Being 30

Blog / Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

This is a post I meant to save for the end of the year, as posts like this tend to be placed there. But so much about what I have to say feels better to get it out sooner than later and move on to the next thing. Bear with me because there is light at the other end of this tunnel.

Thirty years old was not what I expected it to be. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be either. It wasn’t what I wanted 20 to be, or what I expect 40 or 50 to be. Being 30 was hard and trying all the way through. I can honestly say, good riddance to 30. Allow me to explain.

When you turn 30, you expect things to be different. Like all the birthdays that came before it, nothing truly is different because it’s just another day on another trip around the sun. It is an uneventful change. You get a different mindset with 30, but that only gets you so far. It’s very much like 29 and I bet it’s not far from being 31. Maybe then, I wished too hard for it to be different, for 30 to distinguish itself in my mind because it did and I wasn’t careful about what I wished for. For me, 30 was a terrible, no good, very bad year.

It started a month in, last December. Marley was starting to fade and I had to make a call that I had never been prepared to make. On Ellie’s birthday, I had to say my goodbye to my friend who had been with me for more than most and less than she deserved. Losing a friend like that took me a long time to get through. I still have moments where I go back to her in my mind because a toy turns up or something happens in a way it did when she was around but she isn’t around any more. Ellie and I worked through it together, but I can’t say I’m done processing the loss. That anguish stuck with me throughout the year. She was the first bookend. 

In February, my health took an unexpected turn. Some bumps were first diagnosed as clogged saliva glands and later diagnosed as the mumps. Before anyone jumps on about the importance of vaccines, I had my MMR as my parents were diligent with protecting their children. The MMR vaccine, in my case, must have worn off. It was a painful week or so that involved many visits to many doctors and five days of quarantine. I was graced with a wife who is cool under the pressure of a level 11 man-cold situation. She helped me through one of the more absurd times in my year. Because honestly, who expects to get the mumps? Even the doctors diagnosing me weren’t quite sure what it was because they just don’t see it that often anymore. I made it through and now I can hold my own in a game of “what’s the weirdest ailment you’ve ever had?”

danny mumps

In late February or early March, around the time Ellie’s family was dealing with a death of a family member, we received news that her father had been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is an all too common disease that is all too scary. The survival rate is across the board and as each day passes, I get more and more scared of finding out who is next and if and when my day will come. This isn’t the first cancer I’ve been around, but it’s the first cancer I’ve experienced. It’s terrifying and you want to put on a brave face for those who are more affected by it than you but there are only so many condolences in the world and you know they do little to ease peoples’ mind. The plan for Ellie’s father was for both her parents to retire, sell their house and move to town so he could be near better doctors than he would have been had they stayed put. They gave themselves until his treatment began to take care of that whole process and they managed in that time. By mid-May they were settled enough and so it all began.

By late May, my body failed me yet again. In the midst of mowing the lawn, an activity I find relaxing and rewarding, my back gave out on me. I think I had some sort of muscle spasm. Ellie had just left the house with her parents and my phone was inside. I crawled in and propped myself on the couch until she got back. When she got home, she found me an improvised cane made from a piece of quarter-round and she carted me off to urgent care. Through a number of doctor visits, it never became clear what had happened only that I needed to go through physical therapy. I suspect this was an injury related to a diving incident the previous year but I can’t be certain. I fortunately and blessed with an understanding workplace and an even more understanding boss. I went through my treatments through the summer.

Meanwhile, Ellie’s dad had cancer related surgery that his body didn’t take well to. He ended up being in the hospital for weeks on end as they waited for his body to start healing from the operation. We would get glimmers of hope that he would improve only to wake up the next day to hear that he had relapse. It was a tense, stressful event. While him getting to go home was a good sign, it was clear he was still hurting and it would be a long time before he’d be back to his old health. To the day I’m writing this, he’s still building his strength back up.

We managed to take a trip to Arizona in June for my great-aunt’s 90th birthday party. It was a vacation both Ellie and I needed, though it was overshadowed by events back home. We did our best to relax and enjoy ourselves, and we did an okay job of it all but under different circumstances I know that same trip would have been far better. The most mentally relaxing moment for me from the whole trip was when I was terrified of death while descending into the Grand Canyon. That fear has a way of pushing all those other thoughts out of your head and for a short while my woes were put into perspective. 

In addition to my back problems and Ellie’s dad’s health, the Arizona trip was overshadowed by car troubles. I had bought a used car when I started a new job the previous year and right before our trip it started giving me trouble. I moved it from mechanic to mechanic trying to figure out how to solve the issue as cheaply as possible. What ended up happening was that we had a new engine put in the vehicle. That in itself isn’t so much of an issue but the cost of it all was. There was a lot of math involved as I tried to determine the best course of action. $6k is a lot to spend on repairs for a used car but have a car worth nothing and trying to sell it is also a costly predicament. It tore me in two trying to decide what the best course of action was and no one I knew had ever been in the same boat so I had no one to turn to for advice in the situation. I opted for the engine replacement because at the time, it seemed to be nearly the only option.

2012 vw tiguan

That $6k of newfound debt played heavily on a decision I could not undo and will regret for many years to come. Suddenly being without so much money made me terrified of the situation of not having money again so spending any bit became harder and harder. In September, Rose got married and I couldn’t afford to take the trip to be there for her wedding. Rose from Peace Corps. Rose who was my groomswoman. It eats at me still, thinking that I missed out on such an important day for her because of something else that felt so out of my control. I know I won’t get another opportunity to be at her wedding. That put a dark cloud over everything for me. I could barely bring myself to tell her because I was angry and embarrassed by it all. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair for Rose and it wasn’t fair for me. Rose, I’m sorry I missed your wedding.

Over the last month or so, things started to get better. That light at the end of the tunnel got brighter and I could feel the wind on my face.

To help myself clear my mind throughout the summer, I opted to ride my motorcycle to work as much as I could. On my motorcycle, I feel truly free and relaxed. Fifteen minutes twice a day was enough to keep me looking up each day.

It may be a little thing but for me it meant so much to finally find a softball team to play on in Madison. I had been searching for years but none of my friends played on a team and I didn’t know how to get on one. Then out of the blue, I got an email because I was on a waitlist and suddenly, I had something to take my mind off of things. The weekly games got me out of the house and gave me something to focus on for one beautiful hour. We lost every damn game, but I felt like a million bucks every week. It sounds like I’ll be invited to play on their summer team next year.

While I didn’t get to have a Peace Corps reunion with Rose and Jeramie at Rose’s wedding, I did get a very unexpected visit last month from Jacque who was passing through town. She was back in the States for a visit and looked me up. We had coffee, caught up, and reminisced. Sometimes, I don’t feel like people understand how important Peace Corps was to me and it helps to have these reminders from the people who were there with me. They remind me how real it was.

Then, I sold my car. I had it up for sale since July and no one really was biting at the ad. Out of the blue one day, I got a message from a guy who was interested. He came to see it and drive it and then made an offer on it. I accepted. I wanted to be done with it. I was once proud of that car but since the troubles it caused me, I just wanted to be rid of it and the debt it brought on me. Selling it made the debt go away and refilled the coffers. 

Speaking of filling the coffers, in the past month, I made my first two sales online and those sales were two steps toward financial independence. It felt good to have complete strangers give me money. I’ll follow up sometime with that whole tale, because it deserves its own post.

All of this year seemed to culminate in a mental breakdown for me. I felt isolated, alone, angry and there was nothing that I could do about it. I have the most supportive wife and she stuck with me through this time and helped me move forward. She encouraged me to branch out more and as a result, I’m carving spoons with some other guys every week. It’s another thing that helps me take my mind off of the bad stuff. 

Spoon carving finished with shavings

So things are getting better for me, but boy do I wish the past year hadn’t happened the way that it did. If anyone asks me what to be excited for when they hit 30, I’ll probably give them a blank stare. Thirty was shit. Thirty sucked and not because I’m getting old. I’ve been getting old for nearly 31 years now. Thirty sucked because I can only seem to focus on all the shit that hit me this past year. Next year, I’m going to avoid all that shit.

So here’s to 31. May you be wiser and kinder than 30. May you bring health and wealth. May 30 kiss your ass and mine.

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