Wednesday, February 1

Today I Am 30.

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I wasn't, nor am I now, apprehensive or depressed in any way about turning 30. I could have just as soon gotten myself killed in a farming accident before the 90's even began (and believe me, I came close a few times). 30 doesn't mean what it did even a decade ago, and for me, it's just a new set of challenges and goals I cannot wait to accept and promptly ignore while watching The Walking Dead.

I live in a city where 30 means less than nothing. Madison (like Portland, apparently) is a place where young people go to retire, and despite being part of the white collar workforce since 2004, I sometimes feel like I haven't worked a single day since I moved here. Every week for the last 9.5 years I've lived a life of simple pleasures that I refuse to take for granted.

Two weeks ago, it was 55 degrees outside. Any time it's over 50 in Wisconsin, we're happy; for it to happen in January was absolutely unfathomable. I left my office to get coffee, and as I walked the two blocks I saw beautiful people, complete with beautiful friends, clothing and domestic pets, thoroughly enjoying an unexpected afternoon of unseasonable warmth. The vibe was optimistic and giddy; nobody seemed to be taking that day for granted, and were making the most of it by merely being out and about during a stretch of Winter where most Wisconsinites have no choice but to cocoon and regulate their heartbeat. Spring in Madison is a rebirth, and we were getting an early sneak peek of what we have to look forward to in a couple short months.

Between my office and the coffee shop is a nondescript brick building that it probably overlooked by thousands daily. The rest of us recognize this place as Smart Studios, the hallowed ground where Butch Vig produced life-changing masterpieces of music by bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Archers Of Loaf, The Promise Ring, The Poster Children, Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab For Cutie. It's a landmark; the entire structure should be airlifted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I have also walked past this building nearly every day for the last eight years, always taking at least a second to remind myself what it has done for my overall enjoyment of being alive. This unseasonably warm day created a snapshot of a moment that caused me to tilt my head and smile.

In February of 2007, our good friends moved from Green Bay to literally down the street from our place. Understand that, until the age of 18, I lived in an unincorporated town miles away from the nearest friendly neighbor (I went to school in a different village). Being able to spend every weekend for five years now (and sometimes many times a week) drinking, dining and playing MarioKart with your friends is a luxury I never had the opportunity to experience as a teenager.

The first night I drunkenly left their apartment and merely walked down the street back to my place, I remember feeling incredibly lucky. There is no substitute for living close to lifelong friends, especially when it's something you never had growing up (my house was on an unpaved road). It's not lost on me, and being a Madisonian, it's a privilege most all of us have now. The next time you rely on your neighbor for something, take a minute to realize how awesome it is that you get to do that. Again, a snapshot of something seemingly small that has made me very happy.

Celia and I have known each other since 1999. I was 17, she was 15. Today, we are 30 and 28 respectively. We're such different people in so many different and astounding ways since we first met, both as a couple and as individuals, yet every day we become stronger and more inseparable, and I'm hopelessly addicted to that feeling. Just a few days ago, we drove down the street to the diner nearest to our house. We spent the next hour conversing about our families. It was a meal and a topic we have shared many times before, yet the conversation was still passionate and insightful.

I had been trying to get her to go through piles of rubbish in the basement in the hopes that we would clean it out enough to utilize the empty space more efficiently. She refused to part with tons of childhood memorabilia, memorabilia of which I had none. Celia, being someone who never had to move into a new house until she met me, had successfully been able to hang onto each and every possession she had ever obtained. I, on the other hand, moved frequently and inevitably had to part with nearly everything I had owned prior to 2000. This spawned our conversation, and it allowed major insights not only into our upbringing, but also the reasons why we value (or devalue) certain things in certain ways as adults.

I learn something new about Celia every day. It was the type of conversation I want to continue having with her until I die; we talked long after the check arrived, only to drive home and continue talking. Again, this is something I cannot possibly take for granted. If I get to live this way for another 60 years, I still wouldn't be sick of it.

Today, I am 30. My 20's were an absolute joy; I received, accomplished and achieved more than I ever thought I deserved. I am healthy, comfortable and complacent, yet fiery, cynical and motivated. I wholeheartedly appreciate what I have, yet I will work harder than ever to get more. I'm not as quick to fly off the handle concerning the people that I love, but I will still throw an entire sandwich at my television if I see a commercial I feel is insulting to my intelligence (seriously; I've done this). Dare I say, the pieces are falling into place that are turning me into a better person, whether I was asking for it or not. I'm optimistic enough to proclaim my 30's as a decade of evolution and success, but pessimistic enough to see the humor in being hit with a cement mixer first thing tomorrow morning.

Because really, how fitting would that be?

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