So here it is again. November 16th. My birthday. I’ve now officially lived 33 years on this planet – though some would argue to add about nine months to that. But that’s neither here nor there. As far as we’re concerned for this conversation, we’re talking about eleven times three, ninety-nine divided by three, one-third. And from my fairly blithe perspective, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. There are, after all, some much bigger fish to fry.
Some folks take a thorough inventory of themselves each time another calendar year passes, as if all the things they’ve promised for themselves in that three hundred sixty-five days past actually count as some sort of black mark on their self-worth. Pity flows out like spores from a stepped-on mushroom with each utterance of, “I’m much too old for this-or-that.” Says who? The grand hall monitor in the sky? I don’t think so.
I refuse to believe this way. Sure, I have regrets – hell, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But all I know is that I’m now a man in my mid-thirties, yet every time I look in the mirror I see the same exact kid I’d look at fifteen years ago, trying with the utmost futility to fix my hair just so while nervously pondering what steps I could take to keep myself from being ridiculed – because let’s face it, as an eighteen-year-old kid, who’s really that interested in planning out their future when there’s one more girl or guy to make you feel like a complete and utter ass?
That’s the thing, I think. That’s why I’m so contented now. I’m married to a beautiful and talented woman. I have three wonderful children and a loving, adorable yellow Lab. I have more talent than I know what to do with (humble much?). I know what to do under stressful circumstances. Knowledge still flows into me like it’s being siphoned in, only now I openly accept – even lust after – it. Understanding all this, there’s no way I’d ever want to return to my youth. There’s no more useless angst, no more roving self-doubt, no more nervous itching in my gut when I realize I might not be everything all the other kids expected of me. I’m free to be myself now, free to enjoy listening to Carcass and Prince back-to-back while openly weeping at the final scenes of Moulin Rouge. These were things I never would have done – or actually, admitted to doing – as a child. And I think I’m better because of it.
I’m not saying that youth is bad. In fact, it’s quite an important, unforgettable time – sometimes for the wrong reasons. Yet despite this, or maybe because of it, who’d ever want to be that way again? Certainly not I.
So there it is. Thirty-three. And let me tell you, it does, in a way, feel different.
Because, for the first time, I’m comfortable saying something I should have been saying all along.
Life is good. Damn good.