the things i have given up on

I used to be told, on occasion, that I look fairly young for my age. (I am now 43.) I pretended that I didn’t care when people mentioned it. The truth, of course, is that I took tremendous pride in it.

The danger in that pride (and there is nothing BUT danger in that particular sin) is that as people said it less and less, I compensated by telling myself I actually AM still young. That’s when the trouble began.

My younger colleagues at NYU Stern (so, all of them) are constantly saying things like “Let’s Venmo!” and pointing to a mason jar on their desk and saying “I brought my lunch today.”  I nod along, pretending that I, too, am totally going to Venmo later and that I also stuffed my lunch into a mason jar because that’s totally normal for us young people. 


Then, in the middle of a team meeting, I sneezed and threw out my back.

Now, I am no stranger to indignity. One of my gifts, however, is my ability to hide my less desirable qualities, of which there is no shortage. For example, nobody at work knows that I snore so loudly that Liz was forced to buy a sound machine that sounds like an Apache helicopter in take off. They don’t know that when I throw up, I have the mortifying tendency to shriek like a pterodactyl. Or that when my dust allergies kick in, my kids have declared that I sound like Gollum, if Gollum had been born a warthog. 

So here we are, in the team meeting. I’ve just sneezed. And it’s like my lower back has a heart attack. But my back is not dead from that cardiac arrest – oh no. Death is too good for my back. This is like Han Solo frozen in carbonite: Alive, tortured, paralyzed, pained expression molded for all eternity.

But you think I mention any of that to my colleagues? Heck no. 

“You okay?” one asked, because I guess I looked like I’d just been shot. 

“Fine!” I gasped. 

I literally did not move from my chair the rest of the day. 

The thing that worries me about aging, though, isn’t actually the frailty.  It’s that every day I become less and less likely to accomplish the things that I figured I would, someday, be able to do. It’s that I am forced to scratch certain things off my Life To Do List without completing them.

So here, my friends, are:

The Top Five Things I Will Probably Never Do Because I am No Longer All That Young.

1.) Learn How to Drive Stick.

I tried to learn stick shift when I lived in Prague after college.  I actually bought a used car, a stick shift, thinking it would force me to learn. But my instructor didn’t speak English and my Czech was terrible so all I could understand was “Go left!” and “Go right!” and “Arrgggh!!” when I almost got side swiped by a tram. I don’t need this in my life. And my wife can drive stick. And I’m done with it.

2.) Be the Guy that Swims to the Island in the Middle of the Lake.

I can swim. I’m fine at it. I like it. But who are these guys that peel off their shirts and are all like “Race you to that island in the middle of the lake!” And I’m shouting back “I can’t, I have to make a phone call” but what I’m thinking is “I can’t, because it’ll be the last thing I ever do.” 

3.) Work on Cars.

I used to think there would be a time when I could open the hood of the car and figure out what was wrong with it. Maybe tinker a bit, save big on auto mechanic bills. But I was getting my oil changed at Valvoline the other day and it took me a full minute to remember how to pop the hood. The Valvoline people could have literally told me I had no engine and I would have just handed them my credit card.

4.) Speak Italian.

I was about half an hour into Italian 101 back at UVA when I realized this was just not going to work. I can communicate a bit in French, and Italian just sounds so awesome. So I decided that when I was older and out of college and had more time, I would buy a book and teach myself. 

I repeat – this is what I told myself: When I was older and out of college I would have more time. MORE time. The amount of time I spent doing nothing in college should be measured in epochs. I didn’t get it done then, and I’m not getting it done now. 

5.) Juggle.

How am I not juggling? I swear, every time I see somebody juggling I figure I’m one afternoon-curled-up-with-Juggling-for-Dummies away from juggling every time I walk into a room of more than two people. I imagine myself grabbing oranges and whoop! Away we go with the juggling! I imagine myself pretending like I don’t even realize I’m juggling. I catch them all behind my back and apologize sheepishly while the room breaks out in applause.

Have you seen the people who can juggle? Idiots! Idiots can juggle! Idiots, alas, who learned before they were 43 years old.

But then I take a step back. And I realize that I have put things on that Life To Do List that I never expected to put there. Things I have already completed. I have a standing desk that I use sometimes. And I cook, which I never thought I would do. And I wrote an actual book, which I also didn’t expect to do.

And I got married to a woman who loves me. And I have two healthy children. And I found that a faith that I used to mock relentlessly has, in fact, changed everything about the way I see the world.

All this makes me think I am right where God meant me to be. Not driving stick or swimming to islands or juggling fruit, but maybe other things. Maybe my Life To Do List can change. And maybe I need to give up on things I used to think were important so that I can leave blank space for things that are going to matter more. And I’m starting to get excited about what’s going in those blank spaces. 

Also, I think I might put juggling back on there. 

By | 2018-01-20T15:09:10+00:00 January 11th, 2018|22 Comments


  1. Michele January 11, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    You are hilarious and relatable, Conor! Your posts make me smile, laugh, remember my own awkward moments, and think about where I want to be in life. I too have edited my Life To Do list, but am mostly happy with where I am at this stage. Thank you for being vulnerable and letting us share another viewpoint. BTW — I had to google Venmo too.

    • Conor January 11, 2018 at 8:56 am - Reply

      Yes! Mostly happy should be an admirable goal. I’m with you.

  2. Tracy January 11, 2018 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Funny, and true about life and aging. Don’t go into it gracefully yet, own your 40’s since you’ve earned every one of those grey hairs and muscle spasms. And have fun with the fact that you no longer have to prove anything to anyone but yourself.

    And maybe keep a bottle of robaxacet in your desk.

  3. Conor January 11, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Lemme get a pen – Ro…bax..a…cet….

  4. Dolly Chugh January 11, 2018 at 9:15 am - Reply

    I threw out my back laughing so hard reading this!! Hysterical and more than a little true …

    • Conor January 11, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

      I feel like I’m never going to stop throwing out my back. Does it ever stop? Such a betrayer, the back.

  5. Beth January 11, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    To be clear Conor, I have seen you juggle –multiple conversations, requests and responsibilities. 🙂

    • Conor January 11, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

      Yes! I should come to work in a clown wig. I’d be so popular. SO popular!!

  6. Amy Freed January 11, 2018 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Your writing is wonderful. Such a gift. I laughed out loud. Thank you!

    • Conor January 11, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Hi Amy! We miss you!!

  7. Liz January 11, 2018 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    You are SUCH a good cook, babe!! I’m so grateful that you prioritized that one!!

    • Conor January 11, 2018 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      I’ll be cooking us mush in 50 years when we start losing our teeth!

  8. Neena January 11, 2018 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    You are hilarious!!! Life just moves so quickly.. your list is soooo on point. The things we think about and the time we think we have can be so deceiving! I love reading your posts, always keeping it real!

    • Conor January 15, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks Neena!!

  9. Leigh January 14, 2018 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m a year younger than you and I have no idea WTF Venmo is! It’s something we’ve lived 4 decades without, so….

    • Conor January 15, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply


  10. Pat January 14, 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    1. If you think it seems your chances to do things you always thought you would do are narrowing, just wait until you’re 68! Having just a pang of regret then shifting into gratitude is a valuable asset, indeed.

    2. If you think this back thing is just a weird quirk…don’t. Use the standing desk, take the stairs, go for a walk at lunchtime, take up some kind of sport. Walk a round a little for every hour of sitting. No kidding. The back takes no prisoners, and it’s no fun, trust me.

    • Conor January 15, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Sound, sound advice Pat.

  11. YJ January 15, 2018 at 12:31 am - Reply

    You are truly a gifted writer Conor! I always look forward to your posts! I was laughing out loud so much that my newborn kept waking up. Woops! Thank you for being so transparent and real. You make such a good point about the fact that our Life To Do List could change to make room for other important things we didn’t expect to put there – the unpredictability of it makes life more exciting! This point definitely made me think. 🙂

    • Conor January 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks YJ! Hope you’re getting a little sleep now and then!

  12. Joy Bounds February 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Just started following you today. Ditto what everyone else said! I knew by reading your book that you and Liz must be from my generation. So fun to read what I think a lot of times! Lol As far as the stick shift, I just purchased my “dream” car, a baby blue Mini Cooper. (I was so proud to pay cash for this cute pre-owned vehicle!) Also, since these days, I toot around town more often alone without our 3 crazy teenage boys, I decided it was time to fulfill this dream! (I do still have the mini-van in case the teenagers want to bring friends to concerts by Indie artists that of course I’ve never heard of making me feel 75, instead of 42!) Lol Anyway, my sweet husband found this car, and from the photo online it looked like a stick shift, which is what I thought I really wanted in a Mini Cooper. But, when we arrived at the dealership, it was an automatic. Boohoo…. However, as I took a drive, and enjoyed the other fabulous features like sun/moon roof and how quickly I could get to 80, I remembered that I really had not been a very good shifter back in 1991 when I purchased my first car without even knowing how to drive a stick. Lol I actually almost died several times by stalling in the middle of intersections. (Obviously, God had an amazing plan for my life because here I am today.)
    So, I signed the papers and have been enjoying that car since last July! One of the best parts was seeing the excitement on my boys’ faces when I came home with it! I had begun to not be cool at all in their eyes at that point in life, and Wow! I suddenly was moved up several bars on their coolness barometer! Fun times!

    • Conor February 7, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      You’re the cool mom! It’s easy when they’re little. You’re pulling off the impossible. Amazing.

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