To start talking about turning 30, I’m going to throw it back a few years. OK, not a few years, 13 years. Ouch, was it really that long ago? Anyway, in high school I was part of a youth organization called FFA; most people know it as the Future Farmers of America. During my senior year I served on the state-level officer team and got all kinds of neat training on professionalism, etiquette, and even how to properly shake a hand. My fellow officers and I were told that a proper handshake includes “webbage”, referring to good contact of the fleshy area between each person’s thumb and index finger. This is really important information to know because many great things start with a good handshake. Sometimes we need to approach events in our lives with a philosophical handshake.
Today, February 18th, 2014, I turn 30 years old and I’m here to tell you I am meeting my thirties with webbage, a firm grip, eye contact, and furrowed brow that says, “Nice to meet you. I think we’ll make a good team. Let’s get to work.” And why not? I mean, I’ve spent thirty years getting ready to be 30. Heck, in the last decade I’ve gone to college, gone to war, gone to war again, gotten married, gone to college again, worked in restive South Sudan, and spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. If I am not ready to be thirty by now, I never will be. And if I spend my thirties getting ready to be thirty, I’ll really be in a fix when I get to 40. So I will do no lamenting of the passing of my twenties. I haven’t got time for that kind of self-indulgent nonsense. Oh no, instead I will indulge myself in writing my thoughts on this matter for unknown persons to read about on the internet.
Sorry for the absence of a segue, but, I like country music. I like country music because I like the sound of acoustic and steel guitars and songs that reflect my affinity for agriculture, working outdoors, “real world issues”, and salt-of-the-earth people. Tim McGraw is a country music singer and he has a tune called My Next Thirty Years. It’s a song about celebrating who and what you are, focusing on what is to come, reflecting on what has passed, and asking the Lord’s blessing on the future. I hadn’t given the song too much thought before, but based on what you’ve read so far, I bet you can guess my choice for the national anthem of February 18, 2014?
In My Next Thirty Years, Mr. McGraw vows to continue to have a little fun. Me too. I’ve been lucky to see enough of the world to know how much it has to offer and had a little fun along the way. Why would I stop now? My wife is a great traveling partner and we will presumably have a family before long; which I’ve heard adds a whole new dimension of fun to life’s experiences. Except for dirty diapers. I heard these are not fun. Anyway, yes, I intend to have fun after 30. It will just look and feel a little different compared to my former fun.
Tim also sings about conquering adolescent fears. I heard a version of this line echoed by one of the first friends I made in Texas a few years back. Let’s call him Mark. Mark is older than me and I remember him telling me I was approaching a golden age; an age when youthful insecurities start to fade and make way for real personal growth and happiness in your own skin. (I guess you start having those kinds of conversations in grad school.) I think Mark and Tim's song are right and I have already felt those old fears and insecurities slipping away. Fears and insecurities are like a cold, wet blanket thrown on the fire we need to fuel our success. So good riddance. Don’t come back. Stupid fears.
There is also a little bit of angst in the McGraw song as he says, "Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear. Figure out just what I’m doing here, in my next thirty years.” Well, that thar is a tall order. And no wonder he was a little anxious. I know a lot of people older than I who can’t let go of hate and fear. I see people on the left calling the people on the right names like bigot, as if that helps make anyone become as open-minded as the oh so tolerant name caller. I see people on the right questioning the patriotism of people on the left as though anything short of their narrow prescription of national loyalty is the highest form of treason. But I digress. Or, rather, we all tend to digress, drift, and degenerate. My goal is to do these things less than I used to. Not because I want to, but because I feel like I should. I mean, I’m 30 years old for crying out loud! (See, I’ve already gotten used to calling myself 30. *pats self on back*)
And what of Tim’s search to find out just what he’s doing here? I’m not going to over-think this one. It’s not very complicated or at least I think it needn’t be. I’m here to be a good husband and try to improve at it. I’m here to do meaningful work in a career that makes a difference in people’s lives. I’m here to raise a healthy family that aspires to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. I’m here to get better at understanding first and arguing never more rarely. l’m here to find inner peace and assurance through the good Word. That’s it. Simple as this. No reason to overthink it. After all, I’m only 30. (Dang, that doesn’t seem as legitimate an argument for over-simplification as, “Hey, I’m only in my 20’s”.)
In case you hadn’t noticed, I am entering my next 30 years with a bit of confidence and purpose. This is because, generally speaking, I have learned to understand why I do what I do and why I don’t do what I don’t do. You only get so many chances to make yourself and the world better. Here’s to making the most of all of them.
I close this essay with words from the final stanza from Mr. McGraw’s former #1 hit.
My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years