For those of you keeping score at home, I am currently in my Early Thirties. Prior to my Early Thirties I was fairly confident that I was about to, as they say in the medical field, completely lose it. In fact, I remember turning to my wife one evening, about a month before my 30th birthday, and alerting her. “I think you should know that when I turn 30, I am going to FREAK … OUT!”
Oddly, I didn’t freak out. I didn’t even cry, complain, or start drinking in the mornings. I think it was initially because Katie would just distract me. She’d change the subject, flatter me, or hold up something shiny and say, “What in the world is THIS?” and then pull a quarter out of my ear. She’s great that way.
And then, much to my surprise, rather than resent my thirties, I became intrigued. I was completely fascinated with people throughout history and what they had done in their Early Thirties. From my own father to artists and celebrities to presidents and prophets. There was something magical and defining about accomplishments during that particular age bracket. And I wasn’t sure why. Not right away.
But clarity came my way one night while I was watching a very special VH1’s Behind the Music, highlighting the career of Neil Diamond, a premier singer-songwriter if ever there were one; mountains of talent covered by mountains of earmuff hair. My epiphany came during a particular interview with Neil, when he was discussing his series of concerts at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater in August of 1972. These were his farewell concerts. At the age of 31, he was hanging up his guitar and heading off to live forever in blue jeans. (The final night of Neil’s farewell concerts can be found on the critically acclaimed album, Hot August Night. And brother, if you listen to this album and you aren’t moved, you are most certainly dead inside.) At any rate, when he was asked why he was hanging it up so early in his career, he nailed that moment with the comment “I felt like I had said everything I had to say.” Amen, Neil. And thanks for sayin’ it!
I then started to take notice of other people who, in their Early Thirties, also had something to say. I recognized other artists in addition to Neil who were definitely saying something whilst in their Early Thirties. U2 released Achtung Baby, Sting had disbanded The Police and started his solo work, and Karen Carpenter starved to death. (You really have to be fans of U2 and Sting/The Police to understand what they were saying at these specific and timely stages, but I think we can all agree that what Karen was saying was “For the love of heaven, somebody make me a sandwich.”)
I also took notice of great spiritual and religious leaders who had sacrificed much, in some cases their own lives, while in their Early Thirties. And finally, I recognized my dad, who was in his Early Thirties when he quit his job working for the state of California and started his own business – which he still runs today.
And that started me thinking. Surely I, Ken Craig, must have something to say too; something to declare – through word or action – something to punctuate my life thus far. But what could it be?
I had some ideas:
Life is like a box of chocolates.
I feel the need for speed!
Show me the money!
But while these were indeed the thoughts my heart, my soul had found a voice too late, and pop culture had robbed me of the chance to make them my own.
To make matters even more difficult, once I figured out what I had to say, I had no idea how I was going to let the world know what it was. A world I was sure was waiting with bated breath.
My first instinct was to become a celebrity of some kind. They already have the world’s attention, so they can just grab a microphone at any moment and spill their guts. Of course some of them already do that, and some of them too often. (Mr. Tom Cruise, I’m looking in your direction.) But, understanding that the likelihood of me becoming a celebrity was slim to anorexic (no offense, Karen), I wondered how else I could get my Message to the World publicized.
Next idea, I could somehow position myself so I could have an intervention-type moment in front of live television cameras. You’ve seen the scenario before in such classic films as Notting Hill, Scrooged, and Speechless. A wonderful gimmick and much less of a time investment than becoming a celebrity. I just needed to be at the right place at the right time with the right thing to say.
Which leads me back to my original quandary of wondering what it is I have to say. Months go by, and I wonder. Hours of television-watching go by, and I wonder. I multiply and replenish the earth at least two more times…and I wonder.
Oh, I don’t wonder all the time. I’m often distracted by employment, food, yard work, and The Office (which is hands-down the funniest show on television). But sometimes, when everything is still…I wonder. And after all this time of reflection, I think I’ve arrived at something.
I’m a little self-conscious now to admit that what I have to say is most likely not all that noteworthy to anybody else. I suppose I won’t be needing Camera 1 and Camera 2 to capture my dissertation in front of a live, non-studio audience. I won’t be releasing my new adult contemporary CD comparable to U2’s The Joshua Tree, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or even Hall & Oat’s H20. I won’t be invited into Mr. O’Reilly’s No Spin Zone. And I won’t be jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch. And that’s okay. It means something to me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have Katie pull some more quarters out of my ear, because I just realized I’m almost in my Mid Thirties, and I am about to FREAK…OUT!