Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Being 46

Today, I turn 46 years old. As far as I can tell, there is nothing groundbreaking about being 46, except that it is a nice even number and puts me one slippery slope to 50, which all in all, I consider to be a much cooler age than 46. I like the idea of being able to write a reflection on my "first 50 years". In any event, 46, as lackluster as it might seem, is okay with me. It'll do for now.

I pulled out my birth certificate today only to learn that I was born in the afternoon, not the evening as I always assumed. My mother tells me I was induced. Figures. I am notoriously late. My mother had a doctor's appointment that day. It was cold and the streets were slick. (One must remember, this was the early 60s when December was a cold month.) The doctor told her to go directly to the hospital and he would meet her there. (One must remember, this was the early 60s when the average OB/GYN was male and they told you what to do, not the other way around.) She wanted to go home and get her bag and was afraid the slick streets would mean she was not there to meet the doctor at the appointed time. (One must remember, this was the early 60s when no vehicle had anti-lock brakes.)

Apparently, my father had a reputation for passing out in the waiting room, the bathroom, or just about anywhere with a flat surface, but he made it through my birth. Those were the days when the fathers paced in the waiting rooms until word came and then they handed out cigars, or, in the case of my dad, lay prostrate on the floor until someone came in and threw cold water on him and told him it was all over. Presumably, several days later I came home via a car with no seatbelts, lacking a padded dashboard, and in the arms of my mother and not some pansy safety-tested car seat. It is amazing I survived the ordeal.

I was born into a time of Perry Como and Bing Crosby Christmas specials. Television went from black and white to color, from What's My Line to the Midnight Special in a decade. My childhood was Mr. Rogers, Mr. Cartoon, Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith, Johnny Carson, Wolfman Jack, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Goldie Hawn, McHale's Navy (Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway), Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, and M*A*S*H. I watched Watts burn, helicopters landing in Vietnam, cops with fire hoses attacking peaceful protesters. I was in junior high school when Pong came out. I saw Bambi and Jaws in the same summer. I saw Star Wars and learned all the words to American Pie and Rapper's Delight. I spent an extraordinary amount of time in a swimming pool, ran cross country, watched the inaugural episode of Saturday Night Live, lost my virginity, and played Pac Man and Space Invaders. I saw Ronald Reagan shot and a space shuttle blow up on live TV. I remember the mornings we mourned John Lennon and John Belushi. I still have the issue of Time introducing America to AIDS. In 1983, I went to see Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones because I was sure it was the last tour for both of them. I graduated, moved to a town with a building larger than 30 stories, and buckled down to make my way in the world. Married. Divorced. Back in school. My life has been interesting.

But now I'm dull, ordinary 46. I live in a house that I could live in the rest of my days without wanting for much. I've got it pretty good. I own my own washer and dryer. I have a garage with a garage door opener. I have no desire for a fantasy car or a McMansion. None of my furniture matches and I really don't care. I enjoy botany and reading and keeping upon politics and I try to keep my writing chops by updating this vanity blog. I do wish that I lived in a larger town with greater dating options. I'm not dead yet, despite what my sister seems to think.

Sometimes I wonder what different directions my life could have taken if, for example, I'd married my first love, or if I'd never married at all. If I'd gotten a degree in accounting instead of English. If I'd gone to law school instead of graduate school. If I'd become a veterinarian instead of a botanist.

And then there's the stuff I wouldn't have changed for anything. The dogs. The places I've lived. The traveling I've done. The people I've let in and the one's I let go. My years post-40 have surpassed the dreams I had for my life as a kid. I climbed a mountain in Yellowstone. I took Jake to the Pacific Ocean. I've toured Graceland. I've grabbed a cowboy's ass in Nashville. I've fallen in love with a man I couldn't have… and Utah. I've stargazed on the Continental Divide. I've depended on the kindness of strangers. I've lent a hand to those in need. I've learned to control my temper and my ambition. I've learned to live with my flaws, accept who I am, improve when I could, and really like myself. I have allowed myself to be the adventurer I always knew in my heart, I was.

I have learned some important lessons in my life.
  • Embrace failure. It's ultimately more useful than success.
  • If someone says, "You can't do that", it's probably because they didn't and wished they had.
  • Laugh loud.
  • Love large.
  • Don't be stingy with compliments. Some people die without understanding how awesome they really are.
  • Never pass up church food, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, fish fries, dinner at Grandma's house, dinner at your friend's mom's, or bake sales.
  • The least among us is our equal.
  • In general, people are doing the best they can.
  • Unless there is a really good reason to say no, say yes.
  • If there is a good reason to say no, don't be afraid to say no.
  • Sometimes an entire crowd is waiting for one person to speak up. Be that one voice.
  • Few things in life worth doing come without risk. Whether you succeed or fail, the important thing was that you tried.
  • Forget other people. The only thing that matters is what you think of you.
  • If a week passes and you haven't told someone you love them, you have a serious problem.
  • If money, power, or position causes you to change your behavior, you don't know yourself and that is a much greater worry.
  • Fear no one unless they threaten your life. Then, let the ass kicking begin.
  • Everyone should have a signature dish.
  • Most mistakes are forgivable. Some mistakes are unforgivable. Don't confuse the two.
  • If you ask your friends to describe you and they can't or aren't willing to say three positive things about you to your face, you need to seriously reconsider your friends and your priorities.
  • Sometimes, words are meaningless. In such cases, shut up.
  • Complacency kills.
  • When shopping, keep in mind that in almost all cases, you don't need that.
  • When someone takes advantage of you, it's almost always because you've let them. You don't have to let them.
  • Just for fun, every once in a while, do something you thought was impossible.
  • Feed your curiosity.
I am Daktari. 46. Adventurer. Risk taker. And not half done yet.


  1. Happy birthday! I enjoyed reading this post - good things to think about. Thanks.

  2. This, my dear Daktari, may be your best post yet. Inspiring, funny, bold-- true to Daktari. Thanks for making me happy today.
    Just think of all the great things you're going to do in the NEXT 46 years...
    I'll be looking forward to that blog post.