As I am quickly approaching the last 24 hours in my 20s, I figured it was time to write an obituary of sorts for a decade full of life, emotions and lessons learned - both the hard way and the not-so-hard way. So, sit back, read and enjoy a walk down memory lane of sorts.
It's hard to believe that this next chapter of my life is so quickly approaching. Some people...OK, most everyone...has been telling me not to sweat turning 30 - that these are gonna be the "best years of my life." (Heck, that's even a line in my new theme song - see title of blog entry above.) However, 30 just hasn't been easy for me to come to terms with just yet. Maybe it'll be OK on Wednesday, maybe it'll be OK a month from now. Or, as one of my many birthday cards suggests, maybe it'll be OK in five or six (maybe seven) years. Who knows?
I have to say that I think I'm having such a hard time moving forward because my 20s are ending on such a high note. I mean, the past 14 or so months have been incredible. To be honest with you, I can't remember a better stretch of my life than from around January 2011 to present day thanks to all the relationships I've strengthened, began and (unfortunately) ended in that time frame. Plus, any time you can say you witnessed your alma mater winning a national championship in person pretty much guarantees a great moment in your life, so why not start at that point?
The people that I have met since the cusp of my 20s have been nothing short of amazing blessings. You hear the old adage that you make your first real friends in high school and your friends for life in college is 100 percent true in my case. I've been lucky to hold onto a couple of great friendships from my adolescent years, but some of the strongest bonds I have with friends are the ones that I met during my time at Auburn.
This past weekend, my mom and dad orchestrated a huge surprise for me at our tailgate for the Auburn-LSU game. I found out that my mom's master plan was to gather 30 birthday cards for me, which were hidden in my brand-Buicking-new Yeti cooler. (That's right - I got excited about getting a cooler. I am old.) Some of the best words were written about times over the last 10-plus years, which helped spur this blog entry.
I am blessed beyond measure, and I can see God's impact on my life through allowing me to gather so many wonderful people in my life that I am honored to call friends. You can't pick family, but I wouldn't have picked another one if I were given a choice. Through thick and thin, my parents, sister, aunt and uncle have stuck by me through every trial and tribulation I have gone through in my life, and my 20s helped to shape and tighten the bond that I share with them all.
Legally speaking, I added a brother to the mix on April 30, 2011, when my sister got hitched. I acquired several brothers in the past 10 years, but Robert is the only one that has no choice but to put up with me and my crazy antics the rest of our days. He's perfect for Jeanie. Jeanie and I had a hard time getting along when I was growing up, but my 20s saw a friendship form out of nowhere that we have both taken an interest in building and maintaining. People used to tell me that everything between us would be different when I went off to college, and that's about the time that it all started - giving credence to the so-called experts. I can't tell you how thankful I am for my 20s to give me that.
My best friends have all come about during my 20s. Folks like Brad, Amber, Robert, Jennifer, Andrew, Katy, Melissa, Chad, Jamie, Aven, Sparkles, Walinda, Katie, Kevin, Amanda, Josh, Janel, Sam, Honey Bear, Fizzle...the list could go on and on. These folks have no reason to keep me around but they somehow manage to do that anyway. I take a lot of pride in my friendships, and it's easy to be a great friend when you have such a wonderful supporting cast that works with you.
I'm ashamed it took me so long to learn some of life's hardest lessons. I'm ashamed that I screwed up in so many areas that could have led to so many great things. I'm ashamed that I had a hard time grasping the concept that God's abundance of miracles and blessings is limitless, but these things do have an expiration date if we fail to take them when He offers. While I'm ashamed of the length of time it took me to learn them, I have no qualms about how my life has turned out despite those things and am truly thankful to know how to recognize and act on these times when they present themselves in the future.
I am going into my next 30 years with a new outlook on life - one that has God truly at the center of it all. I'm doing my best to keep from viewing life through a hierarchy and staying away from lists of importance as much as I can. I learned that, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping God at the top of my list, it's much easier to view things as "God things" when you have Him at the center of your life. Along with that, it's a lot easier to accomplish goals when you make those goals "God things."
Sunday, I finished a year-long plan to read the Bible in 365 days. I started on my 29th birthday with the goal of finishing before I turned 30. I'm not going to lie - I didn't retain as much as I thought I would, and some days I was reading with no intentions of retaining anything, but this helped develop a strong habit. Now that the habit is there, I am going to start diving into devotionals with the goal of learning much more about this great and wonderful book. I was able to stay on track with this through the help of friends' encouragement and making it an (obvious) "God thing."
Monday, Sept. 24, will be the final day of my 20s. It will also mark 18 weeks of not drinking any caffeine. I also have had a more concerted effort to eat healthier and more "foods of the earth" - aiding to a goal of losing 50 pounds. With a job that requires much more travel and time away from home, this has been easier to stay on track with than I had first anticipated because the reason behind all of this is to be more glorifying to God with what I eat and drink, meaning that it's an obtainable goal because it's a "God thing."
(Seeing a trend?)
While most of the more drastic changes and goals being met have occurred in the past 21 months, I don't want to overlook the goals that I met during the earlier parts of my 20s either. I finished Auburn in four years and was able to graduate at the same ceremony with two of my best friends. I got to go to one game in every Southeastern Conference stadium with one of those two best friends in a single football season. I have been able to check items off my bucket list such as going to a baseball game at both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
I have a ton of cool memories stemming from my days of working in the athletic departments at Auburn and Florida. I met legends like Emmitt Smith and Bo Jackson because of my job. I got to be on the field for some of the most exciting moments in Auburn football history, and I experienced some of the most jubilant (and somber) locker rooms following big wins and tough losses. Auburn went undefeated twice in my 20s, one time with us getting hosed by the Bowl Championship Series and the other ending in jubilation out in Glendale, Ariz.
I finally got to own a Jeep. Then bought another one. Then traded it on a more sensible car a couple of months ago because, as we have already established, I'm old. I saw Jimmy Buffett three times in concert. I saw Sister Hazel 12 times.
To all of you who have come into my life during the last decade, to all of you who were already there and stuck with me through those times also: I cannot thank you enough. I love my life largely because of the people in it, and I'm honored that I can look at each and every relationship I have with others as a positive.
So, here's to my 20s - a very developmental time that shaped me into a guy ready to take his 30s by storm. Even if I get lost, my 20s taught me that, if I keep swimming, I'll reach the daylight eventually. Because that's what we do - we swim, swim, swim.