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Reflections on Turning 30

When I turned 20, a friend of mine said I was lucky to still be alive.

His exact words were,

“Luck to the next 20.”

Well, now I’m 30.

And you might call it luck,

I guess.  I could think of some other words for it.

But here I sit.  Some things have changed.

Some things have not.

I still use the same font.  I still think like I’m 23 years old.  I still love cats and hip hop.

I don’t still grill chicken with English muffins and peanut butter.

I don’t write spoken word. I write quantitative clinical psychology research articles.

I don’t play the drums anymore.  I went back to Jiu-Jitsu this year but immediately hurt my shoulder.

I don’t still lift weights 6 days a week.  I don’t take workout supplements;

creatine, caffeine, beta alanine, taurine, DiArginine Malate, Citrulline Malate, BCAAs, whey, casein.

In fact, I hardly make it to the gym.  I make music now.  I teach meditation now.

I’m still in love with the stars.  I still want my ashes spread in the Pigme Redwood grove in Big Sur.

I now care about the planet.  I care about you; so, so, much.  It’s actually hard to put into words

how much I care about you.  I’ve seen things that have changed me forever.

I know we’re the same.  I forgive you.  Believe it or not.  Really, I have.

I’m hoping too that you can forgive yourself..

I have a cat now.  I love her more than words.  She’s like me.

She loves her alone-time but needs to be held sometimes.

I’ve learned her language and we talk now.

I don’t go to therapy anymore.  I haven’t been in several months now.

I haven’t blogged in probably a year.  My apologies to those that follow me.  Things will change.

I stopped getting Muscle and Fitness magazine,

although I taught a case manager at work how to do a proper squat today.

I’m a pretty good therapist, I think.  My clients love me.  And I tend to love them.

(Don’t tell anyone.)

Doug is dead.  Overdose.  I’m still crying.  I’m still angry.  It’s still hard.

I’m still scared to talk about it.  I wrote a song about it.

A.J. won’t return my calls.  I still haven’t talked to Stu or Gabe in years.

Kev and I are cool though.  I seem him regularly and that’s my brother.

I’m still scared of growing up; still scared of dying without doing the right things.

I still don’t know what the right thing is.  And I’m still a bit impatient.

I can dance now!  Oh boy do I dance!  No more paralysis.  No more hiding.

I’m okay being out in front.  I’m okay knowing that you’re looking.

I’ve lost some friends.  I’ve gained some friends.

I allow myself to love and be loved.  I’m walking through fears now.

I still wear Sauconys, and still keep them arranged in a very specific way.

I still have to double check the stove and the car lock.  I still make the clicking noise with my tooth.

I still read Mary Oliver.  I still read Jack Kerouac.  I still read Dostevsky.  I still go to Big Sur.

I’m going back to Thailand and Bali.

I still hate doing laundry.  I still love making people happy.

I’m now accountable; responsible.

I’m not as scared of death as I used to be.  I still flirt with Nihilism.

I’m still morbid.  But I keep that secret.

I don’t litter.  In fact, I may have picked up your litter before.

I feed the homeless now.  I volunteer my time now.

I’m still crazy.  And I still love it.  I’m still the funniest person I know.

But I’m also the person I’m the most sick of.

I’m learning to hold contradiction.  I’m learning to hold the yearning for life

and the desire for non-existence.  I’m broadening the scope of what I can hold.

This year, I’ve been with a Hindu guru at an Ashram,

an influential Buddhist meditation teacher,

a combat veteran with severe PTSD,

suicidal and chronically depressed survivors of substance abuse,

a beautiful meditation teacher with a complex trauma history,

a psychiatrist specializing in the brain and attachment,

a professor at the Center for Psychoanalysis,

a man who survived cult and ritual abuse.

I’ve had a patient commit suicide.

When I turned 20, a friend of mine said he was surprised that I was still alive.

His words exactly were,

“Luck to the next 20.”

Well, now I’m 30.

And you might call it luck,

I guess.  I could think of some other words for it.

But here I sit.

The book of my life has been a page-turner.

Each chapter,

a new incarnation….

Luck to the next 30.

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sunrise_beach

I was walking to my Psych 101 class today, headphones in my ears, and I looked up at the giant Valley Life Sciences Building on UC Berkeley’s campus. I remembered, last Spring, walking through the same exact campus for the first time, staring up at the same exact building, wondering if this was where I’d live the following Fall.

The image of myself walking through campus, arm around the woman I was sure I’d still be with, flashed before my eyes. I tried to put myself in that position again; scared of what the next year would bring, wanting to move to Berkeley but scared of what the separation would bring. But I was so excited…. I was so proud of myself that I even had a chance to go to a school like Cal. And I just stared up at that building….

And now here I am, exactly one year later. I now know all the little things that I was so unsure of. I know that the girl is gone, has been for a while now. I know that I can do well here, that I can succeed in a place like this. I know that it’s okay to move away, to make myself vulnerable again, in a new place with new people. I know that I can survive and do well despite things not having gone exactly how I planned since I moved up here. I want to be able to go back, to go back to that image of myself, with the girl, walking on the campus, and whisper to myself all of these things that I now know. I think that somehow that will protect me. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since moving up here, it’s not to become too attached to any idea, or any person. These moments are fleeting. People, perceptions, what things mean to you, they all change. Now, when I walk by the Valley Life Science building, I no longer am filled with wonder and accomplishment, but rather disdain at the fact that I have to go listen to a terrible lecturer talk for an hour and twenty minutes about a subject that I could much easier learn on my own. And some of the people I thought I’d be close to forever, are gone. Things I thought I knew, I really didn’t know.

But just because things change, doesn’t mean I can’t still be attached to the images, the moments, the memories. Those don’t change. And I’m so incredibly grateful for all the images, all the moments. And in that moment today on campus, so many images flashed in front of me. From climbing castle walls overlooking the coast of Nice, to trying to drive a rental car in a foreign country, to jumping off of a waterfall in Big Sur, to walking the medieval streets in Eze, to watching boats dock in Monaco, and when I ran for what seemed to be hours on a beach in the Bajamas with no shoes on at sunrise. Oh, and in Ojai, when Burt placed a small rock at my feet to represent our friendship, and told me, very simply, “be patient.” And in Catalina, in 7th grade, for our school trip, when I was the only kid in the entire class that couldn’t make it up the rock climbing wall. Everybody stood at the bottom and watched as I fumbled around and kept falling. And then the following year, in Arizona, the class had to climb up a pole and reach a bell at the top. And guess what? I fuckin’ did it. And now, when I’m running, and I want to quit, and I’ve hit the 6th mile, and the wind is blowing against me hard, and I’m pressed up against all that is pressed up against me, I think about that wall in Catalina, smile, laugh, and keep going. And high school, ahh, high school. The 72 hour days without sleep, the people that came and went like a dream.

There’s so much, too much. And just because the meaning changes, and just because my perception changes, doesn’t mean the images do. They stay the same.  They stay real.  They stay just exactly how I always remembered. Ha. It’s funny how we get so flustered, you know? We get so caught up in how we appear to others, or if this person likes us, or that person doesn’t, what we’re going to do next year, or the next five years, or even tomorrow. It doesn’t matter. I know who I am. I’m proud of all of the images, all of the memories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And when I remember that, it doesn’t matter how I appear to you, or if you like me or not, or if I’ll go to grad school or not, or how much money I’ll make. Because I’ve got all that I need.

It’s like my buddy Alec said to me, in his car outside of class my senior year of high school. I was upset about something, my grandmother’s death or some surgery I was about to have. He hit the blunt that I had nicely rolled, blew a little smoke out of his mouth, sucked it back in through his nose, and with a cool exhale, said some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard. “It’s all good homie…. It’s all good.”