A Pirates Fan Looks At 40

 

When one has a forum like this one feels obligated to comment on certain events and topics du jour. I mean really…why else would one have a blog, right?? And so I am duty-bound to pontificate on the milestone that is my 40th birthday.

 

I am not sure when or why turning 40 became this mythical landmark of epic proportions since it wasn’t all that long ago that 40 was old because people died quite young of a plethora of maladies, while these days more & more people live into their 90’s so 40 isn’t always “middle age”.  However, when one considers a couple of things I guess it kind of makes sense. First of all, even though it isn’t unusual for people to live into their 90’s the average American lifespan is still only 78 years, making 40 actually a bit past middle age (which is depressing). Secondly, and on a more esoteric level, by the time most folks are 40 the pathway of their life is pretty much set in stone. They are married or divorced or maybe even in their 2nd or 3rd marriage. They have children and possibly grandchildren. They are living where they are going to live because if they were going to relocate they likely would have done it long ago. Their careers…if they have what one can even consider a career…is on solid ground, whether that means an onward & upward trajectory or stuck perpetually in neutral. Their financial status is what it is going to be, whether that means they are secure or are likely to be continually poor. All this doesn’t mean that one’s life cannot significantly improve or change after 40, it just means that for the vast majority of people it is what it is, and the question becomes whether or not a person can accept and be happy with that or will choose to be unendingly dissatisfied and unhealthily miserable.

 

Personally I have waffled between those two choices for years but have finally begun to lean toward the former. I spent way too much time in my 20’s & 30’s beating myself up for poor choices both professional & personal. Would I like to have a wife & kids?? A high paying, satisfying, well-respected job?? A big fancy house and an awesome car?? Enough money to buy anything or go anywhere I want?? Sure…who wouldn’t?? However, when I look at things from a more positive perspective I can embrace how blessed I have truly been. I have a great family that I know I can count on. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and enough money to go out to dinner, see a movie, or keep Amazon.com in business. There are lots of folks who aren’t that fortunate. When I was 33 years old I spent 6 months in a “skilled” nursing facility and had the opportunity to see what true misery is like. My Dad would always comment that if there is a sadder place on Earth than a nursing home he couldn’t imagine what it might be. He also used to say to me that the difference between me and most everyone else in that horrible place was that eventually I would get to go home. That experience changed me forever, mostly in a positive way. I am much more appreciative of what I have now. I don’t believe anyone who says that they have no regrets. We all make mistakes and we’d all change a few things if we could go back in time. But Back to the Future was only a movie, and so we must move forward, hopefully making better choices and learning from past mistakes. Each day…each moment…is a gift from God, and we should enjoy & embrace it.

 

I can think of no better way to mark this historic occasion than to revisit my bucket list. “You have a bucket list??” Yes…yes I do. About 5 years ago my friend Slack (who needs to get his head out of his tookas and start writing again by the way) did a list he called 45 Things to Do Before I’m 45. At the time he was approaching 40, and I have no idea how he ended up doing on his list (I’m an awful friend). I decided to do my own list (written from the confines of a hospital bed) which was first published on the old MySpace blog and then re-released here a few years ago. Well, as Bon Jovi might say, I’m halfway there, so I suppose now is a good time to re-evaluate and see where I stand. Unfortunately the results aren’t as good as I’d prefer.

 

 

 

Stuff I’ve Done

8. Get a dog

23. Eliminate credit card debt

36. Volunteer at a literacy organization

I have had my beautiful pug Rocco for 4 years now and he is the light of my life. Seriously…for anyone without kids I would highly recommend getting a dog. I also began volunteering for the local Literacy Volunteers organization about 4 years ago and now serve on their board of directors. I don’t really do much tutoring for a variety of reasons, but I am more than comfortable with my level of involvement. Five years ago I had significant (atleast for me) credit card debt for no real good reason, but have now got everything paid off.

 

 

Stuff I Am Unlikely To Do

1. Get married

2. Buy a house

3. Spread my seed

9. Rebuild my nest egg

12. Attend the Super Bowl

24. Atleast pass thru all 50 states (9 down, 41 to go)

I have finally come to accept the fact that I am unlikely to ever get married or have children. I am not rich & successful nor buff & sexy enough to satisfy the expectations of your average 21st century American woman. And since I doubt if there will ever be a wife or kids I see no need to invest in a house. Houses are for families, not single men. Due to my own poor choices and the fact that West Virginia’s economy went in the tank decades before the rest of America caught up it is unlikely that I will ever have a good enough job to have much of a nest egg, but I do trust that God will always make provision for my daily bread. I know people with lots of money who are still completely miserable, so to be honest it’s really not all that important to me to have a boatload of cash. This lack of resources combined with some other factors has convinced me that it is doubtful that I’ll ever see all 50 states. Ever since an auto accident about 15 years ago I don’t even enjoy driving down the street, let alone traveling the country in a car. Plus, I honestly believe that an adventure like driving across the country is something a person needs to do while they are young and have no responsibilities. A guy I used to work with did it right after he graduated from college, and I have always thought that was profoundly smart of him. Once a person gets a job or a family traipsing about like some kind of vagabond just isn’t an option. And even though I LOVE football and always watch the Super Bowl on TV I realize now that the chances of me ever attending in person are slim. The logistics just aren’t favorable. The vast majority of tickets are bought by corporate entities, and the small amount that are released to the public cost thousands of dollars, and that’s not even taking into consideration the cost of flights, hotels, food, etc. No thank you. I’ll just hang out here in The Bachelor Palace and watch it on my hi-def flat screen.

 

 

Stuff I’ve Lost Interest In

7. Continue my education (masters degree? law school? film school?)

38. Learn about home brewing beer

I long ago began to question the value of my bachelor’s degree, which hasn’t really helped me all that much in the job market, so why would I waste time & money to go back into academia?? Looking back I think the 4 years I spent in college may have been more wisely used traveling, maturing, and figuring out what I wanted do with my life. Instead it was spent drinking way too much and attending classes that never really prepared me for anything. And speaking of drinking, I haven’t had a beer in years. It’s just not my thing anymore. I’m more of a bottled water or skim milk kind of guy. The whole home brewing idea sounded way cool several years ago, but now I can think of a ton of things I’d rather spend my time doing.

 

 

Stuff I Think I Can Get Done

4. Become more well versed in The Bible

5. Complete & submit for sale my movie screenplay

6. Lose about 50-75 lbs.

10. Go to Vegas…11. Fly in an airplane…15. See the ocean…18. Take a cruise…21. Visit NY City…26. Go to the real 221B Baker St. in London…29. Be in Boston down by the Charles River watching the Boston Pops on July 4th…31. Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square…32. Attend the Indianapolis 500…34. Visit Italy…37. Attend The Kentucky Derby…39. Go to Mardi Gras…40. Attend an NCAA basketball Final Four…42. Go to The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA…43. Attend a major college bowl game (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton)… 45. See the Grand Canyon

13. Read the entire Shakespeare canon

14. Take a ride in a hot air balloon

16. Learn about astronomy

17. Write a novel

19. Get a job that I enjoy and can stay at for the biggest part of the next 30 years

20. Study photography

22. Learn about and begin the practice of fasting

25. Buy a suit specially tailored for me

27. Ride a train

28. Eat caviar

30. Try out for Jeopardy!

33. Become a decent chess player

35. Become a sufficient, competent, maybe even semi-talented culinary craftsman

41. Learn sign language

44. Work for a political campaign

A few of these things are in progress, and a few are kind of open ended. What does becoming well-versed in The Bible even mean?? I know I need to read & study more, but does there ever come a time when one can say “I’m done. I got it. I know it all.”?? I do feel like I am a better Christian than  I was 5 years ago, but again, I doubt if I’ll ever get to the point where I have it all figured out. I am in the midst of a weight loss effort, having lost over 22 lbs. since July 2012. But since I started on that journey about 60 lbs. bigger than when I originally wrote this list doesn’t that mean I have to lose over 100 lbs. to fulfill the original goal?? Math makes my head hurt. Anyway, I am working on it and doing okay. I have the entire Shakespeare canon here in my library at The Bachelor Palace, and I have formulated a plan to complete this goal and share my thoughts at The Manofesto. Expect that in 2013. The travel stuff is kind of complicated but I still hope to do it all eventually. I had plans of finally seeing the ocean this past summer, but circumstances changed. I sincerely hope to do it next summer though. Vegas & Italy are still dream destinations, with Vegas being something I could conceivably do right now if I could ever talk anyone into going with me. Of course if/when I make it to either place I’d be doing so in an airplane, and I happen to know a couple of places in Vegas that serve caviar so that’d knock out a few more goals. It is very likely that the Vegas trip would include a visit to The Grand Canyon as well. The Jimmy Stewart Museum is only a few hours from me, just north of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately my driving phobia has prevented me from making the trip, but I’ll make it someday. NY City, Mardi Gras, London (where one would find 221B Baker St.), and Boston (for the July 4th celebration) are destinations dependent upon convincing others to go with me as well, simply because I don’t think going alone would be as much fun not to mention rather unsafe, and since I don’t have a lot of friends with ample time, money, or similar interests it is kind of a tough sell, but I haven’t given up. Attending an NCAA Final Four, the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, or a major bowl game may seem analogous to The Super Bowl, but I think they are slightly more…accessible, which is why I haven’t given up on those ideas quite yet. I honestly haven’t worked on my movie screenplay or novel in a long long time, but that is just a lack of discipline on my part. I still have ideas floating around in my head…I just need to put the time & effort into developing them. I have been pondering the fasting idea for awhile now, and it would obviously dovetail quite nicely with my weight loss (although that is NOT the reason one should fast). I actually attended a balloon festival with my friend The Owl in Columbus, OH this past summer (which is where I ended up vacationing instead of the beach), but the rides were cost prohibitive and I need to do a little more preparation & research about accessibility, although I have done enough to know it is definitely possible. There was a brief window of opportunity to take a sign language class a couple of years ago but I failed to jump on it. I keep my eyes open for other chances though. It’s definitely doable. I almost had myself convinced to get involved in this year’s political campaigns, both on a local & national level, but to be perfectly frank I got lazy. Shame on me. I guess I haven’t found a candidate that I truly believe in enough to spend my limited time & energy. But hey, the opportunity is there every couple of years, right?? I can’t honestly say I am much of a cook. I watch a lot of the Food Network, but just don’t have the inclination, the space, or the resources to actually get into doing it myself. Or maybe I am just being lazy again. I think I have figured out that the only job I could get that would truly make me satisfied down deep in my core is being a writer. So the question I have to ask myself is this…does writing The Manofesto fulfill the requirement?? On a practical level the answer is no simply because I am not getting paid to do this and I still have to go out into the workforce and endure the daily grind in order to pay the bills. But in another sense I am happy to have this outlet and feel that it has become a very important part of my life.

 

I kind of feel like I had my mid-life crisis in my mid-20’s and am very thankful for that. My life hasn’t turned out the way I might have hoped for when I was 19 years old, but how many people can honestly say all their dreams have come true?? I accept full responsibility for everything I have screwed up, and give all the glory to God for how well things have turned out despite me constantly getting in the way. I can’t call myself content or satisfied, and I consider that a good thing because it keeps me alert and forces me to be aware of opportunities to improve. But I can honestly call myself happy and thankful for my many blessings.

 

 

 

 

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