The Last Day of My 46th Year

Note: we count birthdays starting at 1, meaning that our first birthday is the end of our first year. I turn 46 today, thus today is the last day of my 46th year. That sounds depressing, because as of this minute I am MORE than 46 years old, but there it is.

Today I get to start clicking the menu item under “Age” that reads “46-55”.

I am watching the World Cup (where the US had best beat the Belch), and I am older than every player on every roster of every nation.

My youngest child is Gabriel Maxwell, and he is 5. His playmates’ parents are almost all at least a decade younger than I am. Our children’s friends have parents our age who have no young children, or parents who have young children who aren’t our age. Not both (with a couple of happy exceptions).

I was in the studio today with Elizabeth Smart, who became famous twelve years ago when she was kidnapped from her home. I was 34. I had gone to college before she was born.

So I’m old. Getting older, which has uncomfortable bits. But it beats the alternative. I’ve written sad, contemplative posts about aging, and this is not doing to be one of those.

Because people, I feel absolutely fantastic.

Physically, emotionally, you name it, I feel better than I have in years. In some ways, yes, I feel the encroaching time, but overall, baby, I feel like a kid. So here, if you’ll indulge me in using my own mistakes as cautionary examples, are some things I haven’t learned yet, in 46 years.

1. How to keep my mouth shut. I’m better at this than I was, but still, I ought to be so much better. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which doesn’t bother me much as it appears my heart is good, but it isn’t perfect and boy, my life would be simpler if I would learn to just shut the bleep up for a second once in a while.

2. How to just let it go when there’s nothing I can do. This isn’t strictly true – I do know how – but it’s close enough. I’ll give you an example. A couple weeks ago I got the amazing opportunity to spend a few days on an oceanography trip with some of my students. I’ve been reading Horatio Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin novels for twenty years, and hankering for a chance to ride a sailing ship. It was every bit as great as I thought it would be. Except I brought something with me – a loan I needed to close and that meant (at the time) business life and death. We got terrible news just as I passed out of electronic range, and I carried that with me for two days. Some wonderful ladies helped me keep my head, and in the end it was okay. I had a good trip, enjoyed myself for the most part. But it could have and should have been so much better. There was nothing I could do. What was the point in worrying? I tried to convince myself that I was preparing, considering options, that sort of thing, but I knew better. It’s a thing I really wish to learn.

3. How to believe in myself. When I got home, we dealt with the problem. It didn’t kill us (it was, confessedly, close). But that happens all the time. I have great people to help me, and great support at home, and we always find a way through. Why don’t I trust that?

4. How to remain optimistic when things are bad. Corollary to #3 above. Things do get bad, when you’re a risk-taker, which I am. I actually like that, probably mostly subconsciously, and it provides spice in a life that satisfies me. But I get down when things are bad, and miss opportunities that could be exploited. Worse yet, it makes my wife sad, which is unacceptable. And, as mentioned, things do get better, and we always come out well. My wife and I are not going to be split by anything outside our relationship, so whatever comes, we can deal with it. I should remember that.

The US is going to lose. Good test of #4.

5. Why water is exothermic. Good thing it is, though, or the oceans would freeze solid.

6. Why the US cannot develop a true, world-class striker in soccer.

7. Where Amelia Earhart died. I’d sure love to know, though. She was some woman.

8. Where this is all going. None of my plans for my life – with very few exceptions – have come to fruition. I had ideas, I had “goals”, if you want to call them that. They haven’t been realized. No, what I’ve ended up with so far is far BETTER than what I planned to get. In every area of my life, I have something deeper and richer than what I had planned and aimed for. How that happens, I’m not sure.

I guess whatever success I’ve had in that arena comes from the degree to which I’ve been able to make progress on the stuff above. That has to be encouraging.

New chapters being written as I type this. This is going to be an interesting year. Follow along, will you?

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