After reading an article in Men’s Health, 15 Turning Points to Celebrate in Life, I was left with the thought that at forty there are very few remaining milestones left in my life. According to the article, of the fifteen turning points in a man’s life the only thing I have yet to achieve is to take advice from my daughter. No. Wait. I listened to her counsel last Sunday night and watched Ice Age 4 for the second time instead of working on the computer. So I don’t even have that to look forward to. Great!
By forty it seems as though I have done, lived through and achieved almost everything that equates to a milestone. Of course, the loss of my teeth and memory are events that will surely be life changing. But I can’t say I am looking forward to either of them. Why is it that my remaining milestones relate more to how old I am getting than anything else?
Now, I understand that I could (and do) chose to put a positive twist on things and look at my future milestones as billboards to the amazing life that I have lived. However, that is just the flip side to the same coin. Quite honestly, that is still a little depressing.
I don’t do depressing.
There must be another coin.
And there is. Who says I have to gauge my life according to Men’s Health. (My diet and work out regime should be enough.) Hell, I just jogged about eight kilometers home from work the other night – in my flip flops. Who’s to say that wasn’t a life changing first? Maybe now I will start jogging home from work more often. Or maybe I will start to wear more sensible shoes to work. Or better yet, I might even start to carry some money in my wallet so that the next time my scooter doesn’t start I can pay for a cab. The point is that whatever lesson I learned that night, it has helped to further define the man that I am. Maybe milestones needn’t be as grand as we make them out to be. Babies have them every other day. Why can’t we?
And so on this, my 50th post, a kind of milestone for me, I will pay homage to some lesser known milestones of my past in hopes that I can and will recognize these life changing moments more frequently in the future.
1. The first time I realized that my parents sometimes give good advice.
It was a cool wintery morning. My grade one friends and I were wrapping up another enjoyable recess in the school yard when someone dared me to lick the monkey bars. Now, I know for a fact that my mother had warned me on numerous occasions about the dangers of licking metal on a cold winter’s day. Her warnings were given by way of a story – an apparently true story – of her childhood self ripping her tongue away from the frozen railway tracks behind her house to avoid being flattened by an oncoming train. The images of her sprinting home with blood dripping through her fingers as they covered her mouth, and the small sheet of flesh left coating a square inch of the iron tracks behind her still gives me the shivers. Nevertheless they weren’t enough to deter me from playing the school yard idiot. I took the dare and had to wait, tongue frozen to the fireman’s pole, arms flailing and mumbling words of panic until my teacher came with a cupful of warm water to free me from my humiliation. From then on, I started to heed my parents’ advice. With a little more frequency anyways.
2. The first time I realized that seeing should not always be believing.
It wasn’t until after our family had owned and become quite attached to our pet dog that my parents realized I was allergic to animals. It was therefore with heavy hearts that they decided to give our beloved Freud up for adoption. (Can you guess what kind of doctors my parents are?) So, one hot summer’s afternoon, we all piled into the car and started down the highway to drop Freud off at the dog pound.
About halfway to the pound, I remember, screaming at my parents to stop the car. In reality, screaming doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the moment. Imagine a young child, face beet red, tears literally streaming down his face gasping for air and begging his parents to pull over. That was me.
I would love to say that this outburst was caused by the sadness I felt over losing our dog. However, it wasn’t. Quite honestly, I can’t remember if I was broken up at all. Rather, my ear piercing wails were an echo of shock and terror. As I said before, it was a hot day. The sunlight pounding off of the baking asphalt had created a mirage before us and I was convinced that my father was driving us straight into a lake. I was sure we were going drown on our way to the pound.
I don’t remember how long it took my parents to calm me down. They did, however, and I learned a lesson that there is usually more to a situation than meets the eye.
3. The first time I came to understood what it meant to ‘never let go’.
Those famous last words of Jack to Rose just before he slipped down into the cold abyss of the Atlantic Ocean were engrained into my skull (quite literally) during a grade ten gym class. The teacher was out of the gymnasium for some reason and a couple of my friends decided to set up the spring board and box-horse close to the basketball net. They wanted to emulate their NBA heroes and pretend to dunk a basketball.
My friends, being the athletes that I most certainly wasn’t, made the process look easy. Watching them dunk their imaginary basketballs with such ease made me want to give it a try. I took a long run at the springboard and actually bounced from it to the box-horse with a little bit of style. The leap from the box-horse to the rim was also accomplished with the grace of a fair skinned Spud Webb. But that is where my success ended.
I guess I wasn’t ready for the force of my body swinging away from the net because a second after my fingers clasped around the orange ring they were ripped away and I found my self falling to the unforgiving floor below.
I am told that the impact of my skull cracking against the wooden floorboards could be heard from change rooms. I guess my glasses also bounced from my face about three feet into the air. However, I don’t know for sure what happened. Other than a few random memories of me walking through the halls and sitting in the principal’s office I have no recollection of anything that happened for the rest of that day.
The concussion that I received taught me to never let go. This was a lesson that served me well every time I decided to jump on to the roof of a moving vehicle. Who knows? Maybe dribbling my head on the gymnasium floor actually saved my life.
4. The first time I learned that not everyone can take a joke.
To celebrate the closing night of What About Me (See track 10 – Robin’s Song) the cast, crew and a number of close friends got together at someone’s house for a party. Drinks were flowing, music was playing and everyone was still high from the success of our performance.
The host of the party was lucky enough to have a pool in the backyard. However, nobody had brought swimming attire and the water remained untouched. For a bit anyways.
I had enjoyed a beverage or two before heading to the backyard to admire the pool. When I stepped through the patio doors, however, my attention was not captured by the pool, but rather by the couple that was standing close to its edge deep in conversation.
Once again impulsivity took control (See Track 40 – King of Wishful Thinking) and instead of joining into their conversation I decided that the guy needed to test the temperature of the water. I can only assume that it was rather frigid because he jumped out of the water about as quickly as he fell in. I only had time to run into the living room before he caught me. He actually leapt over the sofa and rammed me into the wall. The next thing I knew, I was about to pass out. Instead of throwing me into the pool as I figured he would do, that soggy fellow decided to try and choke me to death. He probably would have too, if not for the help of two bigger friends. Lesson learned. Not everyone shares in my wicked sense of humor.
5. The first time that I learned to go with the flow.
I was in grade nine when my brother and I first went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were visiting our family in New Jersey and my cousin saw that it was playing at a nearby movie theater. Without telling us anything about the movie, he asked my brother and me if we wanted to go. Neither of us had even heard of the movie but we were always up for popcorn and a flic. My pop was also springing for the tickets so how could we refuse?
When we arrived at the theater, my brother and I commented on how run down it was. We were also taken aback by the attire of many moviegoers who were standing in line to buy their tickets. Both my brother and I felt a little intimidated by the whole scene and stood back from the crowd gawking like two children at a sideshow. My cousin must have been aware of our apprehension, but made nary a comment. I’m sure he was enjoying our reactions and therefore didn’t let us in on the type of movie we were about to see.
When we finally entered the theater, my cousin chose three seats somewhere in the center. I was surprised at how rowdy the audience seemed to be but I assumed they would quiet down as soon as the movie started. As you can imagine, I was wrong. Nobody in the theater except for the three of us would shut up. I was appalled when people started responding to the characters. I started to see red when people actually got out of their seats and ran to the front of the theater to interact with the images on the screen. And I was livid when the first grains of rice bounced off of my head. Don’t even get me started on the water and bread. It wasn’t until my cousin got up to dance the Time Warp that I realized what this movie was all about. By then, however, it was too late. The movie was almost over and I had missed a great experience. I realized then how important it is to just go with the flow.
It wasn’t until about a year later that I actually learned how to do the Time Warp. It was taught to me by the same delightfully quirky girl who introduced me to Georgia Satellites. (See Track 25 – Keep Your Hands to Yourself) If nothing else, this song is a reminder that life is as precious as it is short. I would be foolish to accept the notion that there are only fifteen defining moments in my life. I might be forty but I am far from the point where I can say I have done or seen it all. Although I am sure of the man I have become, I don’t think that will ever be fully defined. Every day brings with it the opportunity for growth and change. And so, I will continue to embrace both of these things with the same intensity, joy and verve as I did the very first time I took that jump to the left….
The Time Warp Youtube link