I turned thirty-six in February. Thirty-six, if you can believe that shit. Four years away from forty. Forty! That’s the age of someone’s dad! Oh wait; I am someone’s dad.
When I was young-grade school age-I never thought much past age thirty. I wondered what I’d be doing when I was twenty one. I wondered what I’d be doing when the year 200o rolled around. I knew I’d be twenty-six but didn’t know where I’d be. Little did I know I’d be finishing college and moving 500 miles away from West Virginia to Missouri, where I’d stake out my little place to live out the American dream.
Forty? Didn’t think much about that then. I figured I’d have kids, maybe a job worth a shit. Who knew? Thirty-six? Never gave it a moment’s thought; it’s really a non-milestone age. Overlooked in the glow of thirty-five and the fear and stigma of forty.
So here I am, halfway through the year I turned thirty-six. Thirty-six trips around the sun for me.
So where am I now, at age thirty-six? What have I done? What’s changed? Did I accomplish the things I thought I would? What didn’t turn out the way I thought it would?
I’m thirty-six with two kids and a wife. My wife and I have been together for fifteen years and have been married for twelve years. Our relationship is changing, modifying as we get older, as we accumulate years together. We’re staying flexible with each other, flexible with what life is throwing at us. We’re in a partnership, and we’re together for life. This is actually where I thought I would be, but our marriage is a little different than I imagined it might be. It’s more difficult; not quite as easy as I’d originally thought, but those are the ideals of youth. Although difficult at times it’s rewarding and not at all impossible to maintain.
I always thought I’d have kids. I just knew it really. I didn’t expect to have reproductive problems. Then, more surprising, I didn’t expect to have two kids despite my reproductive problems. One of them looks nothing like me, the other one a little like me. It doesn’t matter; I would have adopted a kid from China if necessary. My kids are creative, smart, cute, and engaging. I don’t really like other people’s kids any better than ever before though, but I love my kids to death. Guess some things never change, even after you have kids of your own.
Work…I always wondered what I’d do for a living. My dad worked in a warehouse his whole life; my grandfather worked in a factory. Most people in my family did some sort of blue collar-type jobs and didn’t go to college. Somewhere along the way, I decided to go a different path. After seven years of sporadic night school, I finally became the first person in my family to graduate from college. I moved to Missouri a week later and two month later started working as a programmer for a portrait photography company. Things got bad there and I jumped to a printing company. Things got bad there so I jumped to a really bad company called Maritz. I had the rug pulled out from under me there and ended up back at the portrait photography company. Things got bad again and I ended up at a cable company. Things got bad there too (see a pattern emerging here?) but a member of senior management actually turned the whole place around. It’s now the best job I’ve ever had and I’m providing more for my family than I never thought I could. The work I do actually means something and my job has been aligned with my strengths.
I have a house. Who would have thought? I grew up in a trailer, living in one until I was seventeen years old. Once I left, I vowed never to go back. So far, so good. I guess I always figured I’d have a house one day (it was always a two-story house in my imagination). Now I do.
What I’m grappling with now is getting older. Thirty-five seemed no big deal really. But thirty-six is different. Traci’s been heavily involved in the local burlesque scene and, although there are a large number of people from all age groups involved and attending, I’m finding myself surrounded by twenty-somethings again. I can also see the visible signs of aging in my appearance. At thirty-four I looked okay, even thirty-five. At thirty-six it’s becoming obvious. The rational side of me understands this is life and is inescapable but the emotional side of me hates this shit.
Truth is, I don’t feel like I’m four years from forty. I don’t feel like I’m twenty-one either though. I guess I feel like I’m maybe thirty. I’m too old for nightly bar hangouts but too young to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. and watch Touched By an Angel or CSI. Maybe age really is just a number, at least within reason, and reasonable people overlook it. I pine a bit for the old days but not so much that it ruins the here and now; that’s dangerous thinking. Living in the past just isn’t a viable way to live one’s life. It’s like living in a perpetual daydream.
So right now I’m contemplating putting a band together. It’s been a while and I’d like to play out again. It’s now been so many years that I’m unsure of where I fit in. I like to play heavy, loud, music so I figure I should stay true to myself. To write what I like, what I’d want to hear, and if it’s good people will come. I care little about what the current music trends are because they’re driven primarily by record companies hungry for profit. Music is art so I can be true to myself and the music since I don’t rely on it to pay the bills. There’s a niche for everything really, and I’m not that concerned about drawing record crowds or landing a recording contract. My biggest hurdle will be finding the time, as is almost always the case with everything for me.
Thirty-six trips around the sun has taught me that leopards really don’t change their spots. It’s also taught me that true change lies in our youth and that overall change is constant, albeit painfully slow. It’s taught me that people will tell themselves whatever bullshit they want to hear, despite evidence to the contrary. It’s taught me that religion is power and that power is the ultimate prize. It’s also taught me that I don’t care very much about wielding power over anyone.
I’ve learned that I don’t follow orders very well, especially from people who’ve provided no proof to me that they deserve my respect. I’ve learned that I don’t want to get down on my knees in front of any person or their gods. I guess if I was “normal” I’d be conforming more the older I get; I’m finding that the opposite is true. I’m also finding that when I’m part of a group with a common goal, like at work, I couldn’t be more of a proponent for conformity. In that context conformity is perfectly logical. Seems oxymoronic but it’s not.
When I was nineteen a girl at work told me I’d be listening to country music by the time I was thirty. That never happened. I’m continually surprised at how many people I met in my youth felt they knew me better than I knew myself.
It’s also been sobering to watch the patriarchs of my family begin to die.
All in all I’m healthy and happy, and I’m glad to have survived thirty-six years so far. I’m glad that I haven’t become the person I did not want to become. I’m open-minded yet reasonable, I’ll still take risks provided they’re calculated, and I still believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle ground. I still hate extremism. I still love heavy music, I still hate sports. I still believe in living and letting live. I think the world is a little better with me in it or, if not, it’s at least not any worse. After thirty-six trips around the sun, I’m pretty happy. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
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