Yes, it’s a Jimmy Buffett reference. Get over it.
This will be my 30th post. I know it seems bizarre to celebrate such a minor milestone. Except that’s not the 30 I’m talking about.
And no, I didn’t just turn 30. My birthday was over the summer. But as autumn nudges into winter it’s important to provide myself a positive mental nest in which to hibernate while the winter assaults my psyche.
I was going to save this for sometime around New Year’s Eve, but if I’m gonna double down on the triple ten I might as well do it right. And get a little Veteran’s Day salute in just to be productive.
The last ten years have been…my twenties. There’s no other single word to describe that decade in your life, and even trying to describe it briefly could fill pages upon pages. But doing a highlight reel just doesn’t do those years justice either, because in a lot of ways it’s the bad things that really matter. The thing no one tells you when you’re growing up is you’re never really done figuring it all out. Once you hit 20 or 21 you figure you’ve got a pretty good handle on things and you’ve got a good operating strategy…and every step of the way you find out your operating strategy wasn’t quite as optimal as you thought it was. By the time you’re 25 the only thing you’ve really got figured out is the most important piece of information you will EVER come to understand:
YOU DON’T KNOW A GODDAMN THING.
And that’s the starting point. The numbers themselves are inconsequential, but in truth the 20’s serve to offer you the time to figure out who YOU want you to be, and it finally gives you the freedom to start fixing all the shit your childhood and teens burned into your mind.
In the 12 years since I graduated from high school, I have been so many different people. At my core I’d like to think I’ve always stayed the same, but I’ve changed so many things so many times that I can’t even remember the kid I was in August of 2001 when I started my freshman year of college. I’ve had my heart broken, my soul weathered and beaten, my self-esteem plummet and rise. I’ve moved back home twice and lived with my mom just to work for a while and live.
And that’s what it’s really about. At least for me. All we really have on this planet is time. And I have been very fortunate in my life. Had a million different things gone any of a million different ways, I could be dead, or in prison, or who knows where doing who knows what.
From where I’m sitting, there’s a certain level of gratitude that I feel for the universe at large that I have managed to navigate through a very treacherous and harrowing path with most of my self still intact, and there aren’t a whole lot of people who could have done the things I’ve done and come out about as crazy as when they went in.
But I’m also at that age now where I start to recognize and appreciate the value of the knowledge and wisdom that comes with age, which brings me to that whole Veteran’s Day thing I mentioned.
I want to talk about how bad-ass my granddad is. I’d tell you about both of them, but to be honest in regards to the whole Veteran thing I only know about the one. My mom’s dad doesn’t really talk about his time in the Pacific. But I’ve heard lots of European Theatre stories from and about my dad’s dad.
Okay, bad-ass item number 1: On D-Day, my grandfather was not part of the invasion force. The 82nd Airborne were air-dropped inland from the beach front to affect a pincer attack. My grandfather’s job was to sit in a bunker somewhere and fill out requisition paperwork, the assumptive nature of which included the complete eradication of the 82nd force deployed at D-Day.
Number 2: As an advance scout for the 82nd, he was often alone doing recon work ahead of the main 82nd force. One night, while he was doing some mapwork with his surveyor’s tool and compass, he happened to catch sight of a German Panzer Convoy. One of the Panzers caught sight of him and fired, splintering the fence post he had just been working on. He was okay.
Number 3: During what I believe was the Battle of Arnheim, my grandfather (at the time in a glider) was in the line of gliders that were more or less being summarily shelled as they landed, saw what was happening, and radioed his pilot to set him down somewhere the hell else, like that field they WEREN’T shelling the shit out of.
Number 4: During the Battle of the Bulge, he was wounded by an Allied shell that exploded the tree he was standing under. Splinters of wood were driven into his arms, so he tucked them in and ran as hard as he could back to camp. The ridiculous cold that night caused the blood to freeze in icicles on his arms, and I think on his run back he may have taken a graze wound to the back of his thigh. But that’s right….the fucking cold kept my granddad alive and the blood in his body.
And I haven’t even made it to Korea, where this man lead a supply convoy to a camp to provide thier Thanksgiving turkeys and refused an offer to stay, instead packing all his angry, cold, hungry men into their trucks and taking them back to base. He saved their lives because that night the Koreans attacked that camp while they were eating.
So. Happy Veteran’s Day.