Reflections on Becoming an “Old Fucker”

When Time Runs Out

Yea, 30 is the new 20. 40 is the new 30. …And 50?

See, that’s a harder pill to swallow, at least to my mind. While there are innumerable rites associated with aging…and this has to go back eons, there’s a point where in your own mind if nowhere else, you have to concede that the gig is up, and now you’re an “elder” member of society.

And while there’s a certain discontent, going from “the new 30s” to elder status in a day, there’s also a certain embrace of the thing for me that I’m finding comfortable. Perhaps it’s time. Can family and society be comprised only of “young people?” Can one still be young at heart while at very least, show some elder maturity; some wisdom; some sense that one has had some experiences, learned a lesson or two and that just perhaps, it’s worth listening to?

This goes even to listening to one’s self. I wish I’d an inkling 5-10 years ago of what I now understand as the constant cycling of global markets, rises and falls (randomness, in a word). I’d easily be 1/2 million richer. Instead, I find myself scrambling to recapture what I already had in my grasp (and bank account). Then again, the lesson I now take home seems not that far off from what I observed in terms of the behavior of my four grandparents who had survived a massive World War (that renders us all pussies in comparison, by mere circumstance), along with a global depression of huge proportion as icing. Most oft, I saw their behavior as outdated, fear motivated, or even quaint and cutely endearing. Not profoundly wise as I do now. My bust.

I’d have always loved to have been willing and of sufficient gut to be the big risk taker…so long as I came out on top; or alternatively, been quickly devastated so as to recognize clear failure quickly and reverse course. But how often does that former instance work out and, perhaps I watch too many movies. In reality, I did take risks, lots of ’em, and for the most part, managed. But I feel as though I played too much of a middle road, never making it HUGE, never putting so much on the line as to potentially knock the fuckin’ shit out of myself, so that I could try something else entirely. But in many ways, it feels beyond that, now. I have responsibilities.

I suppose I still could. That’s an ongoing internal debate. But it’s not for now, at least in this post. Right now is the time I reflect on what is, how it came to be like this, and what I can do now. And that has a lot to do with taking serious account of experience and paying the fuck attention to it.

Now, “50-years-old” is as arbitrary as anything else. For instance, you’re not incompetent to drive a car one day and fully vested in trust the next, when you turn 16. And it’s not like you can’t handle a few serious beverages at 20 years and 364 days but magically, get a super-liver, metabolic godhood and some fine sense in a day.

We have many arbitrary rites of passage in our world. How was it way back when? Well, I suppose they could have and did count the passing of seasons. Puberty would have been a biggie, for obvious reasons (more hunters, more gatherers…musta been cool for the guys back then). But how about the more nebulous reasons after that? I dunno, but I would surely like to imagine that age was knowledge. That would be a perfectly meritorious means of counting for age. You could easily imagine there being a 10 years or more range in terms of physical age, plus or minus, counting on just knowledge, experience, effectiveness, success and results.

But now we’re a collectivized equivalent of an ant hill or bee hive, and you have your place. And some bees & ants are created more “equal” than others, and they have parents, relatives and friends of influence in the hill & hive. And your place changes with age and decrepitude. We have arbitrary ages for everything and they count for nothing real except the arbitrary turning of the Earth around the Sun (at least we finally got that right). It goes hand-in-hand with the neolithic notion that we’re subjects who require masters; and far from being able to manage individual prowess, they arbitrarily assign age. It’s the given, now.

And so that’s of course why I fought it for so long and in fact, did a good job I think in making the last 3-4 years of my 40s pretty remarkable, counting my own progress, the growth of this blog resource, and the many hundreds who have reported their own results — even for many long ago “Old Fuckers.”

So in the end, this post is somewhat of a thinking out loud. In all my reflections over the past weeks the issue of this blog has never been in doubt — only how to continue to grow it and build influence while keeping the fuck-you spirit alive. I have no idea how to do it other than to simply do what I do. Passing this threshold only makes me more serious about my reality of life (fuck that “gift” shit). In turn, that makes me more serious about those things I pay a lot of attention to and spend a lot of time on.

To sum it all up into something very simple: I’m somewhat in awe that I’ve reached this age at the physical and mental state I am. I am as lean as I was in college, far stronger than any time in my life, feel great all the time (excepting the current neck & shoulder issue that will pass), and yet have some uncertainties about what I really want to do.

Even simpler: Make the 2nd 50 even better than the first.

Good luck, 20-fucking-sumthings. If you’re smart, realize the questions never end: they just become different. And if you’re smarter, you know that already. And if you’re the rare smartest, you’re trying to anticipate and resolve them even now. And good for you if you are.


I want to take a moment to thank all the commenters in my recents post for one, wishing me a happy birthday…and it was, in spite of pain (but I self medicated). For second, I got all sorts of advice and insight on my shoulder injury and so much of it was useful. As it stands now, I likely have no shoulder injury, but rather something causing a sort of nerve impingement/inflammation around c4-5 in my neck. It was the guys at Janzen & Janzen who figured that out, without imaging. But in poking, prodding and putting pressure on those areas of my neck, they can send me into writhing pain the likes of which is precisely what I have been feeling combined with an excruciating intensity I have never felt. Most likely a herniated disc in the region, since x-ray revealed no bone abnormality.

Next up: an MRI (and a prescription of Vicodin)

Oh, an if there’s anything here worth sharing, please do so with the Facebook and Twitter buttons up top.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Jason Sandeman on January 31, 2011 at 16:11

    Uhh, Richard – You aren’t what I consider “Old”. My father is 53, and I am 35. So, I hope that puts it into perspective.

  2. Darrin on January 31, 2011 at 21:23

    Happy (belated) birthday, Richard! You are clearly outgunning all the rest of the “old fuckers” out there. (I think T. Colin Campbell’s documentary is coming out soon…)

  3. Paul on January 31, 2011 at 15:40

    Nice one he’s to the next 50 i am on the same journey you doing better than me

  4. Kurt G Harris MD on January 31, 2011 at 15:57

    A very moving post. When you write your book, this is the voice you want to use. It is obviously you and this reflective sincerity really resonates with at least this fellow “Old Fuck.”

  5. Sandy on January 31, 2011 at 16:02

    I had a feeling it was going to be a herniated disc, after reading your symptoms. Hopefully the MRI will show that it can be handled conservatively. (And that you get the vicodin before the MRI. Narcotics + bring your own CD and an MRI isn’t so bad) Unfortunately, conservative treatment didn’t help and I ended up going under the knife. There are less invasive procedures, such as removing part of the disc, although I can’t vouch for their efficacy. Should it get to that point with you and they recommend fusion, DO NOT do it. I have an artificial disc in my neck between C6&C7, and while it does get a bit wonky from time to time I have probably 95% range of motion. If they fuse you’re fucked. It’s becoming more available in the US these days, look for a good surgeon. If you’re told it’s new and experimental, that’s bullshit. They’ve been doing them in Europe for about 30 years. Mine was done in the Netherlands December 2006. HOPEFULLY it won’t get to that point, but if it does, something to think about.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2011 at 17:07

      Thanks, Sany. I have serious doubts it’s anything more serious than a herniation and the procedure is pretty simple now, with essentially a band aid to close the wound. Still, any fucking with that area is cause for serious attention. And I’m paying it.

  6. Owen on January 31, 2011 at 16:11

    Deeply resonant and moving post Richard, thank you.

  7. Ron on January 31, 2011 at 16:12

    Here’s to your next 50… and, if you’ll end up feeling like it, perhaps a few more.

  8. Kevin - Paleo Playbook on January 31, 2011 at 16:35

    Feel free to dispense advice at your will. Us twenty-fucking-somethings don’t have as many elders in the ancestral community as we’d like. Totally paleo to spread wisdom, right?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2011 at 16:55

      I’d actually prefer a level playing field for dispensement, Kevin. Let the best knowledge win, no matter the age of the source.

      I suppose my rwaly only caution with age is that there’s a greater likelihood the wisdom might actually be wise. Along with the caveat of no guarantees.

      Stupid is no respecter of solar cycles.

  9. Jeff on January 31, 2011 at 16:38

    I had c-3 thru c-5 fixed about 18 months ago. I knew coming out of surgery that it was fixed and the pain was gone. However, the way my throat felt afterwards as something else! By day five it looked like I had a grapefruit stuck in my throat and I had the worst sore throat of all time for several weeks. My neck quit hurting right away but they have to move your vocal cords around to get to the bone and that really makes recovery interesting.

    BTW, I was told I could stay in the hospital or go home. The nurse told me I was immune to the germs in my home and I heard what he said. I didn’t stay in the hospital but headed for the house about 4 hours after surgery.

    Good luck and Happy Birthday, you young’n. I’ll be 55 in a couple of months.


  10. William on January 31, 2011 at 16:50

    Richard, you say “we’re a collectivized equivalent of an ant hill or bee hive, and you have your place. And some bees & ants are created more “equal” than others, and they have parents, relatives and friends of influence in the hill & hive.” If what I have learned from you by reading this blog, could be narrowed down, it would be this: You once told me that anarchism is a state of mind, rather than an eventuality the masses, held high. Just those paraphrased words negate the collectivized equivalent of an ant hill or bee hive idea. Soon, it will be three short years before I reach my sixtieth birthday. I need no masters, politically, or metaphysically, to teach me what common sense, and association to common sense truth seekers already know. For several decades, I lost some of that common sense, by buying into so-called experts analysis. No more! If an anarchistic state of mind means rejecting “knowledge” by the cognoscenti, then by all means, I am an anarchist. The cliche, “aging is a state of mind,” (ah, the state of mind thing again) has merit. Therefore feeling nineteen, with fifty plus years of wisdom, and new found wisdom puts me in a place far away from prior ideas of collectivized dogma. Can copious amounts of fat, and protein, enable the brain to obtain wisdom? I don’t know, but one thing for sure, is, that ever so magnificent “fuck-you spirit” has always worked, except for the period when my mind was too open.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2011 at 17:02


      Great observation and thank you for taking me to task on my own words.

      So let me clarify. The ant hill, bee hive metaphor is merely my observation of society (perhaps I should have said ‘you’ and it would have been clear).

      Otherwise, it sounds to me like you’re behavimg as a self respectable adult human animal. There are so few.

  11. rob on January 31, 2011 at 17:01

    I’m 48 1/2 myself, much like you I find myself amazed that despite many years of neglect, I stumbled upon a way I could turn the clock back … like you I am stronger than I was in my youth, and I was no slouch in my youth.

    I’m riding this horse as far as it will take me, and I’m riding it hard.

    I’m always looking for ways to motivate myself in the gym, to really go hard for another set, and lately what I have been thinking to motivate myself is:

    “This is a privilege”

    Happy birthday!

  12. Garth on January 31, 2011 at 17:32

    Happy birthday!

    Sometimes, as a quite young person, I find it hard to believe that life could be significantly harder than it is now, but it seems it has to have been. I hate all the intellectually grueling modern life has. I find it laughable to believe the past was more complex. The world has so many moving parts, to many for any one person to understand it, that perspective is a very rare quality, at least you have some.

    • bob r on February 1, 2011 at 18:06

      One person put it this way: City life is easy but complicated; country life is hard but simple.

      A generality to be sure, but it has an element of truth to it.

  13. Chris Sturdy on January 31, 2011 at 17:47

    Happy birthday, Richard! Here’s to a stellar second 50 filled with grass fed goodness and fine scotch.

  14. Dr.BG on January 31, 2011 at 17:58


    My My, you are 50 years YOUNG, PaleoKing!!! *haa aha!* You young buck, you.


  15. Victoria on January 31, 2011 at 18:01

    I had a bad pinched nerve in the same place a few months ago… It was terrible- I had a new found sympathy for my grandmother with her rotator cuff injury when she complained she couldn’t lift her arm to wash her hair. I got the same symptoms but from a bad nerve, which I did to myself with bad posture at my desk at work. My excellent primary care doc sent me home with Soma- which worked REALLY well. I highly recommend it. I also went through about a month of PT… fun…

  16. Lute Nikoley on January 31, 2011 at 18:02

    Well, I am one of those older fucks, last year at age 72 I had L3L4 surgery which Richard wrote about. The time spent for surgery was less than a day, recovery about 2 weeks. I’ll take that over month’s of physical therapy any day. I hope everything works out with 100% recovery.

    Your 73 year old fuck dad.

  17. Primitive on January 31, 2011 at 18:10

    Happy Birthday Richard. I need to think about finer points of this post for a few days…

  18. C. August on January 31, 2011 at 18:38

    Man, your self-assessment of risk taking and the like mirrors my own assessment lately. After being buffeted by and mostly missing the good part of the dot-com boom/bust, it seems I’m stuck now with wife/kids/house and have no available risk in my near future, even though I’m barely 40. Your description of what you wish you had done is like my own internal monologue from the past 5 years. Thanks for that.

    On the plus side, I just got to explain the workings of a ball and socket shoulder joint to my 7-yr-old as I butchered a pork shoulder for chili. Cutting through the very tough connective tissue to free-up the joint for exploration, I actually thought of you and your shoulder troubles (and my potential shoulder troubles). BTW, she was so excited about the anatomy lesson she ran into the other room screaming for her 5-yr-old brother to “come see how a shoulder works!”

    • Richard Nikoley on January 31, 2011 at 20:21

      That’s cool. Never shield the younguns form knowing how they are nourished. I sure wasn’t. I saw fish, deer and bird guts as far back as I can remember.

  19. Nastia on January 31, 2011 at 19:46

    Turning twenty-fking-something soon and not anticipating the end of questions. Happy belated Birthday by the way!

  20. Duncan on January 31, 2011 at 21:43

    “If you’re smart, realize the questions never end: they just become different. And if you’re smarter, you know that already. And if you’re the rare smartest, you’re trying to anticipate and resolve them even now. And good for you if you are.”

    Whew – brilliant, Richard:

    this would have made a fine epigraph to N.N. Taleb’s latest book, aphoristic postscript to Fooled and Swan, as to me it seems to be; you get my nomination, mate, for being the now-lean Fat Tony of the “paleo-sphere.”

    This epistemopleb digs your angle on things.

  21. Byron on February 1, 2011 at 15:27

    Happy Birthday!

    As a young one anticipating the changing questions to come, I certainly appreciate those who have gone before shedding some wisdom on what’s ahead. Thanks for the blog!!

    Not sure if anyone has recommended this yet, but Esther Gokhale used an anthropological analysis of populations without back/neck pain in order to determine proper posture. In her book she lays out how to sit/stand/bend etc. in order to maintain a healthy spine and, thus, a pain free back. Many people have avoided surgeries with her work. I sometimes think of it as paleo approach to posture. Hope it helps.

  22. Jason on February 1, 2011 at 00:38

    Interesting point about the arbitrariness of the numbers assigned for age. I myself don’t celebrate my own birthday for that very reason. Why every 365 days? Why not every 100 days, or every decade? Instead I take every day and consider that as a daily birthday (In this way I’ve had thousands of birthdays). Why not; after all a 24 hour period is just as arbitrary/meaningful as a 365 day period. I think age has more to do with how much fire a person has in the belly as opposed to any number. When looked at in that light, there are many chronologically young people who are old farts at heart. In my humble (or maybe not so humble) opinion, through your writings, you don’t strike me as an old fart. Lastly regarding risk. I don’t look at things that way (as in reviewing the past) because I see any financial success as ultimately coming from God; so the way I see things, everything had to be the way it was and it’s for the best, but I guess we differ on that. However, regarding risk, Now with a crappy economy, this time and the next few years or so is probably the most opportune time to get things on the cheap and get the most bang for the buck regarding entrepreneurial activity. i.e Real Estate such as reo’s to rental units. Especially when the banks just want to get rid of their bad paper and so are willing to let things go for 10 or 20 cents on the dollar even of todays devaluated market; and with the proportion of those requiring rental space is going up and will continue to do so (due to foreclosures). in this area I know there are opportunities, but my point is that in this sh..ty economy there are bound to be many great deals and good investments for the long run, which are now very cheap. Maybe this is too much information or a bit presumptuous of me. If it is then I apologize; I’m not sure what’s appropriate here. If you want to tell me to f-k off that’s fine. Anyways, all the best and Happy 18,250th birthday (if it was in days).

  23. Helen on February 1, 2011 at 04:57

    Happy (belated) Birthday, Richard, from one old fuck to another.

  24. Jim Arkus on February 1, 2011 at 05:38

    Great post, even for us 20-fucking-somethings that read you. Happy Birthday!

  25. Sue on February 1, 2011 at 06:06

    Happy Birthday, Richard. I hope you have the same experience as I did – after the 50th birthday is out of the way, the next ones were easy, no big deal. For some reason, I, too, had built some magic into that 50th year. I will be 58 in May. Each subsequent birthday has been easier than the one before. Embracing Paleo type way of eating has put some confidence in my ability to gracefully execute the next 50 and to contemplate how many more after that I may choose to experience. I am shooting for 126. Some of you young fucks here will be reading about me in 2079 – the oldest living woman on Earth, crediting her paleo way of eating and desire (for everything!) for allowing her to achieve her advanced age. Most folks I know expect that with aging comes decrepitude…well, in my opinion one gets what one expects. Me, I have another plan.

  26. adam roumell on February 1, 2011 at 06:14

    c4- c5 and the brachialis plexus, one of the worst nerve injuries to have. Mine started from using cynching type lifting straps during heavy deadlifts and back workouts(the nerves were overstretched by being pulled at the carpal tunnel complex). The combination of that and bench press induced biceps tendinitus of the outer head have made life very difficult. I lost sensation on the inside half of my left arm for over a month until I started correcting posture/muscular imbalances in my upper back. My left arm is still only 93% of what it used to be. I have difficulty with nerve conduction/control with both my left arm and left lat as a result of the impingement. For a time I was worried I would lose sensation or use of my left arm. It takes time and a lot of dilligent care to recover, but whatever you do don’t stop using your arm because it will force your body to want to keep it around.

  27. Walter on February 1, 2011 at 20:16

    Happy Belated Birthday!
    Keep up the great writing. I look forward to your continued pondering.

  28. 02/02/11 – “Nate” + Weather Update on February 1, 2011 at 21:10

    […] Reflections on Becoming an Old F’er – Free The Animal […]

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