So I turned 34 on Monday.
Not really a big birthday, landmark-wise. Not close enough to 30 to feel that I’m in my early 30’s, but not close enough to 40 to start freaking out about that big number.
The biggest things that hit me about 34 were this: I’m now twice as old as the typical high school senior, and I’m in the last year of that coveted advertising demographic of 18-34. I know, thrilling.
I always used to get pretty depressed a few days before my birthday; I’d go into a little bit of a funk as I thought about another year gone down the drain.
I’m as optimistic a person as you will ever find (well OK, maybe Richard Simmons and Dick Vitale are cheerier than me), but around August 12 of every year I would get sad. “I haven’t done this yet,” or “I’m only this far along in my career,” all that stuff would bounce around my cranium like a ping-pong ball.
I’ve gotten better about that over the years, starting with my birthday in 2004 (I had a girlfriend then, so that probably was the big difference), but I still get a little bit melancholy.
I look back and ask myself: Is this where I thought I would be by now? Shouldn’t I have done X, Y, and Z by this point in my life? And am I ever going to achieve my dream of working for Sports Illustrated?
It’s not a good way to think, to always be browbeating yourself about what you have and haven’t accomplished, and I do my best to knock those thoughts out of my head when they come in.
I keep telling myself it’s not a race, that there’s no finish line, and that no one who really matters is keeping score of what I have and haven’t done. A long time ago I realized that I have what many others don’t, and that there will always be others with more than me.
Looking around inside my brain today (I like to browse from time to time), I saw a loving wife who will be my true companion until we’re old and gray. I heard from my wonderful parents, who despite their divorce 20 years ago (geez, has it been 20 years?) remain close friends. I heard from the best in-laws a person could ever hope to have.
I glimpsed fantastic and trustworthy friends, some who I’ve known literally since birth, and who now have kids of their own (I’m still having trouble processing that Marc, Tracie and Andrew, three people who knew me when I looked like I did up in that picture, have kids of their own now).
I have a job doing what I love to do, in an industry filled with people determined to keep raging against the dying of the ink.
I get to tell stories of great heroism and courage, and expose shameless liars and crooks, and make a small difference in people’s lives. That’s a damn special thing to get to do every day.
When I’m no longer able to or allowed to do that, it’ll be a hell of a sad time.
The roadmap of my life has brought me here, to this point, and I have to admit: It’s a wonderful view.
Thirty-four will be wonderful, because I’m truly blessed.
Now 40? That scares the hell out of me.
P.S. I think I still have that belt in that picture up there. Boy did I love that belt. And you notice how the socks match the sneakers? In the words of Kevin Spacey from “American Beauty,” that was not an accident.