An Older Guy Balances His Physical, Intellectual and Social Life

Writers don’t retire, they just die. I am one of that tribe. At 77 I find myself living alone in Central Georgia while facing the tasks of earning money, keeping up my house, fighting off the ills of an aging body, maintaining social interests and keeping my house and surrounds in a livable condition. I am asked by younger people, “Why don’t you just sit back and take it easy? As a Geologist you have explored many of the really wild places of North America, you have written 18 books, you had a successful marriage, you have traveled, helped others combat AIDS and written a book about entrepreneurship for the average person. Isn’t this enough? Just sit back and enjoy life. You have earned it.”

All of that is true, but vegetating in front of the TV is a recipe for an early death either through suicide or natural causes. I think that one of the best things that one can do to increase one’s longevity is to disconnect the TV, buy videos instead and tailor your visual input to your own interests while promoting continuing intellectual growth and development. I confess that I do watch some TV when I visit friends every few weeks when I take my dog Hector to visit his canine buddy Charley, who recently made his film debut. He and his owner, Billy Krantz, walked across an Atlanta street as participants in Atlanta’s thriving movie industry.

I have also become much involved in the visual arts, but with YouTube videos about my life, activities and interests. To date, I have over 725 of them on the Hovey Smith Channel, which has now received some 3,000,000 views and nearly 6,000 followers accumulated over a period of five-years. These are entirely produced by me without the scores of workers and volunteers on a typical movie set. My YouTubes are a logical expansion of my writing magazine and newspaper articles with the content expressed in a visual medium, rather than a written one. I have many interests, and my YouTubes cover them. Many are about my passion for black powder guns and using them to take game. A logical extension of this activity resulted in my many videos on wild-game cooking.

Cooking resulted in another branch of videos about cooking methods and tools which culminated in my starting my own late-life company, “Hovey’s Knives of China,” where I took inspiration from ancient Chinese bronze knives and now make cutlery from modern steels in a shop attached to my house.

From my 40s on, I systematically planned out my life. My objective was to reconstruct the last remaining family home on the family plantation which was started by in the 1840s, and ultimately move there to use this location as a base to continue my outdoor writing, hunting and other life activities.

A downturn in the metals market forced me to return home to Georgia from Arizona in 1980. I found work in my home town at an international mining company as an Information Scientist, a position that I invented. It was while there that I met the lady who would become my wife, and we married. Although I would lose her to Pancreatic Cancer ten years later, we had a mutually enjoyable relationship which included trips to Ireland, Paris and Rome. No children resulted from the marriage, and after her death I had no desire to try again with another partner, despite her expressed desire that I do so.

Alone, Living and Thriving

As a widower-writer with my dogs, house and land, I faced the usual life challenges. Not the least of these was keeping a since of purpose and getting enough enjoyment from life to make it worth the living. Life happened as my parents and older relatives passed away, I developed diabetes and also a claudication of both legs that restricted my mobility. Whereas a young guy, I could carry a pack 13 miles a day through mountains and alder-choked valleys , now I could only painfully walk 1 mile. I could no longer stand up all day and had balance issues which prevented me from safely enjoying bowfishing, which was one of my favorite activities.

How could I, and others like me, overcome these challenges.

The first thing I could do was to attempt to improve my physical condition and especially my mobility. My friend Billy had bought a treadmill that he was not using, and I purchased it and moved it into my house. I typically do an hour a day on the treadmill in the early hours of the morning, except on days where I have a full day of work in my knife shop or outdoors.

Today for example, I arose at 3:00 AM and am writing this piece. After a breakfast of steel-cut oats and fruit and nuts, I am going to start working on cutting and burning the branches of a large pecan tree that was felled in my yard by Hurricane Mathew. I am also going to cook a venison meat loaf to eat on for the next few days. It has been an unusually wet Fall, and because of the saturated ground and wet wood along with my taking time to hunt, I have not spent much time getting that tree cut up and moved. This physical activity and the upkeep of my yard and land, help me keep my body functional along with the treadmill exercises. I continue using the treadmill because it helps me quantify results and track my progress.

Burning green and/or wet wood is a problem. To help I have been saving waste paper from my mail, packing it into boxes and using it as fire-starting material. This has the twin advantages of providing me with something useful to use on my fires and reducing the mass of material going into the county land fill, where as much as possible of the paper would be burned before it is covered. To supplement this I have three bottles of olive oil which put up in 2000 which has gone rancid. The use of this olive oil provides a reminder that such oils were used for illumination in the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire and even thousands of years before. As a person whose interest also includes archeology and history as well as cooking, this is an obvious topic for a YouTube video.

I earn a small amount of money from my YouTube videos, but, more significantly, these also carry ads for my outdoor and business books. Many of my 18 books are connected to the self-help and survival movements. In my outdoor books, like Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting Deer to Dinner for Pennies Per Pound, I teach how to gather, process and cook deer and other game animals. The same approach is used in Crossbow Hunting, X-Treme Muzzleloading, and Practical Bowfishing.

For anyone active in the arts or who has a business YouTube videos provide a very low costs means of advertising your goods or services throughout the world. They have the advantages that you control the content, can be produced on simple equipment, stay up forever, are instantly searchable, are the preferred information provider for many consumers and can provide direct links to your business when they are incorporated in a blog or with other texts. They can be used or referenced on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other types of Social Media. My videos are seen throughout the world and enjoyed by English-speakers everywhere. For a message where a universal reach is desired this is an ideal media.

If I were not already producing videos, I would make them in order to advertise my business books, of which the most recent is Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. This book was originally envisioned to aid those who were in their 40s or older, but it has also received much interest from High School students and young adults who see themselves facing an uncertain future in the gig economy. They quickly recognize that they only job security that they possess is what they can control in their own hands. In short, they need to start their own companies as and when needed to accomplish their life goals.

Not only does the book convey this message, is also details exactly how to accomplish the steps of choosing an appropriate business for the moment, planning ahead for future ventures and ultimately perhaps discovering your “business of passion,” which is work that someone would do even if no one paid them to do it. Ideally, one would start such a business while still working for someone else and collecting benefits. Then when in their 40s or later should they become somehow displaced from their job, they have a proven concept ready to fall back on to sustain them for the next period of their lives.

I get real enjoyment in encouraging people who are working through the concepts that I discuss in my book, and use my videos and books to help drive a consulting business where I help them get their businesses up and running. This is an interesting and fun activity, keeps me involved with humanity and provides a since of purpose for my life.

By keeping my body functioning, providing multiple outlets for my intellectual activities, obtaining income from my work and getting satisfaction from helping others, I can balance my life and live a fulfilled existence. Through personal appearances, being a guest on radio shows and appearing in visual media, I am able to help thousands of people a week redirect their lives in a more positive manner. This, as I see it, is the real work of someone who has lived a full life and wants to help others do the same.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.