Happy Birthday to me.

I wish I'd been happier.

Tomorrow (as I'm writing this on the 2nd) is my birthday.  I will be 37.  I've taken the day off work and will most likely spend the day sitting around, watching baseball, and being introspective which, to be perfectly honest, is not far from how I spend a lot of my days.  I'll do a little writing, probably go buy a doughnut, probably drink some whiskey, maybe play some video games, definitely read some comic books.  Eventually, Nicole will get home from work and we'll probably do something nice for dinner and she'll give me presents and all in all it will be just about everything I could want from a birthday.

Just a little while ago, I watched the trailer for a movie called Liberal Arts, which, as you might imagine, appealed to me (the title, not the trailer, although it was nice).  Towards the end of said trailer, the 35 year old lead character talks about how exciting college was because it made you think that, after you graduated, anything was possible.  And not that basing your life on things from movies is a good idea, but it struck me that I didn't particularly feel that way about college, because most of what I felt was negative.

For basically the first 28 years of my life I was angry and sad.  There were bursts of happiness here and there, of course, but my overall demeanor was that of a guy who was unhappy with himself and the world around him.  Anger and sadness beget anger and sadness, and I found that I continually made decisions to maintain both of those emotions.  I wasn't always conscious of it, and I had help from the outside world, but I wallowed in negative emotions as if it would keep me alive, when it almost always made my life worse.

If there is one thing I would change about my life it's that I wish I would have -- could have -- been happier.  I'm almost always struck by the vast number of moments in my life that have been diminished because I lacked the capacity to enjoy them.

So how did I change?  If I'm 37 now, and only led this depressing life for 28 years, then something must have happened, right?  If you knew me well enough you'd probably say something like "Aha!  You have never been happier than you are with Nicole, so she's what did it!"  And I would tell you that, yes, Nicole has expanded my range of joy to an extent I never thought possible.  And I would also tell you that she came after the change.

I spent a lot of my life being a serial monogamist which had caused me a lot of problems, but when 2004 started, I was single.  In fact, I was single after coming out of a relationship that I ended because I knew it wasn't a good fit.  I didn't stick it out even though it was bad, I didn't wait for something truly horrible to happen to push me to end it, I saw the writing on the wall and broke up with her.  It was more or less the first time I'd ever done that.

Sad to say, but choosing to leave a relationship can be something of a boost to the ego.  It was me saying, hey, I don't need to stick with this if it's not working -- I'm pretty sure I'll find someone else down the line.

My new found confidence meant everything.  I started going out more.  I convinced a group of people to get together every other Thursday night.  I dated and that's all it was -- dating.  My job was easy, I made good money, I'd finished the first draft of "Reliquary," and I was even going to the gym on a regular basis.  Each weekday morning, I would put on my headphones and walk to work.

Los Angeles was full of promise, and 2004 was the best year of my life.

Honestly, after 11 months, 2004 still would have claimed the top spot, which is equal parts an indication of how great that year was for me and how unremarkable the years previous had been.

But 2004 wanted to seal the deal.  It wanted to insure that it would forever be the year that I judge all other years by.  And so, on December 1st, I met Nicole.

It's worth pointing out that the 11 months that lead up to that day were essential in making that day happen.  After 28 years, I'd suddenly become who I should have been all along.  No way do I meet Nicole if those previous 11 months hadn't happened.  No way do we stay together; no way we make it this far.

So here I stand, 8 years removed from the greatest year of my life and I have to say, I feel like I'm due for another -- I think 2004 has a challenger somewhere down the line.

The fact that such a thing is even a possibility says an awful lot.