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art theplaceIt ain’t so bad.

Getting older. Tomorrow is my 31st birthday, and as I reflect on my first year of this new decade in my life, I’m finding myself more centered and alive than ever before.

Yes, I know I’m not old by any means, but crossing that “30” threshold is something to behold. It’s a platform to not only look back at your years of irresponsible enlightenment, but also look ahead to the horizon with curiosity and excitement for all of those incredible people, places and things ready to surprise you around every corner.

Feb. 5, 2015. I awoke next to a pretty girl I was seeing at the time. Not a bad way to start the first day of being in your 30s. The sun was shining. There was smile on the pretty girl’s face, one that was immediately reciprocated by my own grin.

“How does it feel to be 30 you old man, you?” the pretty girl teased.

“Not bad, though I wonder why a cute girl like yourself is hanging around with such an old geezer,” I shot back.

“Who knows?” she replied. “I guess to make sure you don’t fall down and break your hip.”

And now, a year later, I awoke alone on the day before my birthday. Sun still shining outside. But, no pretty girl to smile at. Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I talked to her, though I can say, truthfully, that a grin rolls across my face when I think of the good times we had together. 

I’ve never really given much thought to age, or birthdays for that matter. I look at time as one moment. We’re all part of this one moment, with everything around us being one thing, in one space and time, which is here and now. Sound a little odd to you? Probably, but I just try to make sense of nothing and everything by looking at the universe through a kaleidoscope of chance and possibility. 

My earliest birthday memories tend to drift back to a snowy day on the frozen Canadian border of my native Upstate New York. Many-a-time a snowstorm would thwart my party plans or we’d end up doing a little elementary school gathering at the local McDonald’s, where I’d eat chicken nuggets and ice cream (in winter), all the while surrounded by balloons, a few presents and a handful of childhood peers.

Other than that, all the other birthdays kind of blur together. I do, however, remember my 18th and how my high school sweetheart and I spent the day together, or my 21st that fell on Super Bowl Sunday (a tough day to rally people to hit the bars for your first legal drink). 

Though I’ve never been one to go “all out” on my birthday, I definitely take time to reflect on another lap around this beautiful rock hurtling through space. Seeing humor in everyday life is a key ingredient to a good existence, and with that, I tend to shake my head in awe of where I stand these days. 

As I’ve stated in the past, if you told me in high school that in 2016 I’d be single, unmarried, with no kids, I’d take the “sure bet” on that being a false statement. And my current solo endeavors are a result of my own actions. I’ve been out and about, on the road and in the backwoods for a long time now. It’s a fast, nonstop pace I’ve been on for years, and want to remain on. 

In this first year of my 30s, one of my main objectives was to spend time with my (almost two-year-old) niece, Lucy. She’s in my hometown, while I’m way down here. I got to spend some quality time with her last August on our annual family vacation to the Maine coast. Her physical presence is a clear indication of time and place, seeing as she’s the newest member of my immediate family in decades. 

Surrounding her are my parents and little sister. In not seeing my folks that often, I do cherish our time together when our paths cross. It’s a surreal thing to see your parents get older, and I do see it more vividly in my interactions with them compared to my sister who sees them everyday. My father, with his once Zeus-like aura, is now becoming an old man, which is such a strange notion to embrace. My mother, vivacious as ever and aging gracefully, with my sister coming into her own as a mother and education professional.

Some might say I think too much. Perhaps. But I like to think and contemplate deeply on whatever it is this thing called consciousness is, and how to best navigate the testy waters of life — an ocean of unknown depths, where one day it’s sunshine and calm waters, the next a squall as wave after wave crashes into you. 

It ain’t so bad, this aging thing.

 

Hot picks

1 The 10th annual Outhouse Race will be held at noon Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Sapphire Valley Ski Area.

2 A “Wine Tasting & Food Pairing” with importer Marco Laico, president/founder of Vino Vino, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.

3 Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host The Remnants (Americana) at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13.

4 A “Valentine’s Burlesque Show” will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at Mad Batter Food & Film in Sylva.

5 A special Valentine’s Day dinner will be held on Sunday, Feb. 14, at Creekside Oyster House & Grill in Sylva.

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