37th/9th Birthday

My body has now been outside my mother’s uterus for 37 years. That feels like a long time, like I should be getting close to fearing death or a mid-life crisis or something, but I don’t feel that way. Each stage of my life has been more exciting, rewarding, and challenging than the last, and this last year may eclipse all others. At the very least, it was the busiest.

I still think it is strange that we count years solely based on birth. While it is a clear binary (in womb or out of womb) it is still an arbitrary starting point that is culturally based. Some cultures didn’t recognize human life until a child was a toddler and others broke lives up into clear stages with rites of passage that were far more important than birth.

I’ve discussed this before, but I want to revisit it. When you think about it, becoming an autonomous adult and how many years I have left of that is a far better measure than just post-birth. Sure, it isn’t as clear cut and will vary by person, but instead of “37 years old” I feel more like “9 years adult”.

See! Blue is childhood, green is military, and red is college. I’ve been an adult for so little time!

With this measure I am much younger and have a greater percentage of my life ahead of me than would otherwise seem. I imagine the next twenty years are going to look more like the last twenty years than my first twenty years. The last sentence is ridiculous but I do not care. Not that I think I should use this perspective as an excuse to slack off, it is just a way to look at how much life I have left in a clearer way. (I’m not afraid of death or anything, but I am not in any hurry to die either)

Look at all that fucking future purple!!!!! So many adventures!

So, what did I do on my 9th year of adulthood? Well, quite a bit. I love bulleted lists so here is a list with notes and reflections. In a semi-particular order:

  • Take my health seriously:  A year ago I decided that I wanted to make this my healthiest year of life yet. I had visions of six-packs, strutting the beach in a banana hammock, and bench-pressing two women while they contort themselves into yoga positions. Well, I ended up with the healthiest year of my life but not in the way I imagined. This year I went to a dentist and a medical doctor for the first time in over a decade (yes, there were cavities).

More importantly, I went to see a therapist at the VA. That small step led me to a psychiatrist, medication, and encouraged me to see a therapist regularly outside of the VA. The results have been wonderful and I truly believe I am healthier than I ever have been (even with my love handles).

I’ve been supportive of people seeking mental health help for many years but I never did it myself. I could make a shit ton of excuses but the truth is I was scared and/or didn’t think I needed to. It really took getting help to realize how fall I’d fallen. I didn’t hit rock bottom, but I feel like the bottom was within view. I’ve been struggling with a metaphor for my experience and this is the best I could come up with:

It is like I was flying. I drifted among the clouds and blue skies without many worries. Sure, I encountered the occasional thunderstorm but I weathered them without much harm. Little did I know, I wasn’t flying, I was falling. My friends, my family, and everything else in my life helped keep me afloat and slow my descent, but there was no avoiding the truth… I was falling.

The signs that I was falling became more and more obvious. Work started to suffer, relationships were strained, dark thoughts drifted into my mind. It was like instead of drifting in the sky I was now dodging cliffs and occasionally crashing into one and bouncing off. It wasn’t the occasional thunderstorm any more, I was in danger.

So, I started getting help. Therapy hasn’t (and won’t) allow me to fly again, but it has allowed me to find a safe place to land. My medication and therapy continues to help, like a ladder thrown down so that I can climb up. I’ll never fly again, but the sun is shining and I keep climbing up to solid ground.

  • Visited St. Louis and Portland for the holiday
  • Challenged Myself Physically: Ran my first 10k and 9-mile run, and completed Outside the Box: Stranded. The more physical challenges I do the more I realize that the physical and mental dichotomy is a false one. The mind is part of the body
  • Bought a House: By far, this was the most stressful experience of my life. I would literally rather return to Afghanistan. It was totally worth it, even with the Hurricane Florence damage that we are dealing with. But it was tough.
  • Became an Entrepreneur: I stopped being an “independent contractor” and started an LLC. This is important for two reasons. First, it reduces my tax burden. Second (and more importantly), it provides me with an outlet to expand my business opportunities into things I’m passionate about. Specifically, end-of-life consulting. I went through End-of-Life doula training which re-inspired my passion to help people during this last(?) transition.
  • Travel!: I scratched two major things off my bucket list this year. The first was participating in RAGBRAI. One week cycling across Iowa was such a wonderful experience. It felt like Burning Man and my cross-country ride merged into one. 11/10 – Will do again.

The second trip was Iceland. I really can’t fucking explain how amazing Iceland was. I loved it and I can’t wait to go back. That reminds me, I really need to finish my blogging about it. Anyway, you should go there. 15/10 – Will live there someday.

Not a bad 365 days. This next year is going to be great too, but much less active (praise Zeus). There are a few things on the horizon though:

Burning Man: Next year will be my partner and my 5th anniversary and we’d like to return to the place of our ceremony.

Running: I’ve got a half marathon scheduled and would like to do a full one next year too.

Community: This is the big one. It isn’t really an event but more of a life focus. I would like to actively build a community here in Wilmington. It seems weird to “try” and make friends instead of it going naturally, but childless adulthood in a new(ish) town kind of demands explicit work to find friends. I actually thought (am thinking) about starting a meetup group that is explicitly for childless couples but something feels icky about that to me.

The weird thing is, I know getting out there and doing things works. Going to D&D lead to friends that I see and hang out with outside of D&D. Similarly, I met an awesome couple from kickball that I wish I saw more of, but between most of my off-time recovering and my notorious lack of planning it almost never happens. I’ve even reconnected with an old friend from my past and he and his partner have become incredibly important to me. I’ve also met people through volunteering and other friends that I know I could call on in a jam.

So, I want to really try and build up those relationships while trying other things I’ve been interested in. The truth is that it is sometimes a numbers game. Adults are busy and many have a community already or we live far apart. Besides, everything I’ve been reading in the self-improvement department emphasizes how important it is to have connections in a variety of networks to help with intellectual and personal growth.

Build My Brand: Lastly, I want to become a better advocate for myself and my business interests. It has been a long struggle but I’m starting to accept that I have something of value to offer the world and that it is okay to put my name out there. I’ve got a couple of things I want to focus on, including my writing, end-of-life work, and game creation. I’m excited to see where it all goes.

So, that’s my wrap up of my 37th or 9th year. I’m sure 38/10 will be amazing in its own way.

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