It’s not lost on me the significance of this day. The one I’ve been waiting for. The big one.
Why exactly do we give the 31st birthday so much prominence? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because “31” is the 3rd Mersenne prime and therefore related to that most perfect number “496” since of course 496 = 25 – 1 ( 25 – 1). Or is it because there are 31 flavors in Baskin Robbins ice cream, an American staple, and proof that capitalism always works? Or maybe it’s because 31 was the jersey number of Indiana Pacers player Reggie Miller, known as the blackest man in basketball? Whatever the reason, it’s clear that this year has a special significance to a lot of people.
A wise Starbucks barista once told me, “Don’t count your life in years. Count the moments.” And I’ve tried to do just that, every single one.
Each is special. Some have personalities. And others, I’ve given names to. The 13th second of the 10th hour of each day I call “Jimbo”. And the 3rd second of the 4th hour I call “Wilfred Sam Lewis”. If you’ve seen me counting to myself, rocking back and forth near that on-ramp to the 101 freeway, don’t worry, I’m just catching up with my old friends, “the moments”.
When I think about my youth, growing up in rural Oklahoma with nothing but my parents, their middle class income, wide open spaces and the finest school in the state to support me, I can’t help but be proud of how I’ve been able to turn that around.
It wasn’t easy. There were times when I doubted myself. And why wouldn’t I? As a white male, there are challenges. You blend in and you have to work a lot harder to get noticed. I always felt so envious of the two black kids in our all white school. Everyone knew who they were. Our local in-school police officer even reached out to tell them “he was watching”. At that age, we are all looking for someone to watch over us. How encouraging that must have felt for them.
When I got to college there was more pressure to stand out, to make my mark. But I didn’t shirk. When tasked with a particular term paper or research assignment I would always find the best articles on the subject and be sure to copy them word for word into my final draft. They were exact down to the comma. No one could accuse me of sloppy work!
When we went to parties or out drinking, I could always be counted on. I would never let a friend drink and drive while I was around! No sir. If anyone was going to get a DUI, it would have to be me. That’s just the kind of friend I am. And if a lady friend of mine was maybe a little too intoxicated to make good decisions, I’d be sure to help her find a nice overly confident football type to watch her sleep while I took everyone else home. You’d be surprised how willing people were to offer themselves to that cause. Especially Todd. He loved watching girls sleep. Just goes to show that people are mostly selfless.
I’ve tried to apply that to my work life. To give back. My practice of giving surprise back rubs in my office has been met with overwhelmingly positive response. Each time someone says, “You can stop now. You’ve done enough”, those few words of gratitude make me smile. Somewhere, deep down, I swell. With pride. I have done enough. But don’t worry office girls. Surprise backrubs are coming to you as well! I’m not a sexist.
After 31 years, I know that I’ve probably learned all there is to learn, but I’m not keeping it to myself. I’m happy to give advice to anyone in need, whether they ask for it or not. I’ve tried to be more observant and compliment people more too. I keep a mental tally of each person’s weight in the office so I can comment on any change. And I make sure to notice when someone wears a new outfit. Just last week, I complimented Alice on her size 20 skirt. It’s important to mention the size so they know you are really paying attention. She was so grateful, there were tears in her eyes. She just wanted someone to notice. Reporting for duty, Alice!
I find that these small actions really do add up. Someone even referred to me as a “busy body” last week. He’s right. I have been busy! Thanks for noticing, Dan!