The Jimmy Buffett song “A Pirate Looks at 40” always strikes a chord with me (pun intended).
It’s a song about a pirate who is speaking to Mother Ocean about how he has always wanted to sail upon her waters, has seen a lot on those waters and how now he’s older and wiser.
I turn 30 this week. I’m not sure what to think about it. Like Buffett’s pirate, I, too, have seen and done a lot, but I’m not sure what it amounts to in the grand scheme of things.
My youngest days were that of a typical southern boy. I was a good student in school, had plenty of friends, most of whom I still keep in touch with.
I learned to cook when I was in preschool because I had to, otherwise my little sister and I wouldn’t have eaten on some days.
My mother, a schoolteacher, raised us with a firm hand, though we still got away with a lot while she wasn’t looking. They say preachers’ and teachers’ kids are the worst. Maybe they’re on to something.
I rode my bike until I was old enough to drive, had a few crushes, was a Boy Scout and had many adventures in all three areas.
High school was a blur, but I had a lot of fun. Too much, sometimes. To say I led a nefarious youth would be accurate. But I was always polite to my elders and tried to stay on the right side of the law, though I slipped a number of times.
The Old South, as it was known when I was born, passed away about the time I graduated high school. When I was a boy, I got to eat from some of the most bountiful gardens you’ve ever seen. What most people call a garden now is more of a patch of vegetables in my mind.
I was on the crew that got to build a Walmart in my hometown the summer between high school and college.
They say Walmart will destroy Mom and Pop stores when they come to town. It is true — I saw it firsthand.
I attended three colleges. I started out in music at the University of North Alabama, then going back to junior college at Faulkner State before finishing in journalism at the University of Montevallo.
I worked my way through the majority of my college years. Working 40 hours a week while going to school was frustrating. I remember getting angry on several occasions because I only had one day off a week and I often spent that day studying.
I look back and think now that I had it easy. At least I was going to college. Most of my friends in Bay Minette never got to go to college. Most never will.
When I’d see my peers skipping classes or taking partying as seriously as they should have been taking college made me wonder how they could throw their opportunities away.
Some of the people I’m referring to never graduated. Two are no longer among us.
I met my wife at UM. We have two boys now and that’s something I never thought I’d have: two other people who are totally dependent on my wife and myself.
Kids teach you a lot as you try to teach them.
Now that I’m almost 30, I’ve noticed a few differences in my body. If I don’t exercise regularly, I get larger. I used to be able to devour a large pizza and not gain an ounce.
I don’t function well on little sleep anymore. Six hours used to be plenty.
I have patches of gray hair in my beard.
My knees and back give out easily, that never used to happen. A few drinks can often guarantee a hangover, which lingers far longer than they once did.
I worry about what I eat now and plan to quit smoking.
I’m not sure what the big deal is about the 30-year milestone. The saying used to be that you should never trust anyone over 30. More on that next year.