I may be a lot of things. I may be 34. I may be a Dolphins fan. I may be the funniest person my wife has ever met.
But I am not a pretender.
So I’m not gonna sit here and pretend the Fins will make the playoffs. I’m not gonna try to convince you I’m hilarious. I’m not gonna deny (anymore) that I’m actually 36. And I’m not gonna pretend I’ve accomplished all the goals I set out for myself.
And I’m not gonna pretend that matters much to me these days either.
I just turned 36. Today. But age ain’t nothing but a number that signifies the deterioration of your body’s physical potential, the diminishing strength of your nervous system and the declining impact of your presence on earth.
But whatever, I don’t feel 36. Get off my back.
I can’t pretend that at almost halfway through my life (what’s the life expectancy these days? 70? 80? What if we factor in a Romney win? 60?) everything has thus far gone according to plan.
For one thing, I’m between jobs. For another, I’m writing this drunk after my birthday party. The original plan called for neither of these circumstances to pass. But I adapt. LIKE AN AMERICAN.
I thought that by 36 I’d be retired. Seriously (I was an idiot). As a kid I played that Life game all the time, thinking it was pretty realistic, even though I always started over unless I landed on lawyer. I kinda wanted to be a journalist but, even then, decades before the internet, I knew that wasn’t practical; journalists didn’t make jack, even in a board game!
Little did I know that the 50k the lawyers and doctors made wasn’t gonna get me anywhere either, nor did I know that everoyne hates lawyers and that being a doctor is way too hard.
Regardless of what the board game said, by 36 I thought I’d be set. Figured I’d be rich; I’d have published a novel or produced a screenplay or hit the lottery. I’d be married to some bangin’ broad and I’d be living in New Jersey because that’s the only reason I’d ever use the phrase “bangin’ broad.” And that was just fine with me. But life had other plans.
Today I turn 36, and I’d be pretending if I said that, at 36, I’ve accomplished all my goals. Things I expected to have already happened haven’t quite materialized.
At 30, that might have bothered me. It probably did. But since then:
I had a kid. And while that’s not the kind of thing you ever visualize when you’re a teenager dreaming of the future, no matter how many blue or pink pegs you stick in the back of the Parker Bros. plastic car, becoming a dad has a way of trumping just about every dream you thought you had and replacing them with a reality that’s even better.
No, I haven’t succeeded in all the ways I’d hoped to, at least not yet. But I suddenly have a son who is absolutely incredible, and his presence makes every personal or professional disappointment seem utterly meaningless.
Since my son has arrived, any disappointment I had over where I had wanted to be at this point in my life versus where I actually am has both evaporated and ballooned.
His existence has made me care about little but his well-being and his future, and it’s made me forgive every previous misstep I’ve made as part of the pathway that led me to him. And his existence has given me a reason to push harder and achieve more; a real, tangible reason that can sometimes feel like pressure, but usually feels like purpose.
So yes, at 36, I may feel a bit behind in some ways, and a bit like I haven’t lived up to expectations in others, but I also feel like the one real thing I have accomplished has shattered any ceiling I could have ever imagined for myself.
The first thirty-four years of life were total B.S. (Before Son) and every birthday I have going forward will mean just about nothing unless he’s around. So sure, today I turned 36, but that’s not really how I see it. I see it as Year Two of my life as Father to the greatest thing that’s ever happened (to me).
My life is no longer about a checklist of things I need to accomplish; it’s about being there to see everything he achieves. I don’t need to live vicariously through my son and I don’t need him to accomplish my dreams: he is my dream.
Through him I’ve already accomplished – at 36 – more than I ever thought possible.
But let’s see how I feel at 56.