Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Slacker* Looks At 40 (from 46) - What Have I Done?

"'Cause your mornings will be brighter
Break the line, tear up rules
Make the most of a million times none."
- Bauhaus  

It's been over six years since I Turned Forty, so I think it's time to wrap up my look back at the (non)event.  At the time, I was  disintegrating, attempting to get back into some semblance of shape, questioning many of my career choices and still being grilled about my child-free lifestyle.  But I did have a few moments of reflection.  I can't remember any of them, so here are some I made up...

No, no, no.  I remember.  I thought what most slackers* think, especially at their milestone moments.  

I poured a ridiculous - like "Risky Business" ridiculous - rum and Coke, swallowed a teaspoon of narcotic cough syrup and asked myself "What have I done?"

The answer came entirely too quickly.  Like, Mike Damone in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" quickly (poor Stacy).  But I digress. 

Not very much.  At forty, I had done not very much.

Most of my friends had children, as did two of my three siblings.  I worked for a woman six years my junior who was a CPA, a respected VP in a growing company, a mother of two and squarely on a CFO track.  I had meandered my way to a job which, to be fair, wasn't much more advanced than my first non-retail gig from thirteen years earlier - and which had about the same limited future.  I knew a handful of world travelers and a fistful of published writers.  I knew a man who had been awarded a Bronze Star, had a hospital named for him and who had served as Governor of a US territory. 

My inventory of accomplishments looked bleak, by comparison.
  1. Came home in a police car when I was in the sixth grade.  I was only the lookout for the breaking and entering operation, but there you go.  Lesson learned - schools have silent alarms.
  2. Went from curtain-puller for the school play one year, to title character the next.  Signing autographs for little kids is great for a young ego.
  3. Saw Elvis working on the Chessie System Railroad over a year after his "death."
  4. Convinced the guy at Montgomery Donuts to give me a huge trash bag full of 12-hour old donuts, which I inexplicably dumped on the lawn of the head cheerleader at my high school - a girl who did not know my name, and a girl who was out of town at the time.
  5. Drove alone through the "Storm of the Century" in 1993 - from Maryland to Key Largo without stopping for more than gas.  Heavy snow until I was well into North Carolina, then the hardest cats-and-dogs-style rain I'd ever seen - hours and hours of it - all the way to Jacksonville.  Next came insane, 18-wheeler-punching wind, flying debris and reports of over 15 tornadoes across Florida.  That was followed by hundreds of miles of gas stations without electricity, downed power lines all over the place and a state of emergency.  When I reached Miami, it was pretty much just me, the power company trucks and the police, on the roads.  It's a longer story than that, but let's just end this with... Worth It.
  6. Invented a time machine using yarn, butter and algae.  Can't remember where (when) I left it.
  7. Witnessed, in-person, an NFC championship, Cal Ripken's last game, Darrell Green's last game.  Wait.  That's kind of sad.  Saw a Daytona 500 once, but Jeff Gordon won, so that sucked a little, too.
  8. Got doused with Heineken at the ORIGINAL 9:30 Club in DC, courtesy of the not-yet-licensed-to-ill Beastie Boys.  Yeah, I'm not young.
  9. Was an invited guest at the inauguration of one of my heroes as he became the Governor of the US Virgin Islands.
  10. Proved that soul mates exist - by finding mine.  I know!  Weird!
  11. Wrote "Zombieland" and "Warm Bodies" and "The Walking Dead."  In my mind.
  12. Ran for the US Senate as a founding member of the Egalitarian Party.  Lost, primarily due to the fact that no one knows what egalitarian means.
  13. Stepped on a pop top.
  14. Survived.  So far.
  15. Managed to have a reasonably good time.
Yeah.  I could go on, but why?  I hadn't compiled a rock star's diary of cool stuff, but as I digested my 40th birthday cake, along with some rum, cola and hydrocodone, a warm blanket of contentment wrapped around my aching, not so young body - twice.

I had [Maris].  We had jobs where we were indispensable, well-paid and beloved.  I had good doctors and drugs and the promise of a long-awaited diagnosis and treatment for whatever the hell was wrong with me.  We clung tightly to each other, and to the promise of better days ahead.  We could, indeed, survive.  And more.  We could thrive on this silly - but pretty - little planet.  Good things were still within our reach.  Big things, even.

We would make the most of a million times none.

* Still not really a slacker.  Just ask my boss!    
By the way - this one was inspired by my good friends at STUDIO 30 PLUS, and their weekly writing prompts of "OLD" and "HOPE."                   


  1. Awesome Joe! Everything a blend of age and hope should be!

    Your life sounds amazing and suddenly I am so thrilled my school didn't have silent alarms. Ours was loud, blaringly loud, I could even hear from my house when I ran back home!

    But yeah, a nice cool life... There is more to life than having kids (maybe one day I'll be convinced of that) but yeah... Great take and I'm glod you linked up!

  2. Love it! And I'm just a year behind you, Joe. Incidentally, I'm very jealous of #8 and saw Cal Ripken play his last game against the KC Royals at Kaufman Stadium. It's all about perspective. Sometimes we don't realize how much we've done with our lives until seen through someone else's eyes, and #5 proves my point. Sounds like a nerve-rackingly awesome trip to me!