It’s the end of my 30s and I feel fine


I thought a lot about my life’s trajectory while lounging on a Florida beach, soaking in the sun on my 40th birthday last week. The thoughts weren’t too deep. After all, I was about this beer-buzzed when I had them:

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In my tipsy and relaxed state I came to two conclusions.

First: My life is not in “crisis.”

Things are mostly OK right now. I enjoy my job, have a small group of close friends and a supportive, loving family.

Sure, I have my struggles (mostly with my own insecurities), but I am not running from or chasing anything either. I do not need a sports car or a much younger girlfriend to compensate for any fear of mortality or lack in my life (I am though perfectly ready to meet someone to enjoy spending time with.)

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Second:  Time is limited.

The first conclusion does not preclude my age from motivating me to change some things.

Forty feels so far off, until you’re 40.  Then you’re all like “woe, how the hell did time go by so fast” as reality sinks in while you’re drunk on a beach.  There are so many little things I meant to do by this point but put off because they might take too much effort, courage or discipline to make happen. At the very least, it is so easy to tell yourself there will always be tomorrow.

At 40 I feel like I don’t have a choice but to ask myself if I want to be the guy on his deathbed at 80 (if I’m lucky) wondering, “woe, how the hell did time go by so fast and why didn’t I ever do all those little things I wanted to?”

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Tim Robbins’ little jail yard speech to Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption” also came to mind. Now is as good a time as any to “get busy living.”

So, once I sobered up I decided to take some small steps to make my life a little better by consciously deciding what I do with my time as much as possible.

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For example, I took a few minutes to speak with a real estate agent friend of mine once I got back from my beach trip.

I have talked about selling my house and moving to a better, more pedestrian friendly neighborhood for years. I’ve put off looking into the move because I am afraid the house will never sell. I bought during the marketing bubble of 2006 when real estate prices were severely inflated. It also needs some repairs.

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After telling my friend about my situation she was confident I could sell my house and make enough off of it for at least a partial down payment on another home.

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On another front, I always save events or activities on Facebook that I am interested in. I promise myself to go to them. Then the allotted time comes and I stay home instead. Some of it is due to my introverted nature. And sometimes it is because I don’t have someone to go adventuring with me.

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So, I made a goal of doing one activity a week that I would otherwise say I might do and then skip. So far I purchased tickets to attend an event about the history of whiskey making in Cincinnati this Friday AND I’m going to an Old 97s concert next Friday by myself.

I don’t even care if I do look like this old man dancing during the concert.

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And finally, I always wanted a tattoo but I have a huge pain, blood and needle phobia. I put all of that aside and started researching online. I read people’s experiences with getting ink and found the least tender spots on the body to have one placed on. I settled on the inner forearm. I also have a general idea that I want something that symbolizes all of the Flying Pig marathons I have run. On Thursday, I started shopping around for a reputable artist to put something like this on me:

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I’ve also reached a third conclusion because of all of this: The things I want to do aren’t really THAT big of a challenge to realize if only I plan and start them.

I’m at a place where I realize the small things matter and are what add up to a memorable and pleasurable life. This includes day drinking on a beach and watching random gif of cats drinking beer. (I just made up that last thing because I stumbled upon this awesome gif. Enjoy!)

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Old photos


I do not know these people in the black-and-white photos. The images, locked away in a holiday popcorn in for years, are yellowed with age. I recognize some faces –grandparents, great uncles, a long dead aunt — but I cannot know them. These moments are of people frozen in time long before I put labels on them and they felt a pressing need to live up to them.

Some people I do not know at all. None of my living relatives do. I read somewhere once that after three generations the identities of people in most family photos fade into obscurity. They are just images tucked away in albums, or tins, somewhere.

Such is the case of this lovely photo of a young couple caught in an embrace on some beach:

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I don’t know who they are, where the photo was taken or who snapped the shot. Did they marry and have children? Was this the perfect moment in some brief summer romance? I’ll never know. Perhaps all that really matters is the emotion captured for as long as this image exists.

The same can be said of this image of a boy hoisted on the shoulder of two men.

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Then there are other photos that indicate someone had an eye for photography, like I sometimes like to image I do as well.

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I have no idea where or when this photo was taken. I just like the way it is composed and the moment it captures of these two pups looking pathetic as they sit and wait for someone.

Really, all that was left in that tin when I opened it were feelings. Sometimes, when I could identify the person in the picture, I layered some of my own emotions on top of what was expressed in them.

For some reason this is one of my favorite pictures.

A post shared by Brian Mains (@brian_in_cincinnati) on

The above photo really is one of my favorites. The composition plays a part. The repeating patterns and lines of pillars and fencing. Then there is the “Dark Ride 3 Tickets” sign. The painting of a hill behind. The tentative smile of the ride operator. The person seated is my grandmother, nearly two decades before I was born, sitting alone. I see a metaphor in the image. I am reading too much into it. My grandmother died on Memorial Day 2009 at the age of 90 after suffering from dementia for years. The disease made her retreat further into the dark corridors of her own mind.

Then there is this photo of four men during a time of war:

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I know the third man from the left due to his distinctive features. He would go on to become my grandfather. My memories of him are fragmented by youth and a bit of fear and hero worship. He was a pretty intimidating figure in my youth. He died from pancreatic cancer when I was 10. Someone actually wrote a bit of info on the back of this image.

On the back it says Haneda, Japan Nov. 1945. The date is about 2 months after Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the Japanese turn over the base to Allied Forces. My grandfather is forever 24 in this picture. He enlisted in 1943 and had already been married and divorced, according to military service records I found online. I wish he had lived longer, so I might have learned more about him.

And finally, there are a whole series of photos that have no place in the tin. I am 90 percent certain I know the subject in them as a historical figure. His name is Charles Lindbergh, famed pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis. From what I can find online, Lindbergh flew his plane to Cincinnati’s municipal airport at least once.  A few images show him standing in front of the Spirit of St. Louis.

My favorite though is this blurred image of who I imagine the man to be, seated in a convertible taking part in what appears to be a parade in his honor.

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