72 is Just a Number
by Robin Anderson
I’ll admit it… I tend to be a plane snob. I like the solitude of my headphones and good music while zoning out everyone around me. A few months ago I was flying to Kentucky for a client visit and noticed something different about the man beside me, so I decided to take my headphones off and hope he wasn’t near the snob I was. He wasn’t… sort of. He enlightened me with a little chatter, but did put his headphones on shortly after take-off. In the very short amount of time I had to visit with this man, I asked, “What do you do?”
He responded, “I’m a neurologist, but I resigned last week to start law school”.
I smiled wide and said, “How OLD are you?” He responded, “72,” as he smiled back at me.
He was funny and liked to swear and since we had a common bond with my new found knowledge of neurology (and those other two things I mentioned), I asked if he knew anyone at the FDA. He did in fact know Ron Farkas, the lead doctor working (or in our case “not working”) on the physicians’ IND (Investigational New Drug) trial for my friends, the Kulsruds. He also knew Commissioner Hamburg’s father and raved about what a great man he is. He provided me with names to reach out to on our mission to overturn the FDA ruling for the Kulsrud boys and then went back to his headphones. Well worth the time in taking my snob headphones off.
The whole interaction my day for two reasons. The first being, it reinforced my belief that this world is so very, very small. While I’ve already admitted that I’m a plane snob, it’s not necessarily because I have no interest in meeting and visiting with people, but mainly because there is no better place for down time, time for yourself and to reflect on where you have been and where you are going (literally and figuratively) than an airplane. It’s like having complete solitude among a pile of strangers. But this interaction proved to me once again that it’s well worth your time to learn about other people. A short interaction might turn into a life-long friendship or may just be what you needed to hear or experience in that moment. I’m a believer in instances like this and don’t question why they happen.
The second reason this made my day is quite obvious… this man was 72 years old and decided to quit his job as a neurologist to start law school… at 72!! What I wouldn’t give to be part of his freshman class. I had so many questions for him and was hoping he would take off his headphones again to let me cut loose on him, but the opportunity wasn’t there, only a brief “Nice to meet you and good luck” before deplaning. This was after I watched him punching his television screen (like an iPad) in the seat in front of him with his forefinger trying to change the channel. I reached over and showed him where the button was below the screen… twice. His professors are in for a real treat!
But the fact is, he was and remains a great reminder to me that age is just a number. It’s never too late to do or be anything you want. I’ve seen it in personal relationships, in careers, in business. So often, I hear people say “I wish I would have…” Well stop wishing. Go DO that stuff. Tackle the projects you have been putting off. That great idea you have for the business you work for? Tell someone and then own it. Make it your personal goal to finish it and make it a success.
More than anything, live your life. You were given it for a reason. The most amazing thing is that YOU get to hold the pen in writing the story of your life. I can’t wait to see what that story is for my punks. And I am still happily holding that pen myself.