Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Perspective

New Year’s Eve, 2011, and I’m currently sitting in my office by myself, SyFy’s annual Twilight Zone marathon blaring in the background. My 16-year-old daughter is upstairs doing her usual cyber-socializing, and the wife and youngest daughter are out at the movies. New Year’s Eve doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore. Okay, maybe New Year’s Eve was never that big of a deal, but like a lot of folks, I used to make it a bigger deal than it really was, using it as an excuse to get completely blotto and engage in behavior that, if I were 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter, I would be deemed, in modern vernacular, a douchebag. Yeah, those days were fun, but I don’t really miss them. My New Year’s Eves may not be all that exciting, but it is kind-of nice waking up on New Year’s Day without dry-heaving and feeling like my head is going to fly apart.

I don’t ring in the new year with the hubris I once did, but I’m actually thankful I have a new year to ring in at all, and really, I’m enjoying how I’m spending it tonight. I used to lament getting older, but now I know getting older is much better than the alternative. Last year at this time, I had just been released from the hospital after a life-threatening illness and spent much of the year recovering.

Gotta pause to catch this Twilight Zone episode - one of my favorites - where a man condemned to live on an asteroid is provided a female robot companion.

I also turned 48 this year, just a couple of years away from 50, yet somehow, it doesn’t bother me as much as turning 30 did. Because of my illness, I’ve taken a good hard look at the past year, and my life in general. I never became a big rock star, never raced in the Daytona 500, never married Jodie Foster. Even after my longest-held dream of being a novelist was actually fulfilled with the publication of my two novels so far, Killer Cows and Shaken, the actual financial returns of those books assures me that writing will likely always remain just a pleasurable pastime.

Despite being a teacher with a newly-acquiried master‘s degree, I still live paycheck-to-paycheck. Retirement is probably not going to ever be an option. I’ll probably never own that mid-life-crisis muscle car I always wanted. I’ll probably never get to travel abroad. I will probably never get out of debt. I’ll probably never have the social life I did 25 years ago.

But at the same time, I have a beautiful wife who loves me for who I am, despite my quirks, hang-ups and occasional delusions of grandeur. I’ll probably never provide her with the worry-free life she deserves, but she sticks with me anyway. We are going on 23 years, and with the exception of my parents and her sister, we’ve been married longer than anyone else in our immediate families. At this point, it’s truly looking like a case of ‘till death do us part’, and I feel good about that. She’s my best friend and I never feel like I’m missing out on anything by being married to her.

I have two loving daughters who I wouldn’t trade for the world. It seems like only yesterday when they were just born, yet I sometimes have trouble recalling my life without the two of them around. They are funny, charming and have been a joy to raise. My youngest is my new ‘horror movie buddy’, and my oldest is at that really interesting age when I may always not be her first choice of people to pal around with, but when we do, hilarity ensues.

Another great Twilight Zone episode. This is the one with an assortment of people are trapped in a cylindrical room, only to discover later on that they are just dolls.

And even though my job as an educator is currently in utter turmoil (district budget problems, reduced pay from furlough days, increased workload, etc.), I still love what I do. On those days when I don’t, I now try to remember two things: 1) that I’m alive to have a job to complain about, and 2) no matter what, teaching beats the hell out of what I used to do for a living (flipping omelets at a hotel restaurant).

As a writer, I’ve made almost no money from the two novels I’ve gotten published. Okay, so I’ll likely never wake up in a coastal beach house overlooking the Pacific and retreat to my office with a cup of coffee to continue work on my next bestseller. I still enjoy making stuff up, and one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me was having students come up to me to sign copies of my books. Maybe respect is better than money.

I’ve reached the point where personal vanity is no longer a priority. I’m no longer someone women take a second glance at, and I’ll never again be in the same physical shape as I was in my 20s. This is actually pretty liberating. I do not think I’m a hideous human specimen, and my wife finds me desirable, so that’s really all I care about. And you know what? I’m pretty sure I have a LOT more sex than most single guys my age, and I don’t have to work that hard to get it.

I also reached the point where I truly do not care what inconsequential people think of me. I’m 48 years old. I love heavy metal music. I love wearing my hair long. I love playing Mario Kart. I love throwing on my ripped-up and sleeveless Motorhead T-shirt on weekends. I love the fact I’ve not used (or needed) my cellphone for over a year. I love horror movies with gratuitous violence. I love wasting entire days reading my Kindle when I could be walking-off some pounds on the treadmill. And I love the fact I don’t feel like I have to grow up and act my age. And, in a way, that is growing up, isn’t it? Sorry, folks. I like my life, and your approval of how I live it is no longer needed.

Sure, a lot of 2011 sucked, but I am also reminded of the important things that were uber-awesome about it. If fact, when it’s time for me to leave this world, 2011 may end up being one of those years for which I’m the most thankful. This was the year I first became truly happy to be alive, surrounded by people who love me for who I am.

Well, I gotta stop here. The next Twilight Zone episode is the one with a woman in her apartment dealing with the sun getting closer to Earth. My oldest daughter loves this one, too (a girl after my own heart). I’ll call her down to catch it with me. Another great New Year’s celebration, likely to go down as one of my favorites.

Maybe your perspective will have you feeling the same way.

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