Thursday, May 10, 2007

Birthday Ponderings...

I just read a blog from a MySpace friend who is doing pretty much exactly what I want to be doing, professionally, and making a living on it. Usually, especially this time of year, this would get me jealous, angry, and depressed. Oddly enough, not so this year.

Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm turning 29 for the 5th time. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would not be over 30 without a degree. As 33 looms on the temporal horizon, I find myself sorely behind schedule.

Birthdays always come with a touch of depression for me. Inevitably, as I get closer to the date, I begin analyzing where I am versus where I wanted to be at this point in my life, and worse, where my contemporaries are, compared to myself. I was supposed to have graduated by 22, gotten my first band directing job by 24, married at 27, had kids at 29, built a state champion marching band by 30, and have settled down in a nice, comfortable and (relatively) secure career with tenure by 34 with a medium-big house, new car, and nice things. Not expensive or numerous thing - but nice things.

Yea, it got a bit fucked up.

Oddly enough though, this year I'm not looking at all of this and beating myself up for the paths not taken. Sure, there are several things I wish were different at this point and my current professional life is less than fulfilling, but I have a wonderful wife, 2 great kids, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a ton of supportive and encouraging friends, whom I love dearly.

I often get stuck in that "high school reunion" mentality, thinking that everyone is more successful than I. Professionally, I may be right, but I'm realizing (on occasion, anyway) that that is not the sole measure of a man.

Success isn't measured in dollars and cents, or the certificates on the wall. It's measured by who you are and what you do to help the world around you. I consider myself a success when I snuggle with my daughter watching a movie, and she smiles at me and snuggles closer. I'm a success when I give my son a great big hug for reading a book several years beyond his grade level, and he beams with pride. I'm a success when I kiss and console my wife when she's distraught about her career progress, and she sighs with a modicum of relief. I'm a success when I empty the last of my cash and change in my pockets to put in a donation bucket for the needy. I'm a success when I can offer a friend a helping hand. I consider myself a success with every smile I can offer to a stranger.

I can't donate millions to build hospitals in Darfur. I can't cure cancer or Aids. I can't solve the problems in the Middle East or give Bush a brain transplant. I can, however, strum a perky tune on the ukulele and make someone smile. I can bust a chord with my quartet and make someone for get their troubles for a moment. I can offer a smile to someone in a bad mood and brighten their day. I can be a bright light in the darkness of someone else's life and make the world a better place, one brief moment at a time.

At 33, I'm not where I was hoping to be professionally or financially by a long shot…

…but I am a greater success than I ever thought I could be.

Next: Life updates, 2 birthday gifts combine to form complete awesomeness, and lighter topics...

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