Craig Purcell

Stop me if you’ve heard any of these supposedly inspirational messages about the aging process.

You’re only as old as you feel. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? Age is just a number.

Since I’m determined not to grow up before my kids do (and they’re 30 and 27), I’ve always been one whose mental age has been way out of whack with my physical age. In my mind I’m still energetic and 26, power walking four miles a day, lifting weights six times a week, and weighing 192 with 12 percent body fat.

Remember, that’s what’s in my mind.

In cold and cruel reality, I’m twice that age (plus some). I think I’ve walked for exercise four times since the beginning of the year, and the weights I lift now are my own legs and feet as I climb the stairs to my apartment, where my couch and remote reside. My weight and body fat percentage are still numbers—I’ll leave it at that.

My time in the 100 meters is best clocked using a sundial, and my vertical jump just might clear a pizza box.

Yet I hung on to the false hope that somehow I was a genetic anomaly with the power to control my aging process with just my mind. If I think I’m young, I’m young. Right?

While I may have been on the fence, figuratively, about whether I needed to begin acting “older,” it was a recent experience where I found myself on the fence, literally, that solidified my new outlook.

The day was May 1, and I was at the Tri-State Raceway in Earlville, taking pictures of the Midwest Pride in Your Ride truck and tractor pull. I was on the spectator side of the fence, before deciding I needed to get on the other side to get the best photos of the action.

I looked way down to where there was a gate in the fence, but gosh, it seemed like a long, senseless walk. I was an able-bodied male, so I put my two hands on the top bar of the fence, locked my arms and like the epitome of agility, swung the lower half of my body over the fence.

In my dreams.

Reality was even colder and crueler that day than most. The minute the muscles in my arms engaged, I felt an unwelcome burning in my left shoulder. Pulling my torso up with less-than-full power because of my shoulder, I looked almost cat-like in the way I cleared the fence. That is, if the cat was Garfield about to do a face-plant in a pan of lasagna.

My feet at least did make it to the top of the fence, but my momentum was clearly telling me this could end up to be a defining moment of my career in journalism.

If I needed more than one attempt to get over the fence I would look like a weenie to what seemed like tens of thousands of spectators watching my every move. If I fell off the fence I’d still look like a weenie, but this time an even more pathetic one.

I teetered on top of that fence—which was all of about three or four feet—gritted my teeth to offset the pain I was about to put myself through and basically willed and threw my body over to the other side. By the grace of God, I landed on my feet.

OK time, we ran a good race, but you caught me. I’ve changed my mantra to “You’re only as old as you are.”