Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm a Birthday Boy

I don’t know if you saw the CNN coverage, but I’m 38 years old today.

On a scale of 1 to 10, my Freak-Out-O-Meter is registering about a 6.3. (Above average, but no pandemonium.) I’m certainly not old, but I can also no longer comfortably eat six doughnuts before I sit down to my birthday cake*.
(*True story, 1995.)

By all outward signs, I should be 38. I’ve been married 13.5 years, I’ve got six kids, a mortgage, a standing racquetball game three times a week, a mini-van, a lawn mower, a nostalgic streak, black and grey peppered hair, a tendency to fall asleep on the couch, and friends that have known me through decades now and can vouch for my age.

But sometimes, I have to be honest, I’m not sure how I got here so quickly.

And while it doesn’t feel like I should already have arrived at 38, I will freely admit that my life is better than anything I could have scripted in my youth. Better than I deserve, certainly.

Still. As formulaic and banal as it may be, on my birthday I tend to reflect. I take inventory of my life’s experiences. And while talking with a co-worker today who was trying to convince me that getting older was no big deal, she had the audacity to ask me, “But really, if you were to do it over again, you wouldn’t change anything in your life, would you? You don’t have any regrets.”
Oh, no? Look, sister, don’t tell ME I don’t have any regrets! Here are my top 10.

  1. In 1988, when I jumped backwards out of a tree and forever obliterated my back. Yeah, I think if I were to do it over, I would skip that part.
  2. I saw Superman III in the theater. Twice. I think once would have sufficed. If that.
  3. I lived on Molokai my senior year of high school. If I could go back, I would go to the beach every…single…day.
  4. I’d take piano lessons. I’d start at age 5.
  5. I’d skip junior high entirely.
  6. I ate a piece of pumpkin pie when I was home from college for Christmas in 1992, got food poisoning, and spend several days of my Christmas break vomiting. Joy to the world. If I could go back, I would take a slice of the apple pie instead.
  7. I had an internship at NBC in Burbank, California just before I graduated college. They offered me a position. I didn’t take it. I think I would.
  8. Katie and I met in a comedy troupe during college, where we performed improvisations. We were in an improv together one night, before we were dating, and a moment came when I really should have kissed her. The scene was perfect for it, the audience cheered it on, but I backed out of it. (A girl I was dating was sitting in the audience and would have come unglued.) If I were to go back, I would kiss her so good it would curl her toes.
  9. I was once driving too fast on a wet, slick curve and rolled our family’s van. If I could go back, I’d slow down.
  10. Once on a waterskiing trip a bunch of us were riding on one of those banana rafts, being pulled behind the boat. I threw my leg over the raft to pull myself up, and when I did, I kicked my mom in the eye and shattered her contact while it was still in her eye. I felt awful for a long, long time after that. I remember sitting in the boat watching my dad pull the broken pieces of contact out of my mom’s eye. I also remember thinking, “I bet puberty would have been great,” because I was pretty sure my dad was going to kill me right then. We had some friends from church with us on that trip. If I could go back, I’d kick one of them in the eye instead. Or I suppose I could kick nobody in the eye. Either one, but certainly not my mom!