Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Being taller and older doesn't mean you are grown-up

I turned 44 years old last week. If there is a more unremarkable age to turn I can’t think of it.
At 16 a person can drive a car. Well, a person can legally operate a vehicle if he or she passed the proper tests and received a license. There are people you run across on a regular basis who seem not to have actually mastered such things as turn signals.
When you turn 18 a person is allowed to vote. This means P. Diddy, or whatever name he is going by now, advocates you pay attention to politics and vote your mind. Some generation’s voices of political conscience are people like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. This generation has a hip hop music mogul. We may be in deep trouble.
When a person turns 21 he is allowed to buy alcoholic beverages. In a way this makes sense. It is three years after the person has been allowed to vote and he has lived with the choices he made for three years and could use a stiff drink.
At thirty years old a person has made the final crossover to being an adult. Remember a person over thirty is not to be trusted. That is what the folks at Woodstock believed. Now all those people are well over thirty and have probably even voted Republican.
However, when you turn 44 there is no rite of passage. It isn’t even an age which people would understand if you were depressed. Guy #1: “What’s the matter, Tom? You look a little down in the dumps.” Guy #2: “Well, Jim I’ll tell you. I turned 44 yesterday and I’m feeling a little bummed out.” Guy #1: “Gee, Tom I didn’t realize. Boy, 44, that’s pretty tough.” Guy #2: “I didn’t think it would hit me so hard.” Guy #1: “I see where you’re coming from. I mean, wow, 44. This means you’re…you’re…oh, get over yourself! 44 is nothing. Ooooo, it’s 23 years until I retire. I still have my health. My kids are old enough to take care of themselves. Some of my hair is gray. Waaahhhh.” Guy #1 walks away in disgust after lambasting Guy #2 with sarcasm and disdain.
Guy #1 is right. There really isn’t anything to be concerned about; except for the possibility that you may have gotten so unremarkable you may cease to be interesting. There is an old Monty Python sketch in which a man is asked a question and he responds, “I am an accountant and consequently too boring to be of interest.” That is probably my fear. (I do not fear becoming an accountant. I have friends who are accountants and they are not completely uninteresting.) I fear becoming boring.
This fear is not unfounded. Recently I have found myself discussing, at some length, our household budget. If we pay off this bill and then roll that monthly payment into that bill we can…arrgghhh. It is important and it can make a huge difference in my children’s lives if I am able to get out of debt and pay for their college educations, but that doesn’t mean it is fun.
I have said for years, “I hate doing grown-up junk.” This usually meant bills, car maintenance, insurance policies and anything involving the word prostate. The issue here is obviously proof I haven’t grown up. A true grown-up doesn’t whine about doing the day-to-day business of taking care of himself and his family. A true grown-up identifies the important things in life and deals with them in a mature manner. A true grown-up doesn’t shirk the unpleasant tasks. A true grown-up wakes up each morning and dutifully goes to work, pays the bills, cleans the house, does the dishes, and then sneaks into his bedroom, fires up the PlayStation and plays four and half solid hours of Madden NFL ’07.
Being a grown-up means I stand in the stiff Kansas wind on a Saturday morning and watch my son play soccer, or more accurately, run wildly from one end of the field to the other with several other eight-year-olds doing the same partially organized endeavor. Being a grown-up means being amazed when my eleven-year-old daughter comes up with the perfect witty retort which makes the entire room break-up laughing. Being a grown-up means watching my oldest daughter make caring and positive decisions which show she is much brighter than her old man. Being a grown-up means sitting down exhausted after a crummy day at work and having my wife give me a look and smile which lets me know I’m not doing it for nothing. Being a grown-up can mean you have a darned fine life…I still refuse to do anything involving the word prostate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is something wrong?

I went to check my blog today and things seemed awry. I am publishing this little note in an attempt to get things right again.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Things aren't always what you expectorate

I always thought imagination was one of the best parts of being a human being. I suppose it is possible cats daydream about having opposable thumbs and taking their rightful place at the top of the food chain. Maybe penguins have fantasies about Bermuda or gerbils imagine themselves in some sort of rodent NASCAR event as they run in those pointless wheel thingies. However, until I am shown some sort of compelling evidence to the contrary I will believe people are the only critters on the planet with the ability to make stuff up.
Evidence that mankind is the only species with brains designed for such an activity can be the sublime (Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel), the ridiculous (every script for Charlie’s Angels), and even the frightening (the Houston Astros uniforms of 1975). Most things created by imagination are intended to inform, entertain, and even enlighten. Those are the positive aspects of imagination. Imagination is not always positive though (see the reference to the Astros above).
The ability of people to imagine is often used to predict. “How will things be in the future?” is the most common use of imagination. Some people’s imaginations work differently than others. If I go to the top of this very steep mountain, which is covered with hard packed snow, making it somewhat akin to a sheet of glass covered with Wesson oil, and place my feet into two very long, very slick planks of wood and then, intentionally, throw all my weight downwards towards dozens and dozens of boulders and trees with a molecular density much greater than my own this will be: A. Fun B. Invigorating C. Slightly Risky or D. Suicide. My imagination tends towards the “D” answer. Luckily for the entire skiing industry not everyone shares my particular style of predicting.
Recently I was reading a book which discussed how this can lead to unhappiness or even depression. The author posits that people are very adept at making up what they believe the world will be in the future. They are equally adept at being disappointed when it doesn’t turn out that way. The more serious disappointment comes when things do happen as predicted, but their lives still stink.
Many of us have pinned all our hopes on a particular happening. “If I get this new job I am after everything will be great.” Then the person gets the job and learns carrying the lights for the top Playboy photographer is back-breaking work and the models are not only not very pretty in person, they shoot you down when you hit on them just like every other girl you ever approached since junior high. Another problem which revolves around predicting the future is people often think they have more control over what will happen than they really do. Sports are the best examples of this misapprehension. Has anyone you know (yourself included) ever recorded a sporting event? He will then spend the time between the game actually being played and the time he can watch it doing everything humanly possible to avoid learning anything about the outcome. This will include putting a finger in each ear and singing “It’s a Small World” at the top of his lungs to drown out family and friends. Is this because he will not be able to enjoy the athletic abilities of the players? Nope. Is it because the sense of suspense is what makes the event enjoyable? Nope. Is it because this poor misguided soul actually believes wearing his lucky hat, eating his special cheese dip, and turning around three times and spitting over his left shoulder whenever his quarterback is sacked will cause his team to win? You betcha!
I admit to suffering from this malady. I refuse to wear anything with the mascot of my favorite team on game days. I adopted this belief (it is not a superstition if scientifically proven) several years ago. It was proven to be the absolute truth one seemingly normal day. I got dressed in a hurry and without thinking I put on my Kansas Jayhawk tie. I realized some time in the afternoon the Jayhawks were scheduled to play the Colorado team in basketball that very evening. I thought about taking the tie off then and there. I decided not to. After all the Jayhawks had beaten the Buffaloes like ten or twelve times in a row so it probably wasn’t a big deal. That night the Jayhawks lost. I felt awful. Those poor guys had worked so hard and I had made it impossible for them to win with one thoughtless act of wardrobe.