On Turning 38

Man, I am old.  In Utero came out 20 years ago.  I was a senior in high school then.  I'm pushing 40.

Wow.

The other day I came home from work for lunch, because my office is close enough that I can drive home for lunch and because the environment is flexible enough that I can take more than an hour and it's not a big deal.  I came home for lunch and as I was opening the front door, I thought about my life and what I had to show for it.  And I thought to myself that I had a lot to show for it.  And that is really strange.

I'm not an optimistic guy, not by trade.  I have thrived on the exact opposite for many, many years.  And, let's be honest, being a writer means you are constantly paralyzed by self-doubt.  You are constantly wondering if what you're doing matters.  There is, in fact, a part of me that thinks that if my writing isn't out there for the world, I have, on some level, failed.

But that's a much smaller part of me than it used to be.

I came home to this wonderful house that Nicole and I inherited and that we've spent two years making ours.  I came home to this wonderful gift that her parents gave us that I will be eternally grateful for, regardless of all the baggage that came with it.  I came home to a house that has known a lot of love for more than three decades, a house that has always been a home, and will be one for decades to come.

I came home to our two cats, two of the most ridiculous animals you will ever meet, two small creatures that I care for beyond logic.  These cats played an integral role in my relationship with Nicole.  I have known them as long as I've known her.  They make me happy in a way that most people don't make me happy.  They are an essential part of my life and only people with cats will understand that.

I came home to the life that Nicole and I have built together, the life that we are, day in an day out, continuing to build together.  This is the life I'm making with the most amazing person I know, whose love for me has never stopped being astonishing.  When my mind wanders and I think about the twists and turns my life has taken, I think that if I'd ever changed anything, I would always end up with her.  All paths lead to Nicole.  All paths will always lead to Nicole.

I came home to a house that has new carpet, new carpet installed in part because it needs to be clean, and it needs to be clean for a baby to crawl around on.  It will be 19 and a half weeks when this is published, almost half way.  There is a baby coming and I don't think he realizes just how much love he's going to get.

When I came home that evening after work, I brought the mail.  I came home with my contributor's copy of Best New Writing.  I opened it up and I found my short story listed under the Editor's Picks, the handful of stories that were finalists for the award.  My story made it into this literary journal because it's good, and it's good because every single day I become a better writer.  Every single day I learn and I grow and on most of those days, I write.  I look forward to the release of the issue and more people reading my work.

I come home to my home office, the one that Nicole worked tirelessly on.  It's a room that screams "Kyle," and no one else.  It is my space.  It is the one place in all the world that is purely, essentially, me.  And I look at the bookshelf and I see a copy of "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At," my first published book.  And I think about my grandmother, who, to this day, will send me e-mails about how she opens the book up to random sections and begins reading, and how much happiness that brings her.  I think about my Papa and I think that he is probably very happy and smiling down on us.

So here I am, 37 as I write this, 38 when it is published.  Here I am, with my glass of Jack Daniels, taking stock of my life.

Here I am, happy.

Isn't that all we can ask for?