After a fair amount of wheedling, dealing, and unmentionable sexual favors I graduated from high school when I was 17 years old, just before my senior year. It was great. I couldn't stand high school, and I was ready to get to college. I remember speaking to one of my classmates' parents about it at the time and they said to me, "I don't know why you're doing this. High school -- these are the best years of your life, and you're cutting it short." And all I could think was:
"Kill me now."
A short five-and-a-half years later, when I graduated from college and faced the world feeling entirely unprepared I thought to myself, "Oh dear god. Those were the best years of my life. And it's all over. What do I do now?"
This month I turn 30 years old, and I can't help but look forward with absolute glee. These, my friends, are going to be the best years of my life. Which ones? The ones I haven't lived yet, of course. All of them.
That's not to say that all of the past years have been extraordinarily craptastacular. In fact, it couldn't be further from the truth. The past few decades have been phenomenal. I've had good times with great friends. I own a house, a beautiful, talented wife, and an adorable dog. I've had success in many of the things I've tried and I've learned from (most of) my failures. Who could ask for more?
I suppose I could ask for the future to be just as good, but that's really up to me, isn't it?
I can't figure out these people who are depressed to enter a new decade of their lives. What for? Sitting around and thinking that things will never be the same is fruitless and stupid. The only thing worse is sitting around and thinking that things will never be any different.
Things will never be the same. They never have been. Life is change. If you haven't come to grips with that yet, it's time you start thinking about hitting puberty. The very thing that makes life worth living is that change, that experience, and the perpetual wonder of what will come next, no matter how mundane.
Will the car start tomorrow? Will I find a chest full of gold bars while cleaning brush out of the backyard? Will the Red Sox win the World Series again this year? Will the next beer I brew come out like I plan it? Will I eat a nice dinner tonight? Will you send me something wonderful for my birthday?
Even in the unlikely event that the answer to these questions are no, no, no, no, no, and yes I'm sure there will still be eight quintibrazillion more things to look forward to and wonder about. It's too easy to find joy in life to spend time finding all the things that are wrong with it.
But, since I feel like I need to do something to commemorate the Big Three-Oh aside from turn my nose up at all the glass-is-half-emptiers, I make the following three resolutions -- one for each decade so far -- that I promise to hold to for the next 10 years:
- Less pants. Why wear pants when legs can roam free under the noonday sun? Not only do I resolve to continue wearing shorts, I will try as often as possible to go through entire days completely pantsless.
- More new experiences. As Lord Darlington notes in Lady Windermere's Fan*, "I can resist anything except temptation." I resolve to try new things as they come to me. No ruts, no routines. I do, however, reserve the right to say no to any new thing that may cause an irritating case of death, as I would no longer be able to experience new things.
- Beer. Before I leave this decade, I will be a professional craft brewer.
So, send me an Over-40 mug ten years too early, ship out the Depends, the Polident, and a good-sized colostomy bag. I'm looking forward to this decade and all the rest that follow with gusto, and that is one thing that will not change.
* - My undergraduate education has now been put to good use.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
5.17.06 @ 7:40a
I'm just sitting here wondering if your delightfully optimistic attitude can in any way be attributed to the beer???
Happy Birthday, anyway, and keep up the good brewing work.
As I prepare to ignore my 72nd birthday soon, I recall feeling just before my thirtieth that my youth might be gone but now I could become a grown-up, if I chose, and that was prolly good. Now that I'm retired I reckon I can check off trying to figure out what I want to be if I grow up from my list of things to do. Looking back, every year seems to have been better than the one before it. My children and grandchildren are flourishing, I'm happier than I've ever been, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but that's been true all along no matter what I do. All I wish for you is that you feel the same as I do on your 72nd! Oh, yes, and did I say keep brewing?
5.17.06 @ 8:15a
You own your wife?
5.17.06 @ 8:24a
Heh - I noticed that too. Dude, she is -so- going to kick your ass, and then drink all your beer.
Sandra, those are great observations.
I think the best thing about birthdays is that they do give you a reflective, seemingly unselfish moment to take stock of your life and where you want to go/what you want to do next. It's one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
I turned 40 this year, and the biggest change I've had so far is that my tolerance and acceptance for bullshit is next to zero. Bullshit falls in many piles, and rather than focus and worry about each one, I've become much better these past few months drawing the line around them and not stepping in them, because I don't have to. And I'm old enough now to where I finally recognize that.
Let's hear it for less pants!
5.17.06 @ 9:04a
I almost changed "less pants" to "fewer pants" in editing, but they both sound weird. In either case... sounds like an Erik kind of a goal. More power to you!
5.17.06 @ 9:12a
Less pants! Huzzah!
I waffled between less pants and fewer pants, but I decided that less pants worked because it might just mean smaller/shorter pants.
I've yet to feel like I'm ready to grow up, and I'm not sure I ever will.
5.17.06 @ 9:31a
There's no reason to assume that the best years of your life have already happened. My grandfather, who passed away recently, had some terrific stories to tell about his early years, but I think he valued his retirement years as much as those, if not more.
My office-mate has an article by Toni Morrison posted on the door that says pretty much the same thing - that any time you value the set of years you just finished as the best of your life, you're just sabotaging your future.
5.17.06 @ 9:40a
I had a friend in college, my freshman year roommate, who told me, within the FIRST TWO WEEKS of school, that he couldn't see ever making lifelong friends at college and that he'd already made his in high school.
That's a great attitude, just prohibit yourself from enjoying anything for the rest of your life. Idiot.
5.17.06 @ 11:29a
Well, to be fair, he was fresh from the high school experience and hadn't had time to get to know anyone at college yet.
It's better to go in with an open mind, obviously, but I could see how an 18-year-old would think that at the time.
I like to think every year is my best year. It's worked pretty well so far.
5.17.06 @ 11:44a
That's how it's been going for me.
And I am of the firm belief that no matter how smart we all were at 18, it doesn't preclude the fact that we were pretty much stupid little shits.
5.17.06 @ 12:04p
My parents have always used the term "young and stupid" as an affectionate set phrase, as in "I did that when I was Young and Stupid."
5.17.06 @ 12:12p
There are SO many things I want to do before I die. And since I never know when that will be, I must constantly be exploring and gaining new experiences. My life is fabulous, albeit a tad bit more frenzied and off-the-wall at times than most, but that's just how I like it. Never know what to expect.
Although I will admit that the summer of 2000 (I've named it "Cruel Summer") and my birthday of 2002 TRUELY sucked. But I have no reason to believe anything like that will ever happen again.
5.17.06 @ 1:31p
Erik, you are awesome, and this column rocks. I think I need to start living a little harder. Though, happily, I have the most amazing friends to help me do that.
5.17.06 @ 1:41p
5.17.06 @ 1:57p
As a general rule, beer often leads to less pants and new experiences, so I'd start your goals with that one.
5.17.06 @ 11:57p
I'm facing 43 next week, and don't really care one way or the other. Time is a man-made concept. I'm going to live until I die. If I can do most of it pantsless I will.
5.18.06 @ 7:37a
Amen, Robert. Amen.