“Son, what’s the spread on today’s Duke/UNC game?,” my father would ask me, as he threw back a swig of mountain dew and a handful of peanuts. I’d read the spreads in the local paper while our Ford LTD sped down North Carolina’s back roads on the way to banjo practice. If I wasn’t reading point spreads (You’d never guess that my father neither gambled nor ever visited Las Vegas), then it was reading off the stats from Friday night’s football games, bantering about which of our local minor league baseball team players had the best shot of making the bigs, or lamenting about how to be such a sports state, North Carolina had just one professional sports team, a lousy one at that, the Charlotte Hornets. With the age gap that there was between my father and I, being that I was an accident, or “special blessing” as we called it around the house, we didn’t connect on much, but one thing we always connected on was our mutual love for sports and travel.
For the last 15 days, since turning 30, I’ve opened up my laptop every morning, stared at an empty blog post for five minutes, and then closed it. No, this is not a mid-life, or for that matter, quarter-life crisis. For once in my life, I actually have what I feel like is too much too say. Hard on the heels of what was one of the best trips and best birthdays of my life, I just have a lot to say. I have a lot to say about Hawaii, a lot to say about friends, a lot to say about taking risks, and just a lot to say about…well a lot. But it wasn’t until this week, and more specifically, this morning, while taking a shower, that I realized what I wanted to write about, which is really more about the story I want to write for my life in year 30.
“You’ll begin by just casually walking, followed by picking up speed to run, and then a full out sprint before you’re up in the air in no time.” That essentially summed up Dexter’s instructions to me as we prepared for liftoff, literally, as in just a few minutes we’d be paragliding thousands of feet above upcountry Maui. Knowing that I get scared shitless at the smallest things, such as the prospect of talking to a girl that I like, I came prepared with a full pack of TUMS in my pocket. Yet I never even had to reach for them. One second I’m walking down a hill and the next I’m 3,000 feet above Maui gripping onto my iPhone as I’m taking photos of lavender farms, rainbows, and beaches below. Be it the adrenaline or the surreality of it all, fear had been compressed as I felt bliss and serenity that I’d never felt before as we glided above the island.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” ― Paulo Coelho
While the last couple years has seen me gravitate to this idea of taking risks and doing what I wanted, it’s really been recently that these ideas have come more full circle and the heartbeat of everything I want to do. While I recently found myself saying that there’s a line I draw at some types of travel experiences, I’m now backing off that statement. If I start taking things off the table, I start to view my life as one with limits, and while there are certainly limits to life, like not being able to be in two places at once, the sky really is the limit, as cheesy as that sounds. As I’ve turned 30, I’m holding onto this mantra even firmer, that if there’s something I want to do and have the means to, I should and will do it.
For years, my dad and I would stop every single Saturday at the only convenience store on the way to my banjo lessons on North Carolina’s Highway 87. He’d hand me two one dollar bills and ask me to get us two 20-ounce Mountain Dews. While Mountain Dew was my dad’s favorite soda for as long as I can remember, it wasn’t the soda that I was interested in. During college basketball season there would be prizes under certain caps, such as free bottles of Mountain Dew and Final Four gear. I couldn’t even wait to get back to the car before unscrewing both caps to see if we had won something, feeling a sense of pride at the occasional free soda, but all the while hoping that one day I would unscrew it and it would read, “You’ve won a trip to March Madness.”
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life…If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.” ― Randy Pausch
I never won a trip to March Madness or to spring training or the World Series. They represent things that are childhood pastimes of mine, yet pastimes I never got to fully experience like I dreamed of as a child. So this week I decided to do something about it. I’m taking March Madness and year 30 by the horns and making stern commitments to doing things that I’ve never done. That’ll kick off this month with my first trip to Las Vegas during March Madness, which will immediately be followed by a road trip from Vegas to Phoenix for my first MLB spring training games, which will no doubt include a stop at Dazzo’s, home to my favorite cheese steak in the world, located in Wikieup, Arizona. Not a gambler and one to just sit around watching March Madness on TV, it only made sense to make it a trifecta of a trip by adding a trip to one of the NCAA Tournament regional matches, either in Los Angeles, Dallas, Indianapolis, or Washington, D.C.
Buy the ticket, take the ride. – Hunter S. Thompson
I’m confronting my 30s with opportunity and risk. Never one to sit around and wait for experiences or opportunities I’m not guaranteed in the first place, I’ve taken a particular interest in my 30th year. Paragliding was just the beginning. This is a year of new experiences, new travel destinations, and new work challenges. As I showered this morning, I thought about the prospect of doing one thing a month that I’ve never done, which as epic as that would be, was quickly supplanted with an even bigger idea. It’s something I’m calling “30 at 30.” 12 months, 52 weeks, and 365 days to do 30 things that I’ve never done.
No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo
May the flame of that childlike wonder I had gallivanting around the back roads of North Carolina continue to burn on into year 30 and beyond.