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Jeff Whitten: Enjoy youth while you got it
editor's notes

High school graduation season is just around the corner, so I figured I’d lead off this week with some advice to the class of 2022: Aim high, shoot low, don’t let the screen door hit you where the good Lord split you, go forth and conquer, save the planet, have a great life, Delta is probably ready when you are, etc.

Also, enjoy youth while you got it. I say this because I accidentally saw myself naked in a mirror earlier this week. I had just gotten out of the shower and there I was.

Whitten, all au naturel. “Gracious,” I said aloud. I looked like an old naked hobbit, or what I imagine an old naked hobbit might look like. I have to admit I’ve not only never come across a naked old hobbit, I hope never to do so.

Anyhow. That quick look in a mirror was just the latest reminder there comes a time in our lives as humans when, if we have any sense, we should not be in the same room as a mirror if we aren’t clothed.

Some people hit this benchmark early in life, whether they know it or not. I suspect those who don’t know it are those people who instead of wearing clothing insist on going shopping in acres of spandex that would be put to better use patching inner tubes, reinforcing trampolines or made into tiles to keep the bottom of the space shuttle from catching on fire when it re-enters orbit, but I digress.

In my case, I had just got out of the shower, and was trying to get dressed, and here a digression on a digression is in order, so listen up graduates. You see, for decades I beat up my body. I worked hard and played hard.

I chain smoked cigarettes and drank cold beer and tequila and a lot of things in between. I stayed out until all hours of the night and could still make that morning PT formation at 0530 hours. A bit bleary eyed and perhaps a trifle windy from microwave burritos at 2 a.m., but there I was and so was everybody else in the Cold War.

Later, after Army PT was a distant memory, I quit smoking, cut back a tad on the adult beverages, got into running and not all that long ago was out there finishing a half-marathon, marathon and an assortment of 10- and 5Ks. I even completed the Double Pump on the Savannah Bridge Run wearing yellow compression socks with the words Beer written on them, which came to me courtesy Vietnam veteran Bruce McCartney, a combat medic and talented rabble rouser of the highest order.

The thing is, it’s true some years take more of a toll than others. It’s like highway miles versus, say, miles driven on a washboard dirt road. Weekly newspaper hack editor years are like school bus driver years, which are like dog years – i.e., you age 7 years for every 365 days you make it through, wondering if it will ever end. And you’re getting off light.

By the way, Bryan County Schools transportation director Allen Cox told me that about school bus drivers some years back. The school board was honoring a gentleman who looked like an older version of Gus the Fireman from the TV show Leave it to Beaver and I thought he’d been a bus driver for something like 70 years. It wasn’t, but that’s when Cox told me it might as well have been 70 years because bus driver years are like dog years.

Anyway, my lack of proper PMCS on my body for much of my life has taken a toll. I’m 60 and I probably have 500,000 miles on me, and feel it. I advise you to keep that in mind the next time you’re thinking it would be fun to go bungee jumping, or making a video in which you jump off a garage onto a trampoline and then do a flip into a goldfish pond.

Better yet, don’t keep anything in mind. If they say “don’t try this at home,” go on and try it, because you’re only young once and it’s getting crowded around here.

Besides, all this whining I’ve done reminds me we do an awful lot of sitting around and whining in this country – usually about how bad our lot is and why it’s somebody else’s fault.

It’s not so bad, American life, and it can always get worse. Remember that. If you can’t afford new shoes, remember some kids don’t have feet.

And at the end of the day, life’s a gamble and can be terribly unfair to everyone, not just you.

That means you can be a giant (rhymes with bird) and be mean to everyone around you and live a long miserable life, or you can be a ray of sunshine wandering around doing everything right and still get run over by a turnip truck on your way to volunteering to save the planet.

The choice probably isn’t even yours, but don’t let that hold you back. Go forth and do good, and if you can’t do that, go forth and do dumb – your body will thank you one day.

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