“Every day you’re alive is a special occasion…The challenge is to remember, day in, day out, the specialness found in the ordinariness of our lives.”pp. 247, Everyday Serenity, David Kundtz
I recently discovered that a former colleague, friend, and my oldest son’s godfather died. We had worked together in the seventies at a television station and had once in a blue moon kept up with each other after I left. I last spoke to him ten or eleven years ago when I was on the east coast. We were supposed to connect in person then, but time and our lives disconnected us. I’ve tried to connect with him over the years, but it was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth. If he had lived, we would have been about the same age, seventy-four, 74.
Not to be a downer, but I’ve noticed the ages of people in the news and friends who have died recently. When their ages are 74 or less, I get nervous. I get twitchy, conscious of all the health issues I’ve had and have, and wonder which one will do me in. I mean, forty-five years of drug and alcohol abuse and the ups and downs of obesity and threats of diabetes, breathing lousy air from the San Diego Freeway nearby, convinced the Hepatitis C that was “cured” will suddenly come back to bite me in the ass or scared stiff that what killed my parents (father-cancer, mother-Parkinson) is sneaking their way through my DNA soon to dive into my veins to wreak destruction on my body.
Or I may be overreacting to the news of my friend’s death (Ya think?).
But seriously, as I roll forward (because life doesn’t let you roll backward) toward the momentous age of seventy-five, 75 years old, later this year, you get to think about the inevitabilities in life, whether you want to or not, about its fragility, about aging (I’m taking Gerontology 401 at the university so that doesn’t help) and what happens to your body as you pile on those years, about your past lifestyle and the one you find yourself in now where you act like you’re 50 and even sometimes, in a moment of fantasy, you delude yourself into thinking you are 25 again. But you’re not, and this is where you are.
I can’t help but think about the long ass journey to 75 and how easy it is to overthink all the mistakes I’ve made and wallow in self-pity about them while wishing I could apologize to everyone who has ever been at the end of one of my mistakes. I think about the millions of apologies I’ve made to myself trying to live my life as a better human than I was yesterday or fifty years ago. Then, I wake up from self-pity and think, enough of the apologies. Just don’t do it again.
Live in the present and prepare for the future. Your past is yours; you’ve learned many lessons for the future. By the way, there are more good things than bad things that should make yourself proud and should be the lights ahead for the paths you will walk toward 75.
My life partner, Sumire, recently reminded me that many of my life stories seem to be about all the harmful acts in my life as if that is all that defines me. My entire life seemed limited by how many drugs I took and how much alcohol I drowned my liver with. Yes, there was a lot, but damn it, Sumire reminds me that I should not go out believing that’s my only story. I am a three-dimensional human being who has lived (and is still living) a life full of lucky breaks, determined paths, and accomplished goals.
If you exclude the crazy in my life, I’ve done well. Whether being the only person of color in a seminary (talk about what I learned), graduating from high school with honors, or being accepted at two of New York’s best universities on full scholarships, all before my eighteenth birthday, that ain’t bad. From there, I’ve had nothing but a run of accomplishments that took me from the South Bronx to Washington, D.C. radio and television and the halls of Congress and the White House to New England local news to being on the ground floor to bring cable television to Washington, D.C. all by the time I was thirty-five.
Then, I changed the coasts, east to west. I taught myself to ride a motorcycle (courier) when I had no idea, how to bartend (you do what you do to pay the rent) and was accepted as part of a national competition into an American Film Institute television drama workshop by writing a script when I didn’t know how to write one. Then, I met a guy who gave me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be on the ground floor of a new cable network which then grew up to become a cultural icon about celebrities walking down a red carpet into a building and stopping to tell the world what they were wearing. Hell, proud of it. I was there as an Executive Producer, and as much derision is thrown at that ritual, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a big hand in it.
The last fifteen years have been a roller coaster of mentoring young and older, publishing a glossy magazine and its online version, and organizing a diversity festival, Color Me Long Beach. My best accomplishment to date is graduating from Community College in my seventies with an associate degree in English, and now, only fifteen units away from graduating from a University with a bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing while working toward attending post-graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in the same. Okay, a little tired (a fast lane life can do that to you), but able to hold my own against people half my age, and did I tell you my overall GPA is 3.94?
Yeah, I feel good as I live toward December 8 and mark the close of seventy-five, 75 years, ready to push to the next phase of my life. Not bad for a kid from the projects in the South Bronx. I got this, and I’m damn proud of myself.
“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”Colette (quoted in pp. 278, Everyday Serenity, David Kundtz)