Friday, April 17, 2015

In the Nick of Time, I've Figured Out Life

On the matter of aging, my mother has made her thoughts abundantly clear for years now.

"It's terrible," she'll say. "You feel young, but your body doesn't."

"But, there's some great things about it too," she'll always add.

The boy's birthday is coming up in a couple weeks but, before then, I've got another birthday staring me down. Now being on the downside of my mid-30s, introspection is inevitable.

But rather than opine on the drawbacks of getting older, I'm opting to — like Mom — stay positive. Besides, I've still got a few years until 40 and, as we all know, that's when you're old.

The single biggest positive of growing older that I've identified is the accumulation of wisdom, or knowledge gained through experience or the experiences of others.

As best as I can tell, a large part of wisdom is merely determining what to care about and what not to care about.

Coming soon to a grocery store near you.
With that in mind, I present a list of things I've learned to no longer care about:

My Appearance
When I was younger I used to make sure that I was always presentable in public, that I was properly attired, not malodorous and, in general, a calm fellow. When I became a dad, this went out the window. Time is at a premium and one doesn't always have a moment to primp and compose. I'm still the relaxed guy wearing blue jeans and T shirt, buying a six-pack of beer on a Friday night. But I'm also the guy you might see on a Tuesday night, frantically wandering the aisles of the grocery store in his bathrobe and a winter cap, muttering to himself about why we didn't "buy more damn diapers to begin with."

The Opinions of Strangers
And when I'm wandering the aisles of this hypothetical grocery store looking for diapers, there's inevitably people there. When I was younger the mere thought of this frenzied trek while wearing the uniform of the certifiably disturbed, would have been mortifying. No longer. Now I know that most strangers aren't bothering to notice me, no matter how frightening my appearance and, strangers are people who (with any luck) I won't ever see again.

The Opinions of Friends
When I was in high school I had a big circle of friends. There were more than a dozen of us who palled around. For some reason, I concerned myself with making sure each and every one of my friends, "liked" me. Talk about misplaced effort. As I got older, the big circle got much smaller and now, the people who I call "friends" do like me and it's not work. Friends know that you were just joking. They know when to give you a break and they know when to slap some sense into you. In short, friends aren't work. They're like family. They're complete pains who love you, even when you're a complete pain.

And because we are all works in progress and no one — except my wife — has achieved perfection, here are some things I need to care less about as I make the final turn and enter the stretch run toward 40.

First it was hockey. I've loved the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was 11 years old. Sure, they might hate me and all of their fans but, like a beaten dog, I keep coming back to them year after year. Next, I went to the University of North Carolina. It has many wonderful attributes but few that I enjoy more than the five students they put on a basketball court about 40 times a year. When I think about how much emotionally invest in UNC basketball, it makes me question myself on a fundamental level. Finally, I never much bothered with the NFL but fantasy football changed all that and moving to Wisconsin, where the Packers reign supreme, cemented it.

At $9 a bottle, it's pricey. And, sometimes, it's even worth it.
Add all this up and it's clear my calendar is full with a whole lot of nothing. I acknowledge this. But despite this sad reality, later tonight when the boy is sleeping and Mrs. Blackwell is dozing off, my TV will quietly be switched to the hockey playoffs. Sports has a role in life but, if sports was beer, my intervention would have been staged long ago.

I've checked with the experts and no interventions are necessary with this one. But, somewhere along the line I decided I genuinely enjoy the taste of beer, not just the glorious effects. This can be an expensive hobby. Just as important, "genuine love of the taste of beer" by no means reduces those aforementioned "glorious effects."

As a consequence, at least once every couple months, it leads to me making spur-of-the-moment plans that I frequently don't follow through on. Please see the entry above about "friends" because it fits in here perfectly.

I need more of it. Period. I'm hoping that this comes with age but, whewh, boy. Just like sports and beer, it's further proof that identifying a problem is completely different than fixing it.

It would be great if the boy was able to gain some of this knowledge via my experiences but I'm not betting on it. After all, isn't one of life's great frustrations watching others make mistakes we've made and being unable to prevent it from happening?

For now, I'm not worried about it. Given the current rate of my evolution, I'm sure I'll have all of this figured out by the time I'm 40. And until then, my first order of business is working on my propensity for setting unrealistic expectations.

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