The Best Years Of My Life: A Retrospective

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As I reach what could be considered my “mid-life” point (40), I have been taking stock of my life and doing a lot of reminiscing.  And the more that I think about it, the more I can say, without hesitation, that three years of my life stand out above all others:  1983, 1995 and 2010.  In those years, I turned six, 18 and 33, respectively.

1983

Naturally, 1983 is the most difficult to fully put into perspective, on the basis of the fact that I was six.  But, I can clearly remember some aspects of that year.  I “graduated” from Kindergarten and started first grade.  The most important happening that year took place in the summer, when I discovered He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe.  I saw the cartoon on TV and immediately needed to go to the store to find the action figures, which I saw during commercials.  I can remember this vividly.  Mom and dad took me to a local store and I got the Skeletor figure, though I wanted the He-Man figure, but it was not in stock.  In fact, it would be several months before I finally found a He-Man figure.  But I would spend the following six years as a fan of the franchise, and now I own the entire series on DVD in a limited-edition, numbered boxed set.

I was also a huge fan of The Lone Ranger and The Dukes Of Hazzard.  The Lone Ranger had a momentary resurgence of popularity in the early 1980s due to the release of the film “The Legend Of The Lone Ranger,” released in May, 1981.  The release of the film lead to the old 1950’s TV series seeing air again, as well as the release of an animated series, both of which I remember well.  I can remember going to the store and getting caps for my cap guns and plastic Lone Rangers masks.

The Dukes were another matter entirely.  I was completely obsessed with the Dukes in 1983.  I couldn’t wait for Friday nights.  And then Saturday mornings, when The Dukes, an animated version of the show, was airing.  I had Dukes action figures, posters, cars, play-sets, shirts, pajamas, lunchboxes.  You name it, I had it.

I now own a limited-edition boxed set of The Lone Ranger, which was released in 2013 to coincide with the release of “The Lone Ranger,” a Disney film that was a box office bomb, which lead to the boxed set being pulled from shelves sooner than expected.  I also own the complete Dukes Of Hazzard series, and films, on DVD.

I got my first bike in 1983, for my birthday.  It was, surprisingly enough, a Dukes Of Hazzard bike.  The good news was, I had a new bike.  The bad news was, I had to ride that bike for the next six years, because I didn’t get another bike until I turned 12, and my Dukes bike was so small it barely held me anymore.

I also got my first “personal” TV in 1983.  It was a 13″ color TV with wood-grain housing and no remote, because it had knobs as opposed to buttons.  I got years of usage out of that TV, in fact, I still had it in the late 2000s, when I went HD.

Kindergarten was great, I have nothing but good memories of it.  First grade, not so much but nothing bad.  I would have many betters years in school.

I went on vacation in 1983 with my family and we visited one of mom’s friends who lives in Michigan.  She had the coolest electronic gadget:  A VCR.  I can clearly remember being amazed at the concept of putting a tape in this machine and then watching a movie.  With no commercials and to watch at any time, and stop at any time.  We got home from vacation and went straight to the Magnavox dealer and bought one.

1995

Naturally, what stands out here is high school graduation and starting to college.  I enjoyed high school immensely.  At the time, I was happy in all facets of my life.  And I was looking forward to getting out of high school and moving on.

My home life was great, my love life was great, my academic life was great.  My two obsessions at the time were playing Tecmo Super Bowl on the Nintendo and collecting AC/DC albums on cassette.  I had gotten Tecmo a couple of years previously but my playing really hit its peak in 1995.  I played seven consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Browns, winning three Super Bowls.  And one of my fondest Tecmo memories was an all-night season my friend Joe Nunez and I played, he with the Cleveland Browns and myself with the New Orleans Saints.  We still mention it to this day.

I had been collecting AC/DC albums since 1993 but in 1994 Atlantic Records re-released the band’s first 11 albums, digitally remastered.  So I kind of had to “start over” to an extent.  Then, in September, they released their first new studio album in five years, “Ballbreaker.”  I played the cassette completely out in no time.

One of my favorite memories of 1995 was my TV show collections.  In June, I started taping Three’s Company every day, as two episodes were shown on TBS every morning.  Later that year, in December, I started taping Perry Mason.  I watched those tapes until they were so worn out the sound was pretty much gone and the picture was quite snowy.  I have replaced both with complete series DVD sets over the years.

I was such a fan of these two shows that I wired my TV through my stereo and recorded the soundtrack from episodes of each show onto cassette to listen to in bed or while I was driving.  When I started to college, I would take a cassette with two episodes of Three’s Company on one side and a single episode of Perry Mason on the other.

I LOVED college.  It was the happiest era of my life, bar none.  Life was constantly in motion and I couldn’t wait to get to each and every day.  Couldn’t wait to get up and go to class.  Couldn’t wait for class to be over so I could go home and watch that day’s Three’s Company and Perry Mason episodes.  Couldn’t wait to play Tecmo Super Bowl after dinner.  Couldn’t wait to go to bed and do it all again the next day.

What’s odd is that as soon as 1996 turned over, everything went downhill and 1996 will forever be known as the second-worst year of my life, after 2017.  My girlfriend and I split, my best friend at college just up and quit without a word, my parents lost their jobs when the company they worked for closed the plant they worked at.

But 1995 was absolutely exceptional from the beginning to the end.

2010

Wow.  What can I say about 2010.  I had one obsession in 2010.  Girls.  All girls, all the time.  I had two or three dates every weekend, sometimes two in one night.  At times, it might just be a girl coming over to watch TV.  Sometimes it was a legit dinner-and-a-movie date.  Sometimes it was a straight hook-up.  Sometimes it was a platonic dinner.  Sometimes it was all of the above.  Whatever it was, it was great.

I was made to be single.  This is the life I would choose if I had a choice.  As Benny Hill said, “why make one woman miserable when you can make so many so happy?”  And in 2010, I did my best to make as many women happy as I could.

The only thing that stands out to be in 2010 as far as entertainment goes is that I discovered The Rifleman, and bought a bootleg DVD set on eBay.  And yes, I had a girl over to watch a few episodes of the series after it arrived in the mail.

Speaking of bootleg DVDs, I also found a guy selling a set of Marvel Comics animated shows that were produced in the 1960s, based on the actual comic art.  These programs are well known among Marvel fans but they have never been released on DVD in the United States, though a European release does exist.  So I found a seller who had gotten a hold of the European DVDs and burned them, quite professionally, onto Region 1 DVDs.  We negotiated a price and I was thrilled to get those in my collection.

My average 2010 week was spent at work during weekdays and in the pool every evening, blasting AC/DC and watching the sun set behind the house.  Then on the weekends it was restaurants, movies, shopping and girls, girls, girls.

The only bad thing about 2010 is the way it ended, the last six weeks of the year were nothing like the first 46, which included a broken ankle and several months spent in a walking boot.  But I won’t let that stain the year, overall.

EPILOGUE

I have said on many occasions I would not trade my life for anything or to anyone.  I have had the most enjoyable life, with so few exceptions, and the memories are priceless.  And 1983 (childhood), 1995 (teenage years) and 2010 (adult years) are the pinnacle of each era of my life.  I’m hoping that 2018 will measure up in some way to these three years from my past, and so far, its doing pretty well.

Peace, and God bless.

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It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times…

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That classic line, from the opening of “A Tale Of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens, certainly proves to be the perfect adage for my life at this time, and if we boil it down to the past six months, it’s amazing to not only see the change in my life and my health, but the absolute extremes that I have lived through in both directions.

The only difference would be that my life plays out in reverse order, as it had been the worst of times, and then three months ago it became the best.

As we scroll back to October 2017, I was about to hit rock bottom.  I was miserable.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was constantly sick, whether it was sinus infections or viruses or any kind of sickness that happened to be going around, my immune system was shot.  I had stomach ulcers which meant that even though I could eat, I was in constant pain and had to take medication on numerous occasions to try to fix that issue.

Then I started getting migraine headaches.  My eyeballs would “jump,” which I looked up online and found that this issue was most commonly caused by anxiety.  Huge surprise, there.  I was also around 80 pounds overweight.  By the time November was closing, I was so miserably unhappy thoughts of death were a normal part of every day.  Not that I was actively planning to commit suicide, but I was praying that perhaps one night I would go to bed and maybe, as per the Megadeth song, “wake up dead.”

My hair started to fall out.  I hated my job, but had to make the money.

People were spending money faster than I was making it, but luckily I had cash reserves, so it wasn’t like anyone was doing without.  And seeing that my son had everything that he wanted was the most important thing, I wanted him to grow up knowing that he had a great childhood, just like I did.  I had the greatest childhood anyone ever had.  I wouldn’t trade my childhood memories, or my life in general, for anything.

And things started to change for me.

The realization that I was finally, totally, completely and eternally out of a horrible situation that I was in was the first step in making my life better.  And once I started to fall into a normal schedule, circa 2010 before I got into that set of circumstances, I could feel a real change beginning to take hold.  And my body started to respond.

Now that I am past that and in a happier position, I can legitimately say this is the best of times.  I can go where I want, when I want and do as I please without having to tell anyone what I’m doing.  My hair has stopped falling out.  I’m losing weight.  I can sleep at night.  I quit my job and became self-employed, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I have had a total of one migraine headache in three months.  I have had no stomach problems and one sinus infection in that time.

Now that baseball season is here, and MLB The Show 18 is going to drop in about two weeks, I can look forward to a great summer.  I don’t have to be anywhere except where I want to be.  I plan on taking in at least a few, if not a lot, of West Virginia Black Bears baseball games this summer.  Long days in the pool.  Grilling.  Even simple things like mowing the lawn and tending to the garden.  Watching the sun set while I listen to a White Sox game on the radio with a flask of whiskey and a cigar.

I’ve bled for everyone else, I’ve done for everyone else.  Now its time to do for me.  This is the best of times.  The worst of times are behind me.  I will render them so insignificant that I hope I can eventually forget them, rather than continue to hate them.  Because life is too short to hate anything, let alone anything so truly unimportant.

In closing, the lesson that anyone who sees this should take from it is that life is much too short to be unhappy and suffering to the point of your body physically breaking down.  This is not the answer.  Suffering through the worst of times did nothing to make my life any better and at this moment in time I literally have nothing to show for it other than the hatred I have for those whom I had to deal with at that time.  But as dark as the past is, the future is just as bright, and I’m gonna live it for all its worth.

Peace, and God bless.

Am I The Luckiest Man Alive? Or Is Providence Looking Out For Me?

Over the course of my life I have come to realize I am either the luckiest man who ever lived or Providence is, in fact, looking out for me.

Everything I have wanted in life, I have gotten. Every bad situation I have wanted out of, I have gotten out of. Everything I have thought I wanted but would have turned out to be bad for me, I have managed to stay away from or get away from before it was too late.

I keep thinking no one could be as lucky as I am.

For some reason, I have a bad habit of undervaluing myself.  There have been girls that I really wanted to go out with, to get to know, and in each instance, luck or Providence has shown me the error of that decision, by giving me the chance or by rescuing me before I got that far.  Some of those choices I made could have been disastrous.

Either the girl met someone else and I was left out, or cooler heads prevailed and I didn’t pursue things. The amusing angle on that has been the luck the girls have with the new boyfriend’s they passed on me for. It’s a 100% failure rate and almost every time it doesn’t last a week.

But, since I do not accept being “plan B,” they can consider it to be a double failure, because not only does that relationship not work out, but they’ve blown it with me, as well.

So, I have learned to just trust in fate because it’s track record is flawless and considering the amount of trouble or bad luck I could have had at this point in my life (I’m 40), I’m about as lucky as I could possibly be.

Life isn’t good, life is great.  It’s fun getting up every day and seeing not only what life has in store for me, but what is going on around me.  I feel almost indestructible, maybe not in a physical way, but definitely in an emotional way.

It’s a good feeling to know that someone, somewhere is looking out for me and keeping me from the pitfalls that appear to be catching everyone else.

I never believed in karma or people getting “paid back” for their sins until this year.  Now I have seen it for myself, and its enjoyable to watch.

Peace, and God bless.

Your Time On Earth Is Finite… Your Happiness Doesn’t Need To Be

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“Every man is put on earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown.” – Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone episode, “The Escape Clause”

It would seem that the concept of having limited time to do everything we want to do in life would make people want to pursue their dreams and wants and desires. But for some reason, from my own experience as well as from my observations of others, most of us are content to just sit around and let life pass us by. If we’re lucky enough to have good fortune, we don’t grab onto it and get all we can, we simply accept that we had a run of good luck and let it go. Then we go back to complaining and doing nothing to try to make our lives what we want it to be. We just go on “living.”

The fact that so many of us have spent time unhappy and did nothing to fix the situation or improve it or get out of it distresses me greatly, and I have been as guilty as anyone in this respect. When I add up the years I wasted, either being miserable or just not being completely happy, it starts to eat up a large chunk of my life.

This is completely unacceptable.

The fact is, as simple as it may sound, there is no need to be unhappy or miserable. I have been happier in the past three months than I was in the past decade. Once I got my head screwed on straight and realized how miserable I had been, I was able to look at my life a lot more objectively than I had before and size things up for myself.

Sometimes we legitimately don’t realize we are miserable.  My hair was falling out, I was 80 pounds overweight, I had developed ulcers and migraine headaches and I couldn’t sleep at night. I think I may have been suffering from a type of Stockholm Syndrome, feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor. So I tried to make myself feel like I was just an idiot if I felt unhappy at all.  I just kept going on, day by day, trying to act “normal.”

Well, I didn’t just feel unhappy, words could never accurately describe how miserable I truly was. And once I was honest with myself, I had to start asking the hard questions; why would anyone allow themselves to be miserable and unhappy? What does that accomplish for anybody? When you have dreams and wants and aspirations, what is to be accomplished by just sitting on them?  Who wants to live that way?

Here I stand today, free of all of the misery I was dealing with on a daily basis and I am able to pursue the opportunities I want, that I have wanted for years but was rarely able to verbalize until now.  I am finally able to be myself again.

I am free to pursue the enjoyments of life that are mine to enjoy. I can go where I want, when I want, without having to answer to anyone on this planet. That is a good feeling after years of what amounted to a combination of imprisonment, brainwashing and slavery. I have earned all that is before me.  And I will take advantage of it.

Your time on earth is finite, you don’t have 5,000 years to fix your problems and find your happiness. You don’t have 10,000 years or even 200 years. You have 80 years or less to make your life everything you want it to be. The first 20 of those years are spent growing up. So now you’re down to 60 years. Since I’m 40 that means I have blown over half of my available time, assuming I live to 80. And out of those 40, I was in some level of misery for roughly 1/4 years. Again, that is totally unacceptable.

So, if you’re reading this, please, for the love of God, if you are in some situation that you are unhappy with, do something to change it! There is no excuse on heaven or in earth to not be happy and do everything you can to reach all of your dreams and aspirations.

I know that sometimes it feels hopeless. I know that sometimes we just don’t have the willpower or the mental strength to extricate ourselves from a situation we find ourselves in. I’ve been there. But the feeling of getting away from the unhappiness, and the subsequent improvement in life, both physically and mentally (and even emotionally) is well worth any short-term unhappiness you may suffer from.

I hope this will help someone that needs it, that needs a kick in the pants to either start living, or get out of a bad situation to start attempting to live. Life is too short to waste. There is so much happiness to be had and its there for the taking. Just have the courage to go get it. Or give it your best shot. Sometimes even if you fall short, you at least gave it a try and sometimes the journey is as rewarding as the destination.

In closing, let me try to make you understand that while its never to late to start, the longer you wait, the shorter your happiness will be, and there’s no excuse for that. I would love to have the wasted years of my life back but it doesn’t work that way, so I have to be happy with the 20 or 30 I have ahead of me. And I am, I plan on making the most of them and doing everything I have always wanted to do. It’s just a matter of getting started, and the first step is not only the hardest, but the longest. But you can do it if you set your mind to it and disregard all that’s held you back.

Peace, and God bless.