My birthday is on the horizon; I thought it was time to do a quick check-in on what my thoughts are at 38 years old.
I’ve written about this in previous posts but 38 years old is exactly 20 years from being 18 and thus my 20 year high school reunion occurred this past October. While it was great to see many of my old former classmates I’m a bit disappointed that more didn’t show up as only a third of the total attended.
I did my part in reaching out to a few people and was surprised that even in this age of instant communication through Facebook one or two didn’t even bother to respond. One classmate, Julie, who I had known since kindergarten and had received some fame after college is one of those people who didn’t respond. This was odd as the last time I had seen her – about 16 years ago – I’d had the fortune to run into her, do a quick catch up and even give a hug! But alas, there was no response when I asked her if she was going to the reunion. I do understand that my class was rather fragmented and some groups would rather not see others: what is strange is that many of those who would be considered popular didn’t attend either! And I would say that 90% of my classmates live near Columbus so could have easily attended.
I guess one of the reasons I’m a little mystified on this is I’m big on life experiences and high school is the last and only time I’ve been required to spend every weekday over four years with the same people – and there were only about 125 of them so not a huge group. And for the most part everyone was pretty happy and had a decent high school experience. I think there might be a feeling that life has changed so much, that many have no wish to look back upon the past; seeing old girlfriends, boyfriends, recalling who was popular and who was not; recalling certain feelings and emotions etcetera. I learned that the 20 year high school reunion might be an awkward affair for many more than I had previously thought. I suppose that I had a grand image of it such as they show on tv and in the movies. Oh well, I guess I’m content that we at least had one.
Thirty eight is also the time in life where you see many old acquaintances and friends start to get divorced. Between 24 and 30 the majority of them are all getting married and so far it looks like a quarter of those have broken up. At last that isn’t half but from current societal trends I imagine I’ll be reporting closer to the 50% mark when I write my check-in ten years from now.
I also have four old friends/acquaintances that are absolutely beautiful and are not married. In all cases, they just haven’t come across the right guy and those in Asia are in even more of a bind. Just as white guys in the USA can get hooked on Asian girls, Asian girls can get stuck on foreign guys in Asia. I spent three years in Japan and two in Vietnam and if I look back at all those friends and their relationships – and keeping current through the magic of Facebook – I think I have a pretty well founded opinion in regards to Asian girls dating white guys in Asia.
The first is that just as Asian girls can seem exotic here in the USA, foreign guys will seem exotic in Asia and the guys know it. Frankly, it is very easy to get a girlfriend, or many and the standards for a suitable boyfriend are much, much lower than they would be in the guy’s home country. That is to say even the nerdiest, awkward guy could get a girlfriend in Asia. To illustrate this point there is even a cartoon in Japan, written by a Canadian, called Charisma Man. The protagonist is a complete loser in his home country of Canada but when in Japan has a special superpower, turns into Charisma man and gets lots of girls.
Now, I would say there are some decent foreign guys in Japan but unfortunately when you get to the third world, the quality severely decreases and I’d say about half of these dudes, my beautiful female friends would definitely not want to date or even speak to. I’d also say that it is damn near impossible for a western woman in Asia to find a western man to date. While it does occur the vast majority of foreign guys in Asia are going to date local girls. I won’t go too much into this but for a clarification just look at the image to the left.
I’ve gone off on a side tangent a bit more than planned so getting back on point I understand why two of my most beautiful friends in Asia are still single and I really hope they find happiness weather or not it involves a guy, a dog or something else.
At 38 I’m asking myself a little more how much my job/career plays into who I am and how I see myself. In American society the most important aspect of a person and thus pretty much always the first question is, “What do you do?” What this means is, “How much money do you make?” In current American society the purpose is to make a lot of money so one can buy a lot of crap and as long as you have more crap then your neighbor then you’re winning the game. This is the mentality of the mainstream; while there are subcultures of course, the main characteristics of America at present are greed, entitlement, selfishness and money.
Thus, the career and how much money it pulls in, is a very large part of how men see themselves. Should they end up losing their jobs their egos would be crushed. For me, the work I do is just a means to earn money and that is going just fine. Work does not define me in the least and being in sales I can easily trade one company/industry for another and given current trends it seems that is what is preferred from companies these days as it is rare for younger people to stay more than three years in the same position here in the Bay Area. But at 38 I have acquaintances that have reached the Executive level. These people have worked hard, spend all day at the office and really deserve it as they’ve traded the past twenty years of their lives for the success of the organization they are in.
For me, I look at them with a tinge of envy and the thought enters my head that I too should be an executive by now at 38. This thought quickly dissipates however when I see how they’ve traded their lives for that position, which more me is a price much too dear to pay. I’m very thankful that I spent a good amount of time overseas and that working from home I’m pretty much always with my family. My relationships with my kids are much better than other fathers who have to spend most of their time at the office. I then realize that most of these other fathers are not executives which increases how thankful I am for my situation.
So I guess, it would be nice to hit the Executive level but I’m not, nor will ever be willing to trade time away from my family for more money and position. I tell myself to put a price on these moments when my kids are little. How much would I pay 10 or 20 years down the line to have these moments again? The fact is that time itself, and especially time spend with your kids is absolutely priceless – there is no amount of money that would be enough to buy these moments back 20 years from now.
When I think of it this way, I’m no longer envious of those executives. They are trading their life currency, their limited time on this earth in order for something vastly less valuable. With the money they make they can buy things and even buy experiences but what I’ve found is that most fall into the trap of always needing to make more money and thus they are stuck in a type of vortex where the scales are tipped unfavorably and they’ll miss out on so much that life has to offer in the hopes they can just buy it later on down the line; but that moment will never come or only be when they are old.
At 38 I’ve come to realize even more-so how wonderful life is. Life should be full of magic, of excitement and wonder. Many years ago I’d look to fantasy such as LOTR to provide a lot of this; what has become very clear, especially this year, is that life itself and this human experience is absolutely awe inspiring. I’d say that travel, living overseas and learning other languages has played an enormous part in helping me realize this. Speaking other languages is like being able to peer into other worlds. Should I tire of American society I can turn on a Mexican drama, or listen to a few Spanish songs and be reminded of what true passion is; a smile appears on my face as I remember what alegria is and it makes me want to dance! Then should I tire of that I can tune into a subculture which certainly seems like it is from Mars and is called anime in Japan; or if I don’t feel like anime I could watch one of their crazy variety shows where old men who thought they were about to relax in a recliner after a hot spring bath suddenly find the recliner sliding down a snowy mountain slope. I’m never stuck in the same world if I do not wish to be.
Another thing that has awakened my excitement and wonder for my life experience is seeing how my young boys are excited about pretty much everything. It has been a long time since I’ve really inspected a pill bug, or appreciated the beauty of a Stellar’s Jay. The world around us is incredible and I feel that for most adults this truth is lost and forgotten. Adults concern themselves with completing tasks – time and responsibility has turned them into task-doers. Everyday and even on weekends there are a number of tasks that must get completed and this sets the schedule. There is a movement now called Mindfulness which is catching on and tries to remind people of something Yoda said in Star Wars to Luke Skywalker:
All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.
To just be still and appreciate the moment; to watch the sunrise, or take the time to smell that flower is something most adults have forgotten how to do. Another thing that has helped me appreciate just how incredible our very existence is, is the internet, videos and ease of obtaining knowledge. Shows like Cosmos, or YouTube videos like Vsauce just amaze me. All we know is that the universe started with a “bang” and over an inconceivable amount of time here we are. If one were to contemplate this deeply then it should leave them in constant awe and wonderment which it pretty much has done for me.
Well, the post is getting to be much longer than I usually prefer to let’s get to recent events.
Yesterday I went on one of the longest hikes I’ve been on in a while. I was curious about trail from Sweeney Ridge down to the orchid shop that is hidden off Highway 1 and that I’d never seen even though I’ve lived here for a number of years. That was pretty good exercise so I’m feeling pretty good today. Today, my friend Ana, her child and husband are coming over for a cookout and to collect their car. They live in San Francisco and only have one parking space. Well, they recently had a baby and the two-seater BMW wasn’t going to work anymore but the husband wasn’t ready to sell it. So this BMW has been sitting in my driveway for a number of months which I’m sure has thoroughly confused the neighbors since now in addition to changing my corporate car every month there is now a BMW just sitting there. Today will only confuse them further because my other friend is renovating his house, needs garage space to put furniture in and has a Corvette. Well, he is going to pay me in wine to keep the Corvette in my garage so I’ll move my RAV out to where the BMW is now. It is also the end of the month so I’ll be changing my corporate car again which means I’ll now have two different cars sitting in my driveway. For those neighbors passing by my house everyday they have to be wondering what is going on.
Well, I woke up early today and have finished this post at 5:13 AM. Time to surf the net or perhaps write in one of my other blogs. In any case, I’ll be listening to Gordon Lightfoot.
Final thought – at age 38 I’ve realized the decade in which I really belong is the 70s.