Tuesday, February 24, 2015

30 for 30: Let's Stop and Think About This

Birthdays are strange.  When we're young, birthdays are some extravagant celebration, as if growing a year older is the most amazing thing in the world.  And, when you're a child, to a degree, it is.  Each year brings new experiences and responsibilities, but in the most exciting way possible.  Things go on in that way for a while.  Then, at some point (for me it was around 23), birthdays sort of lose their luster.  They just become another day, highlighting another year gone...An annual reminder that our days are fleeting.  When you're young, you only want to be older so you can do all the things you're not allowed to do.  When you're old, you only want to be younger so you can do all the things you're no longer able to.  And, unfortunately, time doesn't run in reverse.

I never assumed turning 30 would have that much of an impact on me.  I thought I had come to terms with the thought of it long before I was at this point.  Age is just a silly number, anyhow.  But 30 is different.  It's a milestone.  The mark of another decade of life.  It's one of those things that, when you're young and the thought crosses your mind, always seems far off.  The way we make plans for things we have absolutely no intention of ever doing.  One of these days...Unobtainable, and simultaneously inevitable. 

I don't feel 30, however one is supposed to feel.  I also don't feel 20.  Or 25.  If I could go back to the 20-year-old me and ask him to describe how he envisioned his life to be at 30, he probably would have looked up at the ceiling, pretending to search the recesses of his mind for the proper response, shrugged his shoulders, and offered me a beer.  I never thought (and still don't) of the future in concrete terms.  It was always fluid and ever-changing.  A moving target.  Like driving toward a rainbow.

I guess, to me, turning 30 is just heavy.  The difference between 29 and 23 doesn't sound like much.  But the difference between 30 and 23?  Despite the fact I knew it long ago, and despite the fact I hope I actualized it long ago, turning 30 means I'm not a kid anymore.  By no means old, but not that young either.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how I feel.  I'm neither happy, nor sad.  I'm a bit overwhelmed, but not to the point of losing sleep.  I guess the best way to describe it is bewildered.  I simply can't believe how quickly time has passed.  But, I have to admit, my first 30 years have been pretty fantastic.

I've found myself to be extremely reflective over the last few days leading up to the big day, but in a very strange, jumbled way.  I've thought about funny stories from my childhood.  Former teachers I had growing up.  Lessons I've learned.  Mistakes I've made.  Times when I've been exploding with joy, crawling with despair, or embarrassed as hell.  I thought about a few life-altering moments, and a few meaningless afternoons watching rerunsIt's truly run the gamut.  So...Instead of a list of 30 lessons learned, or 30 additions to a bucket list, here's my list of 30 random reflections/thoughts/memories on my 30th birthday.

1. As many stupid things as I've done, and as many hours as I've spent playing contact sports, I'm lucky to have gone almost 30 years without any major injuries, and very few minor ones.  And very unlucky to tear the longest tendon in the body playing pickup basketball with several guys twice my age.

2. When my college buddies and I get together and tell stories, it is almost startling how many of them revolve around us simply hanging out on someone's front porch.  And beer.  Lots of beer.

3. When I decided to get my first tattoo in 2005, my parents told me I'd regret it.  I don't really regret getting the tattoo...I just wish I had gotten something different.

4. Accelerated Reader was a big deal when I was in middle school.  One day in 6th grade, we had a substitute teacher.  Fifteen of us decided it'd be a good idea to take the same test on the same book.  We got caught.

5. The big snow last week reminded me of 1994.  Snow began falling around 1:00 on a Friday afternoon, school was released early, and the snow didn't stop until Sunday.  We were out of school for two full weeks.  Our neighborhood was basically locked down.  That Saturday night, my sister, DJ, our friend Katie, and I all hung out at DJ's house watching movies and playing board games while our parents played cards across the street at Katie's house.

6. If you ever get the chance to go on a blind date, go.  Don't even consider staying at home because you've been on blind dates before and they, like, always suck because the other person is always a total bore, or annoying, or chews too loudly, or something.  It doesn't matter how many bad blind dates you've been on...If you get offered the chance for another one, take it.  Trust me.

7. The art of the lengthy, hand-written love letter needs to be revived.

8. I have loved every dog I've ever owned, but one of the most vivid memories I have in regards to them occurred one crisp fall afternoon when I was about 11 or 12.  I had been playing basketball on the back patio and decided to lie down in the yard for a while.  Our old dog, Queenie, came over and lay down behind me and let me rest my head on her belly for about an hour.  We lay there listening to the dwindling remnants of leaves blowing in the breeze, and I talked to her like she was my best friend.  Indeed, she was.

9. I think cell phones are a fabulous invention.  Coupled with lightning-fast mobile networks, and having an entire world of information available virtually anywhere and anytime is something I never would have imagined when I was a kid.  But, I also miss not being able to imagine that kind of connectivity and wish I was disciplined enough to spend far more time off the grid living life.

10. Have there always been so many inherently dumb people in the world as there are today?  I don't mean ignorant...That I can understand.  But just dumb people, that have no excuse.  I really don't know how some folks get from one day to the next.

11. I wish I traveled more.  Adrienne and I take short, weekend getaway trips often.  But, many times, we have the opportunity to do so and we just don't, for whatever reason.  We don't want the hassle of having to rush around on Sunday evening preparing for the work week.  We need to save the money.  We always have an excuse.  I sometimes wish we'd just shoot, then apologize later.

12. I wish I went fishing more often.  When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was go fishing with Dad.  We didn't go that often...A few times a year, usually.  I wish we had done more of that.  Or maybe I don't.  The limited number of those trips made them more exciting, and now...I can almost remember one specific thing from each of them.  Even when the fish weren't biting.

13. Speaking of remembering...Isn't it strange how seemingly minute details in our lives are burned into our memories like photographs?  I can look back on random memories from years ago and see certain scenes play out in my mind like a movie...As vividly as if I were watching it take place at this very moment.  Then others are a total blank...No recollection whatsoever.  Like one of those fishing trips with my Dad...I can remember sitting in a booth at The Pelican Restaurant at around 5:15 in the morning, watching the steam off his coffee make its way around his nostrils as he raised his cup to his lips, a brief pause as he went over the days itinerary.  The morning weather report was rambling on in the background.  I had pancakes.  I don't remember a damn thing about the actual fishing that day.

14. To me, the most important and useful characteristic anyone can possess is a sense of humor.

15. People often make fun of my wife for not being a good cook (me included, at times).  But I don't mind it.  I enjoy cooking, especially for her.  Sometimes my recipes are a bit dull and repetitive, but what can she say?  It's not like she can do much complaining.

16. Sometimes I miss setting the table for dinner.  Adrienne and I always eat in the living room (much to her chagrin when the time comes to clean my side of the couch), but when I was a kid, we almost never ate dinner anywhere but at the table, and my mom always ensured the table was properly set with place mats, napkins, and silverware for each chair.  If I heard the words, "Set the table and fix the ice" once, I heard them a million times.  I had my own special place mat that had the letters of the alphabet, each as a different character.  I miss that thing.

17. Earlier I talked about cell phones and how I miss not having them, sometimes...One July Saturday night in 2002, we were at Hillman's Ferry like we always were in the summer.  A major summer storm blew in that night, knocking the power out over the entire campground.  All the kids our age gathered at the shelter building and hung out talking and telling stories for hours.  No lights.  No cell phones.  Just the sound of rain pelting the fiberglass roofing panels being drowned out by a couple dozen voices and laughter.  I think it's safe to say none of us got bored.

18. Aside from my wedding day, if I could travel back in time to any point in my life, it'd be the summers from 2000-2003.

19. This winter has been one of the worst ones I can remember.  It never really got that cold during the Christmas season, and with daylight savings time a little over a week away, there's a foot of snow on the ground.  Maybe it'll be spring by June.

20. I can only recall a couple teachers from my childhood that I didn't care for.  Most of them were incredible educators and even better people that taught me far more than lessons from a textbook.  But, my favorite elementary school teacher was Mrs. Patty Shelton, my 4th grade teacher.  She made sure we were always reading, and she was instrumental in starting me down a path toward writing.  You wouldn't be reading this right now if it weren't for her (among many others).  She encouraged me to write, and I'm forever thankful for that.

21. Every time I walk into the rehabilitation center where I conduct my physical therapy, the smell of chlorine from the pool wafts into my nose.  The smell isn't unique (every indoor pool smells the same), but I always think about the hotel we stayed at in Evansville when I played on all-star baseball teams.  It had a huge skylight window, rooms had indoor balconies, and the entire building smelled like chlorine.  I'll never forget that.

22. I wish I was still in a band and I wish I still played men's league softball.

23. One of the most exhausting weeks of my life is also one of the most enjoyable.  When I was an assistant coach on the West Jessamine High School Baseball team, we went to Cocoa Beach, Florida for spring break.  Along with another assistant coach, Chris French, I had to be up before 6:00 AM everyday, and typically didn't make it to bed until after midnight.  It was wall to wall baseball from sunup to sundown for 7 straight days.  And it was awesome.

24. Is it just human nature that we always assume things we liked in our youth was so much better than everything available today?  Or is there actual truth to it?  I know for a fact popular music today is total garbage, but so was a lot of the music I used to like.  I still liked it.  Hell, I still like some of it now.  I also like the word, "garbage."  Adrienne points that out a lot.  But I hate the band, Garbage.

25. When DJ and I were kids, we played "guys" (a short-hand way of saying we were playing with a wide variety of action figures) hundreds of times, and spanning several years.  What's funny, is that the storylines we came up with rarely changed and were, in some ways, continuous.  I don't know how the stories ended.  I guess we just stopped playing one day.  And on that day, did we know we'd never play guys again?

26. I sometimes wonder why I don't keep up with my high school friends more.  Almost every friend I keep in regular contact with was made in college.  Back then, I knew my friends and I would never lose touch.  But we did all the same.

27. Somehow, my mother keeps finding sun visors.  I didn't know they still made them, but she ALWAYS has one.  Without fail.

28. I know it's impossible to live without any regrets at all...No one intends on having regrets, they just sort of happen over time.  But, when I look back on my first 30 years, I can honestly say I have few of them.  The biggest one is just wishing I had been/was more active.  I feel like I waste too much time just wasting time.  But, I also fill that "wasted time" with wonderful memories, so it isn't really a waste at all.

29. Do you ever wonder where your first car is now?  Is it still intact, or has it been parted out, recycled, and turned into something totally different?  Is it sitting, rusting out and rotting in some junkyard or vacant lot?

30. I have a beautiful, loving wife, two awesome dogs, a wonderful family, a house and a piece of land...I guess there are worse things in the world.  I don't know what things will look like 30 years from now, but I'm going to certainly enjoy the ride.

Thanks for reading.  To the next 30...