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This must be the place

art theplaceWait, what?!

Ah, crap. By the time you read this, I’ll have turned 30. It’s a number that seemed as far away from reality as it was impossible to ever cross paths with. But, here it is, staring right at me when I get asked for my birthday while purchasing beer, only to look up at the neon “If you were born before this date” Budweiser sign near the register, and how the numbers flowing out of my mouth eerie matchup, some three decades apart.

So, 10,950 days on this rock hurtling through space (give or take a few Leap Years). And what do I have to show for it? Well, that’s a question I’ve been quietly asking myself way before the notion of turning 30 ever entered my subconscious. 

Birthdays in early February were rough growing up on the Canadian Border in Upstate New York. It was often the coldest time of the year, with the usual treacherous snowstorm blowing through my hometown as I’d be blowing out my candles. I remember a couple years in there having to actually cancel my party due to folks simply not being able to get out of their driveways and over to my house. I still hold a vendetta toward Old Man Winter for that. 

And yet, as the calendar on my childhood bedroom wall became renewed over and over, I tended to ignore my day of birth. I didn’t really care to celebrate it. I’m actually pretty modest for being a devil-may-care Type-A personality extrovert — I hate getting gifts, I don’t like people making a big deal about my birthday, and I have never really liked cake in the first place.

Sure, turning 16 was cool when I got my driver’s license. And yes, when 18 came around I was looking forward to drinking ice-cold Labatt Blue lagers legally in the Canadian province of Quebec a few miles up the road.

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My 20th I remember vividly — a raucous party in my dorm suite at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. I met an incredible woman that night who’d become my girlfriend and I also had recently found out I’d be spending the following semester studying abroad in Ireland. By the end of that year, 2005, both the eventual breakup and living in Europe would be lines in the sand in terms of who I was as a person, what I ultimately wanted, and wanted to be my place in the grand scheme of things.

Turning 21 was kind of lackluster seeing as it fell on Super Bowl Sunday and nobody was really around, though I did finally get into this one bar I’d never been allowed in (ironically they didn’t ID me on my birthday, go figure). On my 23rd, I was alone on the high desert prairie of Eastern Idaho, in the shadows of the Grand Teton Mountains, living in a tiny town amid strangers who I’d soon get to know as I settled down in my first reporting job out of college.

The 25th was spent with a girl I thought I’d be married to by the time I turned 30. Oh, time and place and fate, why must you be the constant Zen trickster in all of this? As a writer, dreamer and one who constantly ponders about nothing and everything, I find birthdays fascinating. They are a numerical watermark for where you currently stand on the journey of life, looking behind you and down the road at what was, turning around and looking ahead at the horizon and what could, and will, be.

If you had told my 18-year-old self that when I turn 30, I’d be single, a writer and living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I’d call your bluff. At that age, I felt 18 was “adult” and that I had a pretty firm grasp on things. I had plans of spending the rest of my life with my high school sweetheart, doing the whole John Mellencamp “Jack & Diane” thing and putting down roots in my native North Country, maybe go to college to become an MTV VJ (video jockey). 

I used to look at the once far off 30 as a benchmark of if I was doing it right, “it” being my existence. I used to try to “keep up with Joneses,” but realized early on how dumb that is. What matters most is keeping tabs on yourself (good health, positive mindset), holding steady in pursuit of your dreams (true success is a slow burn), and never forgetting that the “Golden Rule” is the only rule.

So, here I am, on the threshold of 30, putting a final bookend on my 20s. No regrets. I milked the past decade of my life to the best of my ability. It’s all about finding that ideal balance of work and play (with a lean more toward play), doing what you love, working hard, but always ready to jump into the car for an unknown and spontaneous adventure. Life is about interaction and experience. Life is meant to be lived. So, the next time you look at the face in the mirror, smile and rest easy knowing that you as a human being are not a number on this planet, but an intricate and integral piece of this endless puzzle that is the Universe.    

Heck, I won’t be 40 for another 10 years anyhow.


Hot picks

1 The Macon County Art Association will host a “Grand Re-Opening” of its Uptown Gallery from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in Franklin.

2 A Valentine’s Day dinner and live performance by jazz singer Jesse Earl Junior will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.

3 Pierce Edens & The Dirty Work will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville. 

4 Hard rock/metal acts Wednesday 13, Eyes Set To Kill and Die So Fluid will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Water’n Hole Bar & Grille in Waynesville.

5 Red Led Huskey will perform at 9 p.m. Feb. 6 at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville.

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