Most boomers at the upper end of the demographic know healthy diet and regular exercise help maintain a youthful body. And while physical exercise doesn't do much to prevent a boomer's spirit from aging, a new adventure can. For my friend Mountain Man Mike's 70th birthday, a 1,750-mile, solo trek across the Pacific Crest Trail is his boomer adventure. But there are a myriad of less physical adventures that can help an aging boomer keep his or her mind and spirit young at heart for decades to come.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it succinctly and perfectly, "Life is a journey, not a destination." Aging boomers might consider that embracing a new challenge will enhance the quality of their journey. Remaining fully engaged in life helps us live it to the max.
Awakening A Sleeping Spirit
A 40-year business career had dulled my spirit. I needed some kind of adventure to awaken it. So I became a working writer a decade ago, which gave me the juice I needed to feel mentally and spiritually alive again. And I'm continuing to write while pursuing my next adventure, voice acting. I feel most alive and young at heart when I'm pushing the envelope and learning new skills.
First Day Jitters
Fifty hopefuls assembled at Voice One in San Francisco, a voice acting school in its thirtieth year, owned and operated by Elaine Clark, a prominent voice actress. The occasion was an all-day introductory class. When asked if any of us had ever been told we have a good voice, fifty hands shot up. We learned that while a good voice is better than a bad one, it's not nearly enough. Voice over work, which includes books and corporate narration, film clips, radio and television commercials, video games, and more, isn't about reading lines, it's about acting them.
I realized I had a steep learning curve ahead when we took turns reading commercials. Voice acting is physical and emotional, which means using feelings to lend authenticity and the entire body to create different tones. I was intrigued. I signed up for the course.
An Anxious Moment
The class after lunch was creating characters. We were given 20 minutes to conjure up a character and then act him, her, or it, out in front of the class. Several of the students had done improv or theater, and some already had characters. I was a rookie. My heart stuck in my throat.
I created my character from indelible memories of the tough guys in my blue-collar junior high school, which, to put a finer point on, had a special parking lot for seventh-graders who drove to school.
The older boys had been held back and were mostly taking up space and acting out their hoodlum fantasies. The joke was that they bought their pantyhose by head size. I identified with their rebellious personas.
Frankie was a 17-year old seventh grader and a local Golden Gloves champion in his weight class. Frankie was the inspiration for my character. When I performed Frankie the class laughed at the right moments and applauded politely at the end, but something was missing.
In the next class we read a commercial in the voice of the character we'd created. I struggled until Elaine asked where I'd grown up. When I said, "Boston", she responded, "Let's hear Southy." I immediately understood she wanted me to speak in the same working class, Boston accent I'd spent the better part of my sixteenth year losing in front of a mirror so I wouldn't be typecast for the rest of my life. When I read my lines in that accent it felt both familiar and foreign, and someone shouted, "You found your voice."
A Cast Of Characters
Frankie's a work in progress, but I'll need to develop more characters before I can record a demo. Maybe I'll be Frankie for my first gig, or maybe I'll be the tooth fairy. It's all good. Will I ever be a cranky, crusty, old codger? Only if that's the voice I'm acting.
I just spent the first of two weekends cramming as much of Elaine Clark's thirty years of wisdom into my head, body, and heart as humanly possible, along with a dozen other hopefuls. I had no idea that being the oldest guy in the room would be an advantage. Professional voice acting depends on life experiences as reference points in order to make commercial dialogue feel authentic. I had a steamer trunk full of experiences related to travel, careers, raising sons, friendships, lovers, adventures, victories, failures, joy, tragedy, and more, while the young students had far less to draw from. It's Sunday evening and I'm exhausted, but I have this incredibly large school of voice acting fantasies swimming around in my head. I never felt more alive.
More boomer adventures to follow. What's yours?