As I lay back in bed last night, my thoughts drifted toward the impending birthday and the nagging suspicion that I should be making some momentous leaps of consciousness or something in honor of it. How do I even take stock of where I am?
Goals achieved: couldn’t tell you. I have never been much of a goals-oriented person. Maybe it’s telling that in 30 years of playing soccer, I have never once scored a goal from the run of play (indoor doesn’t count). One of my friends compiled a list of things she intended to achieve by 35 (happy in job, own a house, have a kid, major stuff like that) and then spent her 35th birthday utterly depressed that she hadn’t done any of it. That’s why I’ve never felt compelled to make one of those Things To Do Before I Die lists. I would either end up feeling like a failure or discover, to my horror, that I have indeed achieved all those things, and therefore am due to die immediately. Eh. I prefer the life list in my bird book, recording the things I’ve done rather than the things I have so far failed to do. My goals are more along the lines of get to work with clothes on right side out and don’t forget to pick up son from school. Well, and be a good person who treats other people well. So far so good, minus a couple of bobbles on the first one (in which I once made it to lunchtime before my friends decided to tell me my shirt was not only wrong-side out, but also backwards; ah, the hazards of dressing on a dark winter morning before coffee).
The downside to all this being content to drift downstream is sounding like a complete dullard when getting together with friends I haven’t seen for a while. Two weekends ago a college friend I see once a year asked what the most exciting thing is I’ve done in the past year. Uh. Well, shit. Same thing this morning when an old girlfriend took me out for coffee. What’s been going on in your life? Well, uh... I get up, I go to work, I pick up my kid, he does homework, we eat dinner, I work in the yard, we hang out, I go to bed, I get up... She looked at me cross-eyed and said you need some excitement in your life.
Where should that come from? I get excited about my work from time to time. This is in fact one of those times—I am working on a grand unified theory of ceramic-era arrowhead manufacture and distribution throughout Arizona based on control of raw material sources... and bingo, your eyes just started to glaze over, didn’t they? It’s potentially a career-defining project, but it sounds about as exciting as your uncle Ernie talking about his barbed wire collection. I get excited when my son asks me to go to the park with him to toss a baseball. I get excited when I find a book I’ve been wanting at Bookman’s and have enough trade credit to walk away with it. I get... well, gratified when the dog makes it outside before puking.
So the excitement in my life revolves around collections of small things and individual moments. I feel like I should be able to come up with something better, something edgy or dangerous, something more congruent with the crazy fantasy version of my life that’s always banging around in my head. But I can’t. I’m 40 and I’m still breathing. That will have to be exciting enough for now.