By Eric Jackson
EJ at 49- photo taken by Greg with Old time camera- silver plates
Aging is inevitable, and seeing your next birthday is a goal for all but those who no longer want to live. What is the point of seeing another birthday unless you have things you want to do between now and then, anyhow? There is something to be said for what you have already done, of course, as it is the foundation for who you are in many ways. Being able to look back and reminisce about moments, achievements, relationships, etc.. is more meaningful the longer you have been alive, I think. There was a time when my goals were to be a world champion, and a millionaire before I was 30. I didn’t reminisce about too much then, as I really was so focused on the future. Having kids was a big part of the process for me of enjoying the past as much as the prospect of the future. Remembering times spent with them, special moments, a birthday, Christmas, a fun day outside, etc.. became more meaningful each year they grew and each year older I became.
At 50, I am still 30 years younger than my dad, which is quite a lot. He has stories about being a Green Baret that extend before I was born… there is a lot of living he has done, that I have yet to do. I also know people who are much older than I am, but have not really lived as much as I imagine they wanted to, who have whittled away their time being “comfortably numb.” I believe that “creature comforts”, such as all of the things that make your house more fun to stay in, and make you not want to leave it, TV, music, climate control, passive games, etc.. are all lures that try to subdue you and keep you from living. I do believe that used moderately as a “downtime, rest time” way to recharge they can be great ways to connect with family over the short run. however, many people get stuck in that rut and that becomes their goal, their lives; to be comfortable. Nobody every achieved a single meaningful goal while comfortable, that I know of. Physical goals require exertion, and even business/work goals require hard work and interactions that go well beyond comfort zones if you want to do it well.
As the number 50 approaches me in the next 60 days, I wanted to think about the meaning of it, if there was any. What happens in my 50s? I started Jackson Kayak, with my family and partner, Tony, the year I turned 40, and then won two more world championships in my 40’s as well as a world cup and pre-worlds. I have watched my son, Dane grow up and become a formidable opponent that beat me more times last year than I beat him. My Son-in-law Nick took ended my 4 year reign as undefeated in world events by beating me at the 2009 Worlds in Switzerland. Should I give up on that battle, or try to reverse that trend? I would normally not even consider any answer other than reverse it and beat him every time if I can. I still want to think about that as I feel that I have given him every advantage that I could to become the best and which is a greater accomplishment, to continue to beat him at this game or for him to become the best and me try to keep up? OK, enough thinking, I will continue to try to beat him, and train hard to do so, but expect him to be quite the opponent!
I also just became a Grandfather this year, adding that to my list of roles. Will I begin to slow down? I noticed today that I hesitated before jumping off of a log that was only 5 feet off the ground to make sure I landed it right. I didn’t sprint up or down the hills until really warmed up when playing disc golf today…. getting smarter or getting older… ??? hmm… clearly that is within my control as well as I can simply run and jump and trip and roll and not worry, but my goal is to run the 1/2 marathon the day before going to africa with my wife and daughter and not have messed up knees, etc.. again- being too careful or being smart? It is truly a fine line as pulling back, slowing down, etc.. become a habit and then it becomes all you can do and then you are old. My kids went from kids to adults, at least two of them (Dane and Emily) in the past 10 years. crazy to look at photos of them at the 2005 World Championships, only 8 years ago, they were so little, and now, they are all grown up. Much of Team JK- kids- are adults now. Lauren Burress- grown up, Jason Craig- grown up… crazy! They were our Fun 1 paddlers along with Dane back in 2004. Here are some fun images from years gone by- each one of these kids are now adults….
Honestly, there isn’t any stress related to my situation, my birthday, my age, as I have too many things I am striving to accomplish on the horizon… kayaking, fishing, business, family… plenty of challenge that requires physical fitness, and mental sharpness, and out of my comfort zone. The next 10 years of Jackson Kayak will shore up the business for the long haul, as we got through the tough period already, the start from scratch period. Now we are a team of experts, of hard working people who know their business. Risks? Of course, but we are doing great things and can take it to the next level.
I leave for China in a few days, then to Africa to train. I will return from Africa at 158 pounds, 6% body fat (ideal for my fitness and health- I can go to 4% easily but not healthy) and in awesome cardio and strength shape. this will be when I turn 50, exactly. that is how I will start my second 1/2 of the century I live in from 2014- 2064. I don’t plan on dying at 100 but, it is a good place to start, making me middle age now.
Here are some photos starting from me at 2- through 45 …. A low res photo essay.. will do the last 5 years next….