I had a birthday the other day. Another trip around a rather unremarkable star, in a quiet planetary system, in a spiral arm of a galaxy in a dead end street of the universe. Another year of triumphs and failures; heights of joy and pits of sadness. Another year of getting through each day without screwing up too much and succeeding just enough. Another year of trying to make three kids happy, making my wife happy, and here and there making myself happy. This job doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and just like Ikea furniture sometimes you don’t get to the end exactly the way you would expect from looking at the picture.
It’s a weird thing being in my age group. At some point you realize you’ve probably lived half your life and that’s when you start to take stock of what you’ve accomplished. I don’t know many people of my generation who really feel like they’ve reached their potential. Maybe it was the time we grew up, or what the economy has done in the last ten years. I feel like there’s more to come, but I have to be realistic and recognize I need to get my shit together. Back in ~2014 I had a plan, and that plan pretty much went to hell. A plan to get out of the corporate world in 6-8 years. I still feel like I need to get my shit together and get out of the corporate world, it’s hopefully just going to take a little longer than I thought. Anna Kendrick said it better than I ever could.
It's cute how I used to think this "barely-holding-it-together" feeling was temporary.
— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) February 17, 2015
Another thing about being my age is 1- you start to see a lot more doctors, and 2- they all start sentences the same way. “As we get older.” This started a couple years ago, first at the optometrist, as he was breaking the news to me that I needed progressive lenses. But now all my other doctors start the same way… ‘as we get older, our bodies blahblahblah’ ‘as we get older, our skin blahblahblah’ ‘as we get older [whatever ailment is bothering me.] OK, yeah, I get it. Years of eating too much, drinking too much, and not exercising enough has left me with a dad-bod that hurts everywhere.
There’s another ‘as we get older’ thing, however, the doctors don’t say. I wish they’d really warned me about this one. ‘As we get older, we start losing more friends than gaining new ones.’ I think it’s partly because we’re all in that hyper focused kid stage right now. One kid almost in college (how the fuck am I going to pay for that), one kid super active in sports, and another kid super active in competitive dance. The wife and I spend so much time running them all over the place by the time everyone’s home and fed, we’re both wiped and just want to sleep. My wife’s a trooper, man, she gets shit done and I don’t know how she does it. Just a day or two with these girls and I’m run ragged. I suppose that’s why she goes to sleep at 8:30 almost every night.
As we get older, we also start to lose friends. People move away, and sure they’re still my friends, some of my best friends, but when they’re not around locally it’s hard to stay connected. I put a lot of energy into work-friendships several years ago and those pretty much all fell apart for one reason or another, and now I find my coworkers are in different places of life than I am. Unfortunately, sometimes we lose friends to accident and illness. I had a mentor from several years ago who died from El Cancer and I still think about him. Maybe not every day, but more than a couple times a month. I miss him dearly. He was that cool boss who’s a little older than you so he can still teach you about life, but not so much older that he’s just an old crusty jerk. I haven’t found anyone able to take his place.
If you’re reading here you know I ride, and a lot of my friends do too- hell, you probably do also- and the more miles you rack up the more likely you’ll have a friend get killed on the road. I’ve unfortunately been through that too. Pretty soon the list of people you know who’ve died on the road starts getting longer. I’ve gotten to the point I’m real careful about who I ride with because I don’t want to see them die, and I don’t want to be the one to call their wife and give them the news.
All this to say… quite simply.. when you have a birthday remember your real friends. Remember the friends who have stuck with you through all your bullshit and their bullshit. The friends who let you crash on their couch when you drive through town even though you haven’t really seen them in two years. The friends who you can meet up for a beer and talk about stuff our fathers used to talk about. As we get older, as we have more birthdays, each friend I keep seems more valuable and each friend I lose feels more heartbreaking.
I know I’m not the easiest guy to be friends with. I’m opinionated. I swear too much. I’m lazy. I probably drink more than I should. I say things you don’t like on social media. I know. I get it. If you’re not up for my bullshit, I get it. I might not like the result, but I get it. Sometimes it’s easier to just turn your face to the sun and bask in the light, ignoring the shadows it throws behind you.
But for those who have stuck around, for those friends who forgive me and ignore my dumb shit, please know that I appreciate you more than you can know. Only love wins. Thank you all.