If you haven’t seen the billboards, saw the newspaper ads, watched the television or hear the commercials on the radio, if you’re completely unaware of what a rarified week this is then I’ll spill the beans and let you know that my birthday is this Saturday. 39, that’s the age I’ll be. What an odd year 39 is. On the surface it’s a nonevent, it isn’t 35, isn’t 40, it just sort of sits out there.
39 though, to me is a big year. When I was a kid 40 seemed old. It’s the start of being middle aged. There’s no more wiggle room, no last chance, this is it, you’re now staring down the barrel of a gun. I don’t think it can be argued, physically your best years are behind you. 40’s when the hounds of hell start trotting closer to the wagon you’ve been blasting through Hades on, so hopefully you’ve learned a few lessons along the way. If you’re lucky you’ve figured out where to weave when they’re expecting you to bop, how to cut a turn a little sharper than they thought and you gain a few more years of living bite free. If not, well it’s going to be a long few years as we start our descent.
39 is real. I’m an adult now. I don’t get to go play with Peter Pan, Wendy and their gang of kids anymore. What the hell does it mean? I know, for a lot of you adulthood came a lot earlier than 39. You decided at 29 or 30 or 35 or whatever that you were an adult and it was time to start living the life of an adult. You bought homes thinking about school districts, started 401K’s, began thinking of retirement, etc. I however did not. I spent most of my 30’s still feeling like I was in my 20’s. Things changed when my son was born of course but there are still some course corrections that 39 is going to bring, I fear.
The cool thing about 39 though is that it isn’t 40 yet. I still have some goals that I’m going to be pushing hard for this year. I’ve started my novel (I call it my novel but it’s really a gift to the world really since it is after all, the Great American novel of this here century.) I’m still playing guitar and have a handful of blues licks I’m planning to write a stripped down, balls to the walls rock album with this year. I’ve got this column. And, I’ve got a few other surprises I’m not willing to share just yet.
In my short years on this third rock from the sun I think I’ve learned a few things that will help me as I finally turn the page and become an adult at 40. Most of these things aren’t lessons anyone can teach you, you’ve got to live to learn them. As a result, a whole lot of those people who decided to become an adult at 29 or 30 or 35 never did and never will. I could jot down a list but then this would sound like a valedictorian speech instead of a column about turning 39. I think I’ll mention a couple though that have resonated most loudly with me—1.)Know the difference between what’s worth fighting for and what isn’t worth fighting for. When you take a look, the ground most people fight the hardest over usually isn’t a hill worth dying over. 2.)Tragedy happens, both in the micro and macro. These tragedies are random events 90% of the time and are never the result of some gray haired old guy in the sky picking whose dad is going to die or where an earthquake is going to hit. The sooner you accept these things as random events the quicker you can accept them and move on. 3.)The only real thing that matters is your family. Take care of them, do right by them and all other things seem to flow naturally. That’s it really I don’t think I have the right to try and get you to live by any lessons I’ve learned in my life. In the end, you’ll find your own lessons and live your own life by those.
Over 2 decades ago I heard a simple maxim on the sitcom Family Ties of all places. When Alex asked Mallory what the secret of life was she replied, “be happy, try not to hurt other people and hope you fall in love.” I’ve been lucky, I’ve fallen in love. I’ve got a fabulous family. I love the people I’ve chosen to be around and who have chosen to be around me. I think I’m happy. At least most of the time. In any case, when I’m not happy I can recognize that it’s situational and will change over time or when I can affect change on whatever is causing me to be unhappy. At my core though, I’m a happy guy. I work real hard not at not hurting other people. When I do hurt someone I try to repair the damage as quickly as possible. I also now recognize when others are hurt by things outside of my control and attempt to help them when I can. As my wife will tell you, I’m not the most empathetic person. When the human interest story comes on the news or the Olympics telecast I turn the station. But I’m trying and I’m learning. I wouldn’t change one damn thing I’ve done these first 38 years of my life. I’ve made some mistakes but I’ve learned some things along the way. I wouldn’t change one damn thing but every now and then I think I’d like to relive select moments from those years, Jesus they were good times!