Archives for posts with tag: life

Waking up to start my first day as a 40-year old, I feel good. I’d like to say I feel great, but last night I decided to stay up too late to toast the final moments of my 30’s. It seemed like some sort of profound, and necessary, gesture.

Especially after a few beers.

So I sat alone in the basement, and did a bit of critical analysis of the last decade. Some of my thoughts are captured here:

  • I’m not as fit as I’d like to be. But I’m not as unfit as I know I could be. The scale these days shows a number that seems pretty acceptable for a man my age who has no ambitions to post shirtless selfies on Facebook. I admit that getting my socks on takes longer than it used to, and longer than I feel it ought to, with a few heavy sighs along the way, but I don’t have to do that thing where you shimmy your sock on sideways with your foot resting on your knee. That’s at least something.
  • I haven’t written the next great novel, or sold a screenplay, but frankly I never aspired to. I wanted to write advertising when I grew up. And that’s what I do. Over the last few years, I’ve recognized the value of creative pursuits outside of work, too, so I am writing more and more these days for fun (like this). I even have a few hundred followers because of it. That feels pretty satisfying.
  • I thought when I got to be a father that I’d finally feel like a proper grown-up, but I don’t. I suppose I imagined that infinite parental wisdom and general world knowledge—the kind my parents seemed to have—would just be bestowed upon me one day. But I guess at 40 I finally have to accept help is not on the way. And that in truth, my parents probably had the same doubts that I do. They just figured out that it’s easy to fake out kids by just pretending you know what you’re doing. Actually, come to think of it, that strategy seems to work for most adults, too.
  • I still don’t know whether I should call myself a Democrat or a Republican. But the more I see people who rigidly call themselves either, the more content I am to be conflicted.
  • I’m not an expert at anything. Sometimes I envy my more obsessive-type friends, because I haven’t yet developed a hobby that I’m particularly passionate about. But in the last decade, I’m happy to have dabbled in a lot of things that I’ve enjoyed. At 40, I know more about photography, cooking, wine, and WWII than I did at 30. I learned to speak a little German and explored a couple martial arts. I got a guitar and a motorcycle and a tennis racket. They generally go unused, but I like knowing they’re there.
  • I don’t know yet where, or if, I’ll permanently settle down. As an adult, I’ve lived in 3 of the best big cities in the country; Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco. I loved things about all of them. Now I live in the NJ suburbs, and even have things that I love about that (most days). But the thought of never again knowing somewhere completely new kind of scares me. A note here. If you’ve lived in one place your whole life and you’re happy, good for you. If you’ve lived in one place your whole life and you’re not happy, move. Trust me, it’s easier than it sounds and worth the effort and expense. You’ll either find that you’ve found a better place, or you’ll realize you left the place that was right for you. Win/win.
  • I’m nearly 18 years into my professional life and I realize I’m not even half done. I worry about whether I have 25 more years of work in me. But a few months back, I started on a new career path and I’m excited to see where it will lead. Maybe 25 years will fly by. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery. I’d be happy with either of those two outcomes.
  • I’m not wealthy, and may never be, but I have everything I need. And some of those things are pretty nice. Got a pretty big TV, and a pretty fast car, and a couple “precision timepieces.” Some folks have nicer versions of these things, some don’t. I’m happy to say I don’t look at them as ‘keeping score’ anymore. It’s just stuff that I enjoy.

So that’s what I reflected on as I finished my 30s, and my beer. In the end, I asked myself: Am I celebrating, or sorrowing? The answer to that becomes critical. Because for all of us, I imagine, it could go either way at any time. We get to choose how we evaluate our lives. There are going to be things we didn’t do, or didn’t get, and plenty of things that we did. So I choose to focus on the latter, and celebrate. I’m happy with where I’m at, and who I’m with (namely my amazing wife and beautiful daughter). And I’m happy to be leaving some things that weren’t working for me behind in the last decade.

Looking forward to the next decade, I can already see things I want to do better. I hope at 50 I feel the same sense of satisfaction I do today. Something tells me I will. Because we get to change things that don’t make us happy, and pursue the things that do. Figuratively the last decade “flew by,” but in truth there were a lot of days, and a lot decisions, along the way. Ultimately I’m responsible for all of them. I’m ok with that.

So I feel good.

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My 8-month old daughter is really all the reminder I need that time passes way too quickly. But at the end of my driveway, I have another one: my R1200GS. Beautiful in her own right, she was my baby before there was a Madison. And truth be told, I’ve been neglecting her. So I thought she deserved some ink here, too. 

But this isn’t a love story about a motorcycle, because that would falsely suggest that I’ve ever been the kind of diehard enthusiast that ‘lives to ride, brother.’ I haven’t. In fact, I’m a terrible rider. I’ve scared myself at least once every time I’ve gone out to ride. It’s usually by doing something absent-mindedly, or by not doing something that better riders do automatically, like when I pull up to stop signs and forget to downshift. What happens next is me trying to pull out quickly into a busy intersection while still in 4th gear. 

Stall. Tip. Catch. Or drop (happened once). Block traffic. Turn bright red underneath my helmet (thankfully full-face).

If you couldn’t guess, riding requires a great deal of concentration, especially when you don’t have many hours of saddle time. And concentration is not something that comes easy to us creative types. So, no, I’m not great. And moving to San Francisco didn’t do loads to increase my comfort. The best analogy I ever heard for driving in San Francisco was from a friend who compared it to sticks floating down a fast-moving river. Spot on. Random, haphazard, and completely given to whim, without a discernible awareness or purpose of their own. Add to that mindless pedestrians, arrogant bicyclists, and really steep hills and you’ve got more than enough drawbacks to dissuade us lesser riders.

But the amazing weather and beautiful scenery kept me trying—cautiously—during early mornings and other times when I knew traffic would be light. I would point my handlebars towards the coast and away from the tangles of downtown. It was impossible not to fall in love all over again. 

Then in October, 2011, Madison was born. Everything else got put on hold as I went about the business of something infinitely more complex, and terrifying, than riding a motorcycle; raising an infant. The cover went on the bike. And the oxidation process began in earnest. Every time I thought about going out for a ride, I talked myself out of it. The mind can go to some pretty scary places when you know you’ve got a lifetime of daddy responsibilities ahead of you. Visions of high-sides crashed in my head. It became an all too convenient, if practical, excuse not to go out for a ride.

But this is not a lecture about orphans and the evils of motorcycles, either. I do plan to ride again. Someday. It’s just that, like the bike in my driveway, I know I’ve gotten a little rusty. And the more I sit idle, the rustier I’m getting. It’s a vicious cycle, really.  Don’t ride, lose confidence. Lose confidence, don’t ride. And the amount of remedial maintenance I know it’s going to take to get me out there on the next ride continues to pile up. Practically speaking, the battery will need to be charged and most of the fluids changed. Personally, it’s going to involve re-teaching the limbs to work in perfect, unconscious synchronization. So I put it off. And, thus, a factor even more powerful than nerves keeps me off the streets…inertia. It’s a lot easier not to ride at this point.

As for why I don’t try to find my motorcycle a better home, rather than watch her in a slow decline, I guess it’s one of those guy things. I just love having her around. She’s rusty, inoperable, and aging, but she’s mine. And I still think that’s pretty cool. So for now, she’ll continue to sit out there among the elements. Patiently fading under that cover. Reminding me that time is indeed flying by, and that we all have to make tough decisions in life about what our priorities are going to be. I do get a little sad sometimes walking by my once pristine GS—the only brand new vehicle I’ve ever owned—but these days Madison comes first. ‘Tikes before bikes,’ I guess you could say.

Updated: I had to come here and rectify one major oversight. That’s the relevance of my own father to this story. He IS a diehard enthusiast, and the reason I decided to start riding in the first place. I don’t know that he was ever a nervous rider, but I do know that he faced a similar dilemma in 1973 when my older sister (and his first daughter) was born. He sold his bikes and decided to put riding on hold. Over the years, us kids always knew my dad USED TO ride motorcycles, including some kind of BMW, but not much more. Then, when my younger sister neared graduation from college, my dad started talking more and more excitedly about riding again, and finally bought another bike…probably the day after the last tuition check he would ever write cleared.  It took him about 30 years, but he got back to it. So I guess I will too, when the time feels right. Anyway, had to update this. How could I talk about priorities without talking about where I learned them?

Unridden, but not unloved.

And back when she was a newborn.