Today I am 36 years old. It's strange to write that. I remember when I turned 26. I went out to eat with my parents at Petey's II in Orland Park on LaGrange Road and had duck. For some reason I'll never forget that meal. The room was crowded and suffused with gray-white light from the overcast sky outside.
It felt so weird sitting there. By comparison, on the previous birthday, 25, I was incredibly drunk and stoned after a night at the Greenpoint Tavern. I spent an hour throwing up on the loft couch, feeling as though I might die, before passing out. Such is a young person's life.
Earlier at lunch I tried to remember all of my birthdays back to age 18. I'm happy to say I can recall 13 with absolute certainty, with two probables and four can't-remembers. When I wrote them out, I was struck by how different they were year to year, particularly before I was married. I don't mean that in a "loose dudes" way, but just that I was in a different city each time through my early 20s.
Yes, I've had to move a lot in my life, but the biggest benefit is that I've met so many people. I'm really staggered when I look at my Facebook profile at the disparate places they come from. I can remember them all just like it was yesterday, and there are so many more I can think of whose names are foggy, or who've avoided social media, or whom I'm too embarrassed to track because they may not remember me.
I finally settled down when I moved here to Chicago. And though the general setting's been the same for a decade, I did find someone to share the yearly celebration with: my wife, Erika, a.ka. Miss August 22. I've always liked that our birthdays are back to back. And if I forget what happened one year, she can usually remember it with her powerful brain.
If you're reading this and you know me, all I can say at this point is thank you. Thank you for crossing your life with mine. I know it hasn't always ended amicably. If you think I'm an idiot, I can't blame you. I can only say I'm sorry. And if you think I don't want to talk to you anymore, that's not the case. My life is so busy now, I've never been good with the phone, and I'm also kind of lazy. I know I have to make a better effort.
The experience of living is ultimately an individual one, and I cherish my alone time maybe more than most. But it's the people you meet who make it interesting and, ultimately, meaningful — when we reach outside ourselves and connect. Thanks for being you, folks. You've made my life better for it.