Yesterday was my birthday. And I tried ... I really tried.
I wanted to write a post yesterday that would sum up 43 years of me doing that thing I do. Whatever that thing is. It has something to do with writing, pants, scotch, off-color politics, inappropriate comments and more writing. Especially that first and last part.
But things got away from me. I got too tied up in birthday brooha. Or I got lazy. One of these is true, and the other is also true.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm overly introspective and fanatically nostalgic. I daydream all the time about what I would do differently if I could somehow Quantum Leap my mind back into my 13-year-old body. But I'm the kind of boring fantasizer who thinks, "I'd totally start writing books earlier, and be so far ahead of where I am now." I guess that means I'm doing what I love.
The thing is, I'm not exactly where I thought I would be right now. By my mid-forties (which I will argue strongly are still two years off), I was supposed to have a large home made of river stones, perhaps living in a converted mill on a river somewhere, in an area of the world that has proper taverns but also space ports, so that I can enjoy old world charm while also boarding for the occasional trip to the moon colonies.
I was supposed to already have my name at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list often enough that people inadvertently thought the newspaper was named after me.
I was supposed to have taken up smoking—rolling tobacco into crisp new $100 bills and lighting them from the propulsion cowlings of my jet pack.
I'm a little off the mark.
I think my 13-year-old self would likely wonder about some of the life choices I made, and some of the current details of my life. He might think I could stand to lose about a 70 pounds, and he'd be right. He might be a bit alarmed to learn about the pacemaker. But I think the thing that would bug him most would be the fact that I'm not working at Marvel Comics and I don't have super powers.
But one thing I know—I abso-freaking-lutely know—he would be impressed about is the fact that I did it. I wrote the books. A lot of books. Some of which I had actually thought about waaaaay back when I was him. And he'd be thrilled to know there are more coming.
I'm not making the kind of money I hoped to make, but it's pretty clear that it's on its way. The more I learn about this business, and the more sweat equity and time I put into it, the more return I see. It really is just a matter of time before I pull the right rope, flip the right switch, dial the right number—and I'll go from where I am to where I imagined I would be, or better.
That's coming. It's taking longer to happen than I thought it would, or wanted it to, but it's coming. I'm already so much further along than I was ten years, five years, one year ago.
The future—today ... it isn't anything like I imagined it would be. There's so much that isn't here yet, and so much that is obviously never going to be here. But I'm starting to see that there's so much more than I ever thought possible, and it's already right at my fingertips.
When I was a kid, just about that 13-year-old version of me, only a bit younger, I used to love the idea of having a computer of my very own. I talked my step father into giving me a metal box—an old tool box, really. And in my mind, that was about 90% of the way to a computer. But, like Marge points out to Homer in the Simpsons, "See all that stuff in there Homer? That's why your robot never worked!" So close. So very, very close.
I also took some inspiration from Penny on Inspector Gadget. She had a book that was actually a pretty sophisticated portable computer. I drew my own version of it in a bunch of stapled sheets of notebook paper with a cardboard cover.
The idea of a computer that I could carry with me, that could do all these amazing things—that was really inspirational to me. And, possibly, drove me insane.
But now? I have a phone that can do everything Penny's quaint little computer book could do, and more. It has stuff in it, like the finest animatronic robots could only dream about (do animatronic robots dream of electric sleep?). It could calculate a launch window for a rocket just like the building-sized computers NASA used. And it fits in my pocket.
I say all of that just to make a point.
I love living in the future.
I have a super computer in my pocket, and another one on my desk, and another one in a bag I use when I feel like doing my job somewhere else for the day.
I have the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, by text, voice, or video, for free. Quite a step up from not being able to call my friends in the next town over without paying huge long distance fees.
I can watch any movie or listen to any song I can think of, on demand, from practically anywhere.
I can make a living by sitting in perfect air conditioned comfort, with a delicious cup of coffee at hand, and doing not much more than staring at one of those wondrous super computers while tapping keys on a keyboard that has no wires.
And I can eat candy for breakfast.
Suck it, 13-year-old me.
Though that could account for the 70 extra pounds.
The thing is, 13-year-old me would be stupid impressed by my life now. He would potentially gee-golly his jaw into a permanent lock-jaw open position. He would probably take a long shower, and then come back to stare some more at the wonder that his life is to become.
So why do I sometimes forget to be in awe of it?
Why do I forget about the books I've written and the projects I've produced?
Why do I neglect to recall the cool stuff I own, that can do so many amazing things?
Why do I sometimes gloss over the fact that I have an amazing wife and an incredible family? That I have unbelievably cool friends who care about me and are rooting for my success?
Why do I spend any time at all daydreaming about what I'd do different, when I have so many fantastic things to explore from this point forward in my life?
I have an incredible, abundant life. I have more than 13-year-old me could ever have dreamt of. And sometimes, I get in a funk, because "Things haven't turned out the way I imagined."
That's life for you.
That's what happens when you spend too much time thinking about the past, and too little living in the present. I'm so blessed that I can't turn my head without something mind-blowing being in my direct line of site, but ho-hum, right? Meh.
That's one of the reasons that Kara and I have been shaking things up lately. It's why we're making ourselves really, really uncomfortable. We're selling the house. We're embarking on a new adventure.
Things aren't entirely going to plan—we have to make a few adjustments here and there. We may not be able to just sail out of the gate and into the green the way we wanted. Or we might—it's not like anything is a done deal yet. But any movement forward is better than standing still, and that's the philosophy we live by now.
I turned 43 yesterday, and it was probably one of the most uneventful birthdays of my life. But it was also eye opening. Because my 13-year-old self might have had a lot of big dreams, but he couldn't have dreamt as big as what I've become. And that means that my 53- or 63- or 103-year-old self will one day be able to look back and wonder at what my 43-year-old self never realized was coming.
And that ... that is so very cool.