger, like Meg. Or wait for the baseball bat in the face as you round that corner of confidence you thought you had nailed. Life is like that. Relentlessly waiting to toss a pie in your face.

Yeah I know, it sounds like I’m all maudlin and stuff. I just threw 100 cases and then ran 3 miles. And it’s the holiday season. I might be a bit fatigued.

What I really am is perplexed, in a good way, about the way life works.

What I realized last night, in the dark, with a sliver of moon overhead to light the way, is that if you are fortunate with health you have 20, 25 years max to run it hard. And then, you have to get out of the way. But before you do that, you give it all you have, don’t expect much in return (remember the “luck” factor), and hope you make it to a place where the rest of the ride still means something.

What you might want to avoid is being the chap who had all the luck, did all the wrong things, except one, and got the big reward at the end, at 65. Only to die three years later, depressed, sad, alone, without a purpose. Thinking it had been because he was such a brilliant force. When all it was, really, was dumb luck.


Good luck.




14 comments:

Wine Curmudgeon said...

Complaining because something you wrote sounded like a lecture, eh? They should be lucky you care enough to offer advice, regardless of the form they think it comes in.

Anonymous said...

"Ask the young. They know everything." - Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)

From Your Mindseye said...

Alfonso, it sounds like the Scalora sense of impending doom has become part of your psyche. I choose not to put a number on the time I have left , but instead make the most of every minute of every day. Granted, there are citcustances that sometimes make that difficult. But , for me, it is better than to waste the precious time I have left thinking about when it will be over. Since I am only seven years away from your time table, I'm going to keep thinking my way. This is NOT a lecture, just some sound advice from your big Sis. What you throw out there in the universe has a tendency to come back to you. Throw out longevity, it certainly is in our heritage.

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks, big sister...

Hank said...

Ha! At this point, I look in the mirror and see my father.

Anonymous said...

And today I have heard my daughter talk about her aging grandparents on her father's side who fear death and don't know how to deal with their infirmities. I love this post because it calls all of us to examine aging, what constitutes a good life and to at least think about what we will do when our bodies no longer work as we wish they would. Dear quasi-sis-in-law, the fact that Alfonso is on the streets and running just about no matter what (cold, nasty weather) suggests that he also has a strong, pro-active, "I wnat to live" streak.

Thomas said...

A story:

After radiation for prostate cancer, I was subjected to Lupron injections every three months--supposedly for 2 years. Hate the immediate side effects, and the potential long-term ones, too.

I made noises to stop the shots at 1 year. My urologist decided it was time to apply that idiotic posture that physicians take, the one where they are the authority and the patient is putty.

He berated me for not taking the cancer serious. He reminded me that "You are fighting for your life."

I replied, "Hold on there. I take this situation quite serious, but I happen to have a different perspective than yours. You are fighting for my life; I live mine, day to day. If I were to awaken each morning in combat mode, I'd likely die a lot sooner than Lupron can prevent from happening."

At 66, I understand your perspective Alfonso, and I am in agreement--mostly.

Meg Houston Maker said...

Alfonso, thanks for this rumination, and for the impassioned reminder to make choices based on what we truly value rather than what we perceive to be valuable.

Professions have a tendency to set their own terms—you may be considered by others as a success in the wine business if you get to do that stint as a well-groomed, globe-trotting champion of your region's wines. But it's not others' view of you that makes you a success, and it's not the professional activities per se that are valuable. Rather, your professional success lies in your advocacy of regionality, connection, community, communication, and sharing that underlies your impetus to succeed. This is your work's moral tether, and I'd hope it doesn't weaken as we age. If anything, I'd hope it strengthens.

Thanks also for reading and referencing my recent article, "Advice to Young Professionals." I don't know who the young blogger was who felt scolded, but I've found that I need to use velvet gloves in handing a message to those twenty to twenty-five years my junior (I just turned 46). Many I've worked with seem unaccustomed to being given—or taking—advice.

Cheers,
Meg

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Meg...

you always make so much sense. I really appreciate your comment and your invaluable contribution to meaningful dialogue in the blogosphere

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Thomas

I also am grateful for your contribution on these pages and in general. You have a mind, you think and you are not afraid to speak your mind. And you are a damn good writer.

Happy New year, amico!

Marco Pergusa said...

Hey, we are half Sicilian and that archetypal Demeter-Persephone drama supposedly happened near Enna, non? So it's a natural in the psychic Sicilian zuppa. Stay well and keep on writing from where it matters. Thanks for your fingers on the keys and on the shutter button.

CharlieCA said...

Just a quick note from someone who found your site earlier this year and has spent much time reading many posts from your archives, that I really enjoyed this post and concur 1000% with its advice. Grazie and happy New Year!

Avvinare said...

Buon anno ac. I don't think your post was a lecture or maudlin but a reflection on life and meaningful as well. Thank you. I appreciate your humility and rumination on your blog rather than a lot of the pompous writing we see in our little Italian wine world frankly. You write about life in a larger context, not just about the ins and outs of your own menage.keep it coming....

Avvinare said...

Alfonso,
Buon anno. I thought this was a meaningful appropriate post especially at this time of year. I'm glad you share your reflections on life, death and what it all means. I'm sorry that some, albeit few, people can't appreciate the gift that this is. I prefer it to the pompous self aggrandizing nature of some blogs in our little Italian wine world. Reflecting on the passage of time is human and necessary especially if it serves merely to remind one to appreciate everything. I understand what your sister is saying about the universe and I agree but I don't see this as a negative post merely a conscious one. A presto caro Ac.

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