Bilbo: "Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
Thank you friends for all the birthday wishes, they have really been overwhelming, but I have to ask:
A birthday is just another day in another year, right? I’ve simply completed another ride around the sun, right? Am I really to count out the years and days and hours from my birth, to my death? Am I to measure out my life with coffee spoons?
Birthdays feel like they stopped being fun years ago – the parties usually occur on the weekends around the birthday, and I’m on a strict spending diet so I’m not about to start my own celebration after I finish the day’s work; I’m an adult now – or at least I’m trying.
When you get to middle age, it’s hard not to look around at your former classmates and friends and then use their progress as a measuring-stick for your own. I have pangs of regret that I have no children, that I do not own my own house, that I haven’t gotten a master’s degree, that I left my home town and started anew as an adult.
Hell, if I had made a few decisions differently, my life could be measurably better or worse than it is now, and I’m the kind of analyst who would obsess over the hypotheticals if I fail to exercise some self-control. My list of regrets would take up a year’s worth of blog entries.
I really wish I had taken more pictures of my life from 18 years old to today. Recently, an old friend of mine started uploading some vintage pictures of us and our circle of friends, and it opened my eyes. These pictures were of me between age 14 and 22. This was a time period where most of my outward confidence and joy was masking depression, uncertainty, confusion, fear, doubt, anger – the usual adolescent emotions exacerbated by my own unique brain chemistry and recreational substance use.
I used to feel like I was ugly. I have a facial deformity that has always affected my self-confidence –because of a birth defect, my face, my nose and lips especially, is asymmetrical.
I look at those decade-plus old pictures now and I think that I looked like a million bucks. If only I was as attuned to myself and as able to recognize beauty then as I am now, my life might be totally different.
But would I want it to be?
I've done well for a guy with low self esteem. I feel like I have a lot to celebrate at 35 years old.
I am so lucky to be loved. I have a wonderful wife who has put up with my awful jokes and curmudgeonliness for 13 years (10 of them married). I have parents who have sacrificed and fought for me at every stage of my life. I have a close family held together by fidelity and affection, despite being sundered by great distances.
I have friends that I haven’t seen in years who still personalize their birthday messages to me – because they haven’t forgotten me. I don’t know how they’ve managed it, some of them are from the ‘scene missing’ portion of my past. While my circle of local friends has remained small, to some extent purposefully, they are the kind of friends that I would keep around for 20 or more years if I could.
I have a chinchilla that steals kisses – it started as a trick, she’d give Mrs. Chris or myself a kiss on the lips in exchange for a treat, a sliced almond. Now she just scurries up to us and steals kisses, probably hoping to be rewarded with a treat. How bad can life be when one has an affectionate chinchilla as one of your companions?
I live a life of abundance – I’m not rich, I don’t have a ton of shit, I don’t even do that much with my spare time, but I feel fulfilled, and also grateful that I’m lucky enough to be that way. In 35 years, I don’t think I’ve seriously wanted for much – though I’ve been poor, sick, tired, disabled, lonely, cold and unemployed at times through those years, overall the balance of my life has been fantastic.
At any given time, I can look around and find that I am surrounded by good music, good art, good company and/or good food.
I enjoy the work I do and the people I work for. I am successful, and I am responsible for that success. My coworkers are funny, helpful and down-to-earth.
The industry we serve, the financial services/advice industry, is one of the most misrepresented industries on the planet. People in the business tend to be humble but confident, friendly but competitive. It’s an environment that generally brings out the best of the best of people, but can occasionally bring out the worst of the worst in people. For a journalist, that’s grist for the writing mill.
I live in one of the safest, wealthiest and healthiest places in the world. I can’t say enough about how awesome it is to live on the Jersey Shore. I feel sorry for everyone who doesn’t.
The Cats won last night.
Most importantly, while I live in the now and I embrace today, I have a lot of hope that the future will be even better. I don’t need to live the dream, I just need to live my life.
And right now, at 35 years old, that life isn’t bad.