Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for September, 2011

One band. One 40-year old man. 25 years together.

OK, one more self-indulgent post.  Most people who know are familiar with how big and REM fan I was. That said, I don’t know if anyone understands how integrated their music has been with my life. When I went to boarding school 25 years ago, a friend played a song called “I Believe” that opened with a banjo. All I could think was “WTF is this?” and kinda assumed it was one of those bands that I’d never appreciate. But things changed. Every album has been something special to me and punctuated the passage of time, but the role of their music has always seemed to go deeper than that…

  • My senior year, I trained for the upcoming baseball season by running to “Welcome To The Occupation” from Document. I can’t hear that song without thinking of me at 17, running around a rainy outdoor track (didn’t quite have the endurance that I do now, so there weren’t too many other songs I listened to).
  • In college, I took my first trip home freshman year listening to Lifes Rich Pageant. Something about surviving that first part of college that felt like a victory and I still feel that way every time I play that album
  • I learned to drive with my dad while listening to Reckoning & Fables of The Reconstruction on auto-repeat. Nothing else. I think I parellel park more effectively when humming the chorus of “Pretty Persuasion”.
  • The first CD I ever owned was REM’s Out of Time–even though I already owned the cassette.
  • The day I decided to quit my job at Lockheed Martin as a satellite engineer was also the day I first saw REM live in concert. First song was “I Took Your Name”, featuring the line “I’m ready to close the book on NASA and outer space”. You can’t script that stuff.
  • Started my first company listening to Up, constantly yelling the lyrics from Walk Unafraid and Falls To Climb because they caught my thinking.
  • Driving cross-country to start our new life, Cherise and I listened to Reveal every morning as our wakeup call, including singing along to “I’ll Take The Rain” to honor our move to Seattle (like I said, you can’t script this).
  • Our wedding song was “At My Most Beautiful” from Up. We still drop everything and dance to that song when it comes on.
  • As an infant, the song I sang my daughter to sleep with more than any other was “You Are The Everything” from Green. First song I taught her to sing was “Fall On Me” from Lifes Rich Pageant.
  • The only music I listened to in the hospital after open heart surgery was Accelerate.  Perfect combination of lively music and comfortable music.
  • Nowadays, every night I drive home late, I play REM’s 39 Songs and provide a personal concert–focusing on the Chronic Town tunes.  For one hour, I’m the unofficial fifth member of REM.

To say I’m grateful is an understatement. It took me a few years to find them, but needless to say, I’ve never let go.  People will debate where REM ranks among the all-time greats. I’ll always know how important they’ve been to me. Mike, Peter, Michael, and Bill: Thanks. It’s easy to underestimate the transformative nature of music, but hard to do it when you’ve been doing it for 31 years (and I’ve been enjoying it for 25). I face my 40s without new material to look forward to, but I trust the 31 years of material can help get me through the rest of the way. But if you ever changed your mind…

A Father Looks At Forty

There is something about flipping a decade that seems like it should be a big deal. After all, it has been quite a decade of growth and change. It seems like only yesterday when I was turning 30. I remember it well. I was madly in love with my best friend, constantly listening to the Foo Fighters, and wondering when the Orioles were going to have another winning season. Ah, how I miss those days.

OK, OK, something has changed–or should I say some things. Having just gotten married right before I turned 30, there was still a lot of uncertainty. Would I be wired for marriage? Was I going to be a good father? And, of course, was I even going to be a father at all?  Would we even have kids? How many? Boys or girls? It’s a lot to think about. Well, all those mysteries have been solved and I couldn’t be happier or luckier. I don’t consider myself religious, but I can’t think of a better word to describe my life other than blessed. My 30s were everything I could have asked and then some. Pleased professionally. Pleased personally. Pleased financially. And pleased with family. My expectations for marriage have been insanely exceeded. My expectations for fatherhood have been insanely exceeded. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to try to build a business around something I am passionate about to the point where I rarely feel more alive than when I am working on it. And I can’t remember the last time I could describe myself as lonely. It’s been a wonderful decade in a wonderful life.

Still, I didn’t give it much thought as 4-0 day approached. Maybe because this decade is a lot different than the last decades of my life and I’ve gained some perspectives on numerical milestones. I usually tell people how 30 was a non-event and that 35 was much harder than 30. At 35, Iris wasn’t even a year old, I still felt a little overwhelmed, and I still knew we’d likely have more kids–was that really possible? Plus, we were in Seattle and felt pretty confident we’d be moving. So much responsibility, so little certainty. It’s amazing what you surrender when you first have kids (to those of you who tell me you are expecting, now you understand the pity you see in my eyes) and how normal it seems five years later. Now I am no long overwhelmed (well, maybe a little, but I’ve learned how to handle it) and feel some control over life. We’ll likely going to stick with two kids, odds are high that we will remain somewhere in California, and while there are things I can certainly improve upon, I love life.

With that said, it’s not exactly like I’m ready to run out the clock. I’m incredibly excited about what’s ahead. In fact, I think this is the first decade where I feel slightly compelled to take myself a little more seriously. There was something still unsettled and care-free when I started my 30s. After all, you can still think of yourself as young and having room for screw ups. But now I’ve got a wife, two kids, and a decision to make about my life and what I want to do with it. And unlike the previous decades, I’ll be representing more than just myself. And it forces the question about what success really means. How do I live my life in a way that fosters a legacy? And as I make decisions for myself, I confess that crossing this stage warrants a different outlook. Where I’ve often said “yeah, there’s time for that” in delaying certain things, I feel like if I want to achieve something, now is the time to go for it. This is the time to decide: do I care about how much money we have, what I do want to do, what do I want from my kids, etc. Fortunately, I think I can keep it simple. I know I want to be a good father. I know I want to be a good husband. And I know I want to use technology to make a positive impact on the world. Everything else is pretty much gravy.

See you at 50.

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