halfway home

halfway home 09.23.14

As my birthday rolled around this year I found myself getting somewhat contemplative. Not one to eschew highly mechanical, self-serving literary devices to get words on the electronic page, I present you with my interview … of me. At the time, it seemed like the best way to get different thoughts out of my brain. So without further introduction …

*   *   * 

Me: How does it feel to have just turned 45?

Me: Thanks for asking. So thoughtful of you. Well, it’s a little unnerving. Barring some dramatic cracking of the genetic code in the relatively near future, this means that I’ve most likely teed off on the 10th hole of life. Despite my Buddhist leanings, I’ve not mastered my fear of death, so I’m not anxious to reach the proverbial clubhouse in the sky.

Me: I know exactly how you feel. I feel the same way too!

Me: Strange, isn’t it? Amazing how we could share that experience.

Me: As you look back on the “first half,” what really sticks out for you?

Me: Well, there are certain things I’d really like to do over. I regret telling my sister what my mom got her for Christmas back in 1975 in exchange for her disclosure of reciprocal information to me. Actually, to be more precise, I regret my own stupidity in then trying to slyly ask my mom directly for the completely random gift I knew she had already bought me. Apparently she could sense treachery much more acutely than I had ever supposed. That was not a happy day.

I wish I’d been more careful about not spilling grape juice. When I knocked that glass over in our all-white kitchen in New Haven, mom imposed a permanent embargo on grape juice. I really liked grape juice.

I also wish that I had taken a few years off to work after college. While everything ended up working out, going to law school with zero real world experience made no sense.

Me: Well, you focused largely on regrets with that answer. What about the good things?

Me: Much easier for me to focus on the negative, you know? Those things jump to mind so quickly. But overall, I’ve been ridiculously lucky.

Spent every summer of my childhood on a lake in Maine where I waterskied, swam, read books, and played games all day every day. Doesn’t get much better than that, you know?

Married my high school sweetheart. Three healthy kids who all do cool stuff and generally behave themselves – that’s cool.

And obviously, meeting a whole world of people and finding a life path that means something to me following my accident. While I know I’ll read this in 20 years and say, “What a naive goofball,” I feel like I have a decent sense of perspective and balance about what’s really important that I probably wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go through that.

Me: What are you most passionate about at this stage of your life?

Me: I’m obsessed with music. My tastes aren’t all that broad or particularly sophisticated, but I love the emotional release of great hard rock. Sadly, there aren’t that many great rock bands out there right now. I find myself largely waiting for the next release from Foo Fighters (coming soon!), Weezer (coming sooner!), and Green Day. The one band I absolutely love that I think is still largely under the radar in the U.S. is Biffy Clyro. Absolutely killer trio that doesn’t sound like anybody else out there. If you want to dive right into the heart of their best stuff, check out Only Revolutions, Opposites, and their live album from Wembley. And in a half-hearted effort to show that I listen to something other than ear-bleed-inducing noise, I just saw Jason Mraz live with Max. Holy. Crap. If you want to hear somebody absolutely sing their tail off with a voice of frightening purity, that’s your guy.

Music’s especially fun for me now because Max heads a band that’s really trying to build a local fan base. So to be in a position to (a) love music and (b) watch Max immerse himself in it is cool. In the last two years I’ve filled in twice at concerts. I wasn’t anywhere near as good as him, but both had those “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life” feelings attached to them.

Totally switching gears, I’m also fascinated by the concept of how stories – narratives – play such a powerful role in connecting to other people. We’re in the age of “big data” and we increasingly live in a world where we’re supposed to look at numbers to figure out what the next “logical” step is. Numbers can and should help guide us, but ultimately, I think that the big ideas that move people are built around compelling stories that impact us emotionally. I’m curious to see that tension continue to play out over the next 35-plus years (hopefully).

Me: What exactly do you do with a passion like, “narrative”? Some might argue it’s not the most practical thing to love if you’re not a professional author.

Me: The cool thing about that kind of interest is it can lead you anywhere. It plays an obvious role in this blog, but you can take it in so many directions.

For example, while I love music, it’s a pretty good bet that it won’t lead me someplace new at this stage of my life; it’s just something I enjoy. Storytelling, on the other hand, gives me a virtually unending universe in which I can play.

Me: That sounds disturbingly like the kind of vague platitude one would get from a liberal arts education.

Me: This is the source of an ongoing discussion I have with my father. He’s a liberal arts guy through and through. I spent many years after getting my college degree denigrating that world and saying it had no practical value. But the more I think about it and continue that conversation with him, the more I think that he’s more right than I was.

I guess it also depends on what your values are, right? I’ve usually been more attracted to interesting concepts than revenue-generating tasks. Liberal arts colleges focus on those interesting concepts – admittedly, sometimes to the point of useless abstraction – and encourage you to pursue them, to think in a creative way. Playing with those concepts and trying to integrate them into something that works, taking them from theory to implementation is what entertains and motivates me. To have anything that entertains and motivates me is a definite win, especially when I think about how directionless I felt for the first 5 or so years of my career.

Me: We’re already over my self-imposed word limit. Any closing thoughts?

Me: Nope. This was a useful exercise for me. Thanks!

Me: Me too.

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