A Regular Guy Looks at 40

When I was a boy, I leapt out of bed, every morning. I loved baseball. I wanted to eat the cereal that ballplayers ate, gorge myself on baseball statistics, and steep myself in the history of the game. Most of all, I wanted to grab my mitt and bat and play, all day long. When my palms and fingers blistered from hours in the batting cages, I watched baseball on TV, live during the season and on tape during the winter. TBS and WGN made a small-town Ohio baseball lover’s life in the days before 200 channels and the Internet.

In the months leading to every summer of my youth, I begged my parents to drive me from Ohio to Cooperstown, New York, to the baseball hall of fame. They conceded, twice. My passion was convincing, and/or just annoyingly persistent enough.

I also loved to read as a child, especially Stephen King novels, though I was a little young for the subject matter at age 10 (according to the local librarian, who scolded my parents). It was the greatest day of my life, seeing Stephen King at the baseball hall of fame. I was a bit saddened by his horrific body odor, but I was inspired to write and use oodles of deodorant.

This is how I'll always remember you, Donnie Baseball.

This is how I’ll always remember you, Donnie Baseball.

On that same trip, I bought one pack of 1984 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards, and it contained the vaunted Don Mattingly rookie card that I so desired. I still keep it on my desk at work. It was the greatest day of my boyhood, hands down. You heard me, Disneyland.

Since 1992 or so, I haven’t cared that much about baseball. Maybe in college I realized there’s a world bigger than the game I loved, that my sense of enchantment could be delusional, escapist, counterproductive. The baseball strikes didn’t help; seeing my wealthy heroes whine took a toll on my enthusiasm.

I’ve tried in my adult life to rekindle my passion for baseball. Fantasy baseball is all consuming and out of the question. In the early days of fantasy (Micro League, true believers), I permanently lost street cred for trading Honus Wagner for a case of Budweiser once my championship hopes had been dashed. Seemed practical at the time.

I’ve adopted the local Giants and go to a few games a year. I’m jaded and attend only when work events or connected friends enable free premium seats. I’m deeply ashamed to not know most of the players’ names or their stats. I am overwhelmed by my own loss of zeal.

I turn 40 this week. I was never meant to be a Major League Baseball player. Or a finance guy, my current profession. I’m almost 40, so by definition, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life. I suppose I will happily accept being a regular guy, whatever that means. Like most humans, I’ve always wanted to be famous, remembered, big time. However, these days, I’m pretty happy to be regular ‘ol me and not Kathleen Sebelius or Miley Cyrus.

When asked what I do for a living, I always joke that I’m a failed writer. I’m not joking. My executive coach says I shouldn’t present myself that way, although my self-effacing humor shows humility and makes me an attractive, vulnerable leader. I just lay it on a little thick. After all, she says, you still write. You have a blog. Uh, that’s precisely what confirms my position in life as a failed writer.

Most guys my age have kids, and likely throw their arms in the air and concede it’s time to nurture the next generation, to make sure they make different, better mistakes than we did. I have neither the luxury nor the burden, yet.

I have a couple decades to do something with my life, something meaningful. I have precious little time to define meaningful. Tesla has made the midlife-crisis-sports-car purchase socially responsible, but financially reckless. I already work with nonprofits. I want to write more, but I don’t, and I’m out of excuses.

Multiple screens of infinite data should feed my passion, not zap it. All the world’s knowledge is at my disposal. How to funnel all the glorious noise into something useful, something worthy?

I know what I won’t do next. I won’t check any of my four email accounts. I won’t browse your rants about Obamacare, or stare mindlessly skyward, dreaming up something profound to tweet. I won’t spend an hour realizing, yet again, that there’s nothing on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go or 200 cable channels worth watching.

I might go outside and walk the blocks, flitting through my iPhone in search of a song I don’t detest, wondering where my passion has gone. I’ll wonder why I’m here, and what I’m supposed to do with the rest of this life, this overwhelming, beautiful life.

Then I’ll pick up my ball and my glove, and I’ll sprint to the school up the street. I’ll wing that ball against the brick wall, fielding hot grounders off the cement, imagining they’re flying off the bat of Yasiel Puig.

I’ll acknowledge and sit with the pain of seeing my beloved Don Mattingly in Dodger blue, and through that pain, maybe, just maybe, something will come to me.

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Comments

  1. Hey Matt,

    You made me laugh and I also learned things about you I did not know. I assumed your first love was basketball. For those of you reading, I grew up with Matt and he was an awesome basketball player “back in the day”. I have the same thoughts you do especially “I want to do something meaningful with my life” and I have kids. Some days (ok most days) I am convinced they don’t hear a word I say. I’ll say this: your funnier than I remember so I’m bummed we did not know each other better in school. I would bet, most of your money and some of mine, that you have impacted more people than you realize. Look out for the opportunities to keep reaching out in some small way. Either that or get to work on a technology that allows men to really understand women – then you’d really change the world.

    Great Post. Be Well

    • Thanks for the kind words, Mr. Johnson! At some point, I switched more energy to hoops, but as you know I failed to go pro in anything other than smart-assness. Thanks for reading.

  2. TRYING HAS NEVER FAILED TO WORK. = Throb Dylan

  3. Maybe you’re supposed to be right where you are. Happy bday. Wait till you hit 43 it’s all downhill. Hip replacements, arthritis, Flomax and the Hurry cane. LOL. Keep up the good blogging

  4. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Four oh looks awful nice from where I’m standing, slightly crouched over bemoaning that my lower back aches and barnacles keep poppin up all over the place. My god man you just hittin you stride..dig them toes in, lean that head a little mo forward and scream “HEAR I COME !!!!!” (P.S. baseball sucks )

  5. Thanks Rhodes, from one saint to another…got linked to this through linkedin. Great reading this… we were ridiculously similar 10 year olds, mattingly baseball cards and stephen king.. Taking my turn at the top of the hill from Morocco. Enjoy the ride good man.

    Adam B

  6. bradley g. says:

    Solid and appropriate read. Got tickled a bit by the Microleague reference. Happy belated 40th, my old friend.

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