Journalist Ian Brown’s newest book has focused on his experience turning 60 years old. He wrote about this transition at a time when it is reported that for the next 15 years, every day 10 000 people in North America will turn 60. Although I just miss this demographic, his presentation was relevant, interesting and kept the audience laughing as he described some of the physical changes that occur as we age.
In a crowd with many seniors, he commented that some of the crowd may think he is an amateur of being 60 years old. He shared how difficult it is to buy gifts for 60 year olds then held up his new book as an option. He had the audience in stitches when he recounted an experience with a writer’s meeting at the Globe and Mail. A younger journalist wanted to write an article about gay porn and Brown responded that he loved Cape Horn which led to an entire conversation of misunderstandings until he realized that he had a hearing problem.
He brazenly spoke about sexual prowess becoming “less prowess-like” and that his body was not as reliable. He noted the “strange openness in my hair” and his experiences trying to solve this problem with Alberto V05 gel. He started to research aging, learning that despite we start aging the minute that we are born it seems to “take all of us by surprise”.and that while we “can exercise, eat well and do crosswords until the cows come home… we have no control over the rate we fail”.
Brown experienced two responses to getting older: ranging from being sad and fearing death to complete denial. As a way of dealing with these opposing views, he decided to keep a diary from the time he turned 60 until he was 61 years old as a way of trying to slow time down and recognize what was important. He shared that “it turns out, it is very hard to keep a diary” comparing it to the ability of an alchemist to turn lead into gold yet this diary helped him to “recalibrate what seems to be important”.
The crowd chuckled as he described people in their 50s trying to cram everything in which leads to skipping details and missing the things that connect us. He noted that as his body began to fail he turned to the inner world yet self-deprecatingly said that “I am a journalist, I barely have a soul therefore, i should not be trusted”. Ultimately as a writer he notes that the difficulty is finding out and sharing what really matters but within a journal, the stuff that is really important keeps coming back.
He left the audience with the idea that he walked into 60 “thinking it was the beginning of the end” but through his journal he was able to “recalibrate and redefine what we call time” and focus on positivity.
I have to admit that I did not read Brown’s book. I entered the reading feeling that as a 40 something women, it really did not apply to me yet his talk gave me a lot to think about – not only was he an engaging, humorous speaker but he did cause me to reflect on what is really important as I struggle to maintain a balance between my family and work. In the end, my friend commented that she felt that this author had missed his calling and that perhaps his focus should be on storytelling orally rather than writing as he was such an engaging and thought-provoking speaker and I have to agree.
This was the final regular night of the Grimsby Author Series. I wish that I had discovered this series sooner – there have been amazing authors and the moderator provides thoughtful, well-researched introductions to each author. The committee and volunteers that provide the wine-tasting, food and coordination received a well-deserved round of applause and I encourage anyone that is interested in meeting some wonderful authors to sign up for next year’s season.