Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

A Non-Pirate Looks at 39

Since 2005 I have used my blog to share what’s happening in our lives. Four days from when this publishes, I begin the final year of my 30’s. What better time to look back on what my 30’s brought before I started a public journal?

I turned 30 in the dreaded year 2000. By the time my birthday arrived, it was fairly clear that the world was not going to end as a result of the rollover from 1999. It also was fairly clear that Prince’s song “1999” would never be the same.

We had moved to northwest Arkansas in 1999 so I finally could leave information technology and follow my dream of writing for a living, for exactly half the pay I had been earning. The funniest thing about that was the number of people who asked me, “Is your wife going with you?”

That was only the beginning of a period that can be summed up by that overused word, “change.”

The next couple of years, I switched jobs a few times. Back then, when I still was deciding between journalism and information technology (IT) — or, as I liked to call it, making a living wage or not — changing jobs was not unusual.

Sparing you the details, I’ll sum up: I worked at a weekly newspaper, a daily newspaper, an IT position for local government, another daily newspaper, and then a higher position in the same city’s IT department.

I had waved goodbye to journalism because I wasn’t inspired to spend the rest of my life writing about what other people were doing, for money that didn’t match the rigors of the job.

Let’s cover our home life up to that point. We got home from work, watched TV, ate dinner, watched TV, and went to bed. Occasionally we went out to eat and rarely we went out to a movie, sometimes with friends. That was pretty much it.

That is, when we weren’t moving. Through all of that, we rented a house, bought a house, sold that house, and then bought another.

We’re only up to 2001 now. Is everybody starting to understand why “change” is the theme here?

My boss sent me to a course to learn more about IT. While milling about before class one day, I heard someone jokingly ask if anybody would be interested in a full-time teaching position there. Teaching had been my original career goal, and the job paid more than what I made.

I interviewed and got the job. I taught IT employees of Glad Manufacturing how to help their users move to Windows 2000 on the desktop; I taught La-Z-Boy employees how to use Microsoft Project; I taught recently laid off people how to use Microsoft Word; I taught Dayspring Cards (now part of Hallmark) employees how to use Microsoft Access, Powerpoint, and Word. Besides teaching, I also provided IT support for that department, including daily setup of laptops for a bilingual instructor to teach Spanish-speaking students how to use computers.

Back to our home life for a moment. After two years of trying, Shannon got pregnant and became a full time stay-at-home mom. Ten years after we got married, we were going to be parents.

Due to the growing popularity of online courses and other factors, demand for my teaching position dried up. I was fortunate to find and land a position at the college’s helpdesk. I was overqualified, but it was income.

Before anyone says I should have held out for something better… umm, did I mention that at this point our first baby was on the way I was the sole breadwinner?

While working the helpdesk job I met a guy who owned a growing IT outsourcing company, and joined forces with him. At first we were in a leased office space, but within a short time we moved the business to a house the boss and his wife still owned.

Somehow, and correct me if I was way off base, this was disheartening.

Finally, I was making exactly the same amount of money I had made before I left IT to be a journalist, and the business I worked for was based out of some guy’s tiny house in the suburbs. On a positive note, the customers respected the boss and were loyal to us even when it was clear we were learning some technologies as we went.

Despite that, a co-worker and I were very unhappy with management and within a year were looking for jobs in our spare time. Add that to the normal stress of working for a small startup during the day and a small baby at night, and I was desperate for structure and stability.

While working at a particular customer’s site, I occasionally saw the logo of a company my teaching boss had mentioned. Although I never had heard of them besides then, I remembered her disappointment at failing to land that contract.

Coincidentally, a friend who worked for that company said there was an open position I might like. I interviewed for and landed it. Considered entry-level by the company’s standards, it did not require me to take a cut in pay.

That’s where my detailed account of work stops, because after five years I’m still at that company, and by now everyone reading this should know what can happen to folks who blog about work.

Back at the hacienda… wait, which one? A year after I landed the position with my company, we sold our house and bought another so I could enjoy a 4-minute commute to work rather than one that lasted 60 (one way!). About a year after that, we sold that house and moved to the one where we currently reside (thereby avoiding a 6-hour commute).

Let’s recap the living situation from when I was 30 to when I turned 35. Rent house, first house, second house, baby born, third house, fourth house. If I’m counting correctly, that makes five houses in as many years. The three we have sold, we listed For Sale By Owner. We may list this one the same way some day, but we have no idea when that will be, and that’s a good thing.

Our son continued to develop and make us proud every day, as he still does. He at turns makes me feel much younger than 40 but much older than I want to be. Without fail he makes me look like a better father than I ever dreamed I would be.

My health might be another thing to mention while recapping my 30’s. Happily, until this year I had nothing at all to report. My cholesterol (good and bad) and blood pressure are great and I’m well within the healthy weight range for my height. Within the last several months, I developed a hiatal hernia, and I have no choice but to take it and all the heartburn that comes with it to my 39th birthday.

So, as my 40’s get excruciatingly close, I can say that while I’ve been through some things that make many folks shake their heads, I’ve been through none that make them gasp in horror.

I think maybe there’s a motto in there, somewhere.

(Note: This post’s title is a play on the title of Jimmy Buffet’s great song, “A Pirate Looks at 40.”)

5 Responses to A Non-Pirate Looks at 39

  1. See, we have something else in common.. we were both teachers!
    I taught for 13 years in Adult Education at a local high school. (I’ll post about it in my blog tomorrow… thanks for the fodder!)

    Sounds like you’ve done well, and taken good care of your family. I’m sure everyone’s proud of you for that too (even doing things at some times, when I’m sure you didn’t want to).

  2. Yar! ‘Twas a rolickin’ reckonin’ o’ yer time here so far, me hearty!!

    Welcome to the last year of your thirties! Here’s hoping it will involve less overall change than what you’ve dealt with during the previous 5. And thanks for the gift! Instead of receiving one this year, you’re generously distributing: because now I have to go and find out exactly what a “hiatal hernia” is!

  3. What a long, strange trip it’s been, eh? And yeah, I had to look up the hernia thing as well. Bless you internet for the ability to so quickly ease my curiosity. In ages gone I would have had to ask you what you meant…and who wants to do that?

    And not that it makes the looming 40 any better, but 39 is a much better number than 38. 3 cubed equals nine which makes 39 a soothing combination. Plus 39 is 3×13…another comforting combination of numbers. 38 is just disjointed and all around to be avoided. Count yourself lucky to be out of that cesspool of an age.

  4. There is one enduring truth that you should never lose sight of. It’s right up there with shit happens.

    Getting older sucks it.

    It’s nice to be wiser and all that crappola, but I miss the lack of aches and pains. But…I’m hopeful to be able to have a good attitude about it like our father, who once again has one of the best sayings.

    “I could complain, but I have friends who didn’t live long enough to feel this bad.”

    That sums it up right there. Oh…and here’s to five years of stability!

  5. I’mma hafta disagree a little with Charles. Me, I’m enjoying getting older more than I thought I would. I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago, and am wiser and happier than I ever have been. (Speaking generally here, of course.) Though the vigor of youth will fade, I’m anticipating that it will be replaced by more than enough by way of compensation for it not to feel like a loss, but rather a transformation.

    Could just be the optimist in me making himself known, but I’m gonna stick to that until I experience otherwise.



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