birthday

Exit 169. God was telling me to play Pokémon Go.

Yesterday, I hosted a friend’s birthday party at my house.  I am an introvert, of course, but I do enjoy hosting parties for others occasionally when I can.  I have this house, with realistically more room than I need, and doing things like this makes me feel like I can do something useful for my friends who have other living arrangements.

But I digress.  I’ve been very busy with work, and I haven’t been good at picking up around the house.  So I did a lot of straightening and cleaning yesterday morning.  By about 1:00 in the afternoon, I was tired and sweaty and in need of a shower, and I also needed a few things from the grocery store (not for the party specifically, just for my personal use, but as soon as possible).  I was debating whether to shower and go to the store, or just shower and nap, when another alternative popped into my head.

Don’t go to the store.  Don’t take a nap.  Don’t even shower yet.  Go for a walk to the park and catch some Pokémon.

I should qualify this by saying that I’m a n00b when it comes to Pokémon Go.  As I have written before, I was already in my 20s when Pokémon was first a thing, so I didn’t grow up with it.  I played for the first time two months ago, when a friend who moved away a few years ago was visiting her parents, about an hour drive from here.  I was trying to find a time to get together and catch up, and the only time that worked was when she was planning on going for a walk to play Pokémon, so she invited me along.

I had a six day streak going of having caught at least one Pokémon per day.  Most of that, however, most of that was just stopping next to the aforementioned park on the way home from work and catching one just to get a streak going, since if you can get up to seven days, you get a lot of experience points.  So I needed to catch something yesterday.  I also needed to get more balls, and there are lots of stops where you can get items all over this park.

Anyway, this park has soccer and baseball fields, so it is always full of youth sports families on Saturday mornings.  As I was getting near the park, I saw a mom and her friend loading up kids into a car after a game.  Her friend said hi to me.  I said hi back, as my mind frantically tried to remember who this person was; I don’t know any soccer moms that frequent this park off the top of my head.  (The kids belonged to her friend, not her, which also threw me a little.)   Fortunately, it came to me quickly so that the conversation was not awkward; it was someone from my old church, the one I stopped going to around two years ago.  I asked how she was doing, and she mentioned that next month she would be leaving on a mission trip to serve Jesus in other countries for a year.  She gave me the website where she would be blogging about her travels.

I hear many people tell stories about when God makes people cross paths at just the right time for a specific reason, and I think this was one of those moments.  I think God was telling me to play Pokémon Go yesterday morning, so I could be back in touch with my friend and reading and praying about her travels.  And in the middle of all the questions that have been running through my mind about Christianity and church culture and where I belong, this was a reminder that God is still here in the midst of all that.

And the part about me not having made it to the grocery store worked out too, because one of the other party guests called asking if we needed anything, and she agreed to bring me the two things I needed most urgently.  I forgot to pay her back, but this is someone I see often enough that I’ll take care of that soon, and it was probably no more than five dollars anyway.

Exit 119. What do these songs have in common?

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones (1980)

“Touch of Grey,” by the Grateful Dead (1987)

“Kokomo,” by the Beach Boys (1988)

“Cryin’,” Aerosmith (1993)

“It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” by Darius Rucker (2008)

“Get Back Up,” TobyMac (2010)

All of them were major hits.  Kokomo went to #1, the last of four Beach Boys songs to do so.  He Stopped Loving Her Today and It Won’t Be Like This For Long were both #1 on the country chart.  Touch of Grey, while only reaching #9, was the highest charting single in the Grateful Dead’s long career.  Cryin’, while not Aerosmith’s highest charting single, did reach #1 on the rock chart, and it seemed like it was on MTV all the time my last couple years of high school, during the era when they still played music videos for at least part of the day.  And Get Back Up, while not very well known in the mainstream, went to #1 on the Christian music chart, and it was around that time when I decided that TobyMac’s solo work wasn’t all bad like I found his early albums to be.

But there is something more significant that these songs, among others, all have in common.

They were all performed by band members and/or artists who were at the time in their 40s.

I have turned 40 since I wrote my last post.  In the months leading up to this, I was feeling a bit down about approaching 40.  Typically, fortysomethings aren’t seen as young anymore.  I have friends my age who have adult children already, and I’m nowhere close to having children.  I feel out of touch both with the people around me, who tend to be a lot younger, and with people my age, who tend to have very different lifestyles, of the sort considered to be more mature.  Sometimes I feel like life is passing me by, leaving me with nothing but regrets.

But it does not have to be this way.

I don’t have to listen to anyone telling me what I should be like at this age.  I have a lot of people who care about me; my friends at my birthday party this weekend reminded me of that through their actions, as did the students and coworkers at the school where I teach on my actual birthday.  I still have a lot of life left, and more adventures to come.  And, as demonstrated by all of the musicians above, I can still accomplish great things beyond 40.  (While researching this article, I discovered that guitarist Bob Weir was only 39 when Touch of Grey was released, but I don’t think that takes away from my point, and the other four band members were in their 40s.)

Here’s to a great upcoming year.

Exit 91. Oh, @#$%, I do know her.

Last night, I was at a friend’s birthday party.  When I got there, I scanned the room to see who was there.  I saw some people I knew, some people I recognized from previous birthday parties (I’ve been to all of her birthday parties since 2013), and some I didn’t seem to recognize at all.

The party was in an older house in an older neighborhood in Sacramento, and there is only one bathroom in the house.  About an hour and a half into the party, I was waiting in line to use the bathroom.  The bathroom door opened, and out walked one of the people I had spotted in my initial scan of the party and identified as one I didn’t know.  I smiled and said hi, as I usually do when I come face-to-face with party guests I don’t know.

“Hi,” she said, with a strange look on her face as she walked off.  By strange, I mean it wasn’t the friendly hello that usually comes when I’m about to introduce myself to a guest at a party whom I don’t know.  There was something significant in her response.

It hit me about two seconds later, as I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  Oh, @#$%, I do know her, I thought.

I didn’t recognize her until I saw her face, because she has significantly shorter hair now, and I hadn’t seen her up close in my initial scan of the room.  I met her at this same birthday party two years ago.  Over the next few weeks, we started exchanging long Facebook messages, which then led to two dates.  On the way home from the second date, I asked her something like “what are we,” and she said that we were casually dating and seeing if things could work out.  Four days later (and this was right around Valentine’s Day, I should point out), she dumped me by text.  (I told this story in more detail here, in Highway Pi #42.)

I think it hurt so much because I felt like I deserved at least a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, not just a text.  In particular, I didn’t understand what had changed in those four days.  I suppose I was fortunate to at least get a text, though, because apparently the trend these days is to dump people by not saying anything at all, just refusing to answer communications and disappearing out of the other person’s life.  That’s just immature and cowardly to me.

I didn’t say anything to her the rest of the night last night, and she didn’t say anything to me.  I hate being in that awkward position where I don’t want to talk to someone, or someone doesn’t want to talk to me.  But I think that’s just part of life.  There have been times when I was able to reconcile with someone who had hurt me (I wrote about one in Highway Pi #19, for example).  But I can’t expect that to happen every time.  Everyone is different, and every ending friendship and relationship is different, and I can’t change people.  That’s okay.  The best I can do is move on.  Sometimes I’ve been in awkward situations with people, and I can’t always figure out if I want to stay friends with them or not.  That’s okay too.  Healing takes time, and usually it depends on the other person as well.  I just hope all of these situations sort themselves out in time.

The rest of the birthday party went really well.  To this day, I still don’t know if my friend who was having the birthday ever knew that her friend and I went out a couple times, or that she dumped me by text.  I didn’t bring it up.  There was no point.  I was having too much fun with other people who are actually fun to be around.

Exit 68. For one thing, it makes me feel like a time traveler.

I turned 39 this month.  So far, it doesn’t really feel that different from 38… that’s what everyone says when they’ve just recently had a birthday.

I think a lot these days about getting older.  I know that everyone ages at their own pace, and there is no right or wrong way to live, but it’s hard not to feel like I’m not a normal run-of-the-mill 39-year-old.  Many of my age peers are dealing with things like being parents of teens and preteens (and even parents of young adults, in some cases), and I’m… not.  Furthermore, I didn’t start a family at the normal age, but I started my career teaching at an unusually young age.  So I’m in this awkward time warp, where I have former students who are in their 30s, and yet I’m still in my 30s myself.  (I taught these students when they were 15 and 16 and I was 23 and 24, right out of college, if you’re trying to do the math.)  There are around seven or eight students from that group that I’m still in Facebook contact with, and sometimes I see them post pictures of them with their spouses and children, or occasionally I see them in person, and it feels like they grew up and I didn’t.  They’ve become adults, and I’m still pretty much living the same lifestyle that I was living at 23 when I had them as students, although I’ve moved a couple times (but all within northern California).

It’s hard not being a normal run-of-the-mill 39-year-old.  My church is currently taking signups for new small groups that will be starting soon.  I’ve been having some big questions on my mind lately about whether or not I need to look for a new church.  That’s another issue for another time, but I didn’t want to make a final decision without checking out these new small groups.  Part of the problem is that I feel disconnected from the rest of the community, and a new small group might be the answer to that.  But I walk into the building today, I see the signup table, and the first thing I notice is that the groups are separated according to the same old tired categories that I don’t fit into anymore: couples, young couples, families, senior citizens and empty nesters, singles (the singles group at my church is a de facto divorced and widowed group, I know from experience), etc.  There were a few mixed age groups, which I ended up signing up for, but there just aren’t a lot of guys my age who have never been married at big suburban evangelical churches.

But not being at the stereotypical place in life doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  For one thing, it makes me feel like a time traveler.  It makes me think particularly of the beginning of series 7 of Doctor Who, when Amy and Rory aged a few years in between each episode.  The Doctor would bring them on another adventure with each week’s episode, but in Amy and Rory’s timeline, they had lived a few years of normal young couple life since the last time the Doctor saw them.  More importantly, though, I’m living my life on my terms and being myself.  Many of the most memorable figures in history didn’t conform to society.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and I’ve had a lot of experiences in my 20s and 30s that wouldn’t have happened if I had started a family at 25.  So I’m hoping to spend the last year of my 30s continuing to be myself and make the best of it, whatever that looks like.