Reflections on 30 …State of the Codeman Address

Time to put the past behind me and open the door into a brighter future …

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In journalism, to let editors know that the story copy has finished we put a small code at the end of it: -30-

Why that number is 30, and not some other number, I don’t know. So the number 30, for me, is one that symbolizes the “end” of something. However, as I turn 30, it’s not the end of all things. Rather, it is the beginning of new things.

How do I look at my 20s? I look at my 20s as a decade of trying to find myself as a young adult. It started with a long and drawn-out college process, taking lumps to make an income, trying to keep doing what I love doing (with Northern Illinois Sports Beat), and to grow as a person.

How do I look at my 30s? Take the good and expand on it.

Throughout my Sterling school days, I never really associated with any groups of kids. I was kind of that “little of everything” person that could have intelligent conversations with a stoner (while I was never high on anything) and a jock in the same day. I grew up with the same kids after fifth and sixth grade, and that number was even greater because I kept strong ties with the kids I went to school with in Rock Falls as well.

I rarely got in trouble. I had three detentions in sixth grade because of small, mundane things they wanted to cram down my throat. I had one in seventh grade for reasons I cannot remember (either homework or being late to class). Throughout high school, I had only one discipline referral and that was due to a lunchtime mixup with a new schedule — I changed classes and took the wrong lunch period when I was supposed to be in that class.

As a sophomore in high school, I got to work in an office setting at Prep Sports Online, where that “professional” feeling was there. I shared an office and got to work at a desk with a computer. During the spring of my junior year, I jumped to Sauk Valley Media, where it was even more of a professional setting (with an office hours dress code!). At both places, I worked more with my head than I did the rest of my body. I think those experiences played a big role in my maturity.

As we all dispersed and did different things, I was still unsure where I was at. I went to school to earn a degree in a profession that is white-collar. I am now working at that white-collar profession. I could never work well with the other parts of my body — such as hands, hips, and my back — rather than my brain.

However, I was out of SVM by the time I started college, and job opportunities in the journalism profession were really scarce. One thing led to another, and I was working at a gas station by age 20.

While working at gas stations and dealing with the public, I got to see many different kinds of people. I also got to work with many different kinds of people. One of whom became my best friend. She associated with the biker culture, and that became something I was slowly drifting into. I never owned a motorcycle, and perhaps the closest I came was wearing a Poopy’s shirt with a leather jacket on.

It was during my time with her that I broke out of a shyness shell of sorts and started talking more. I felt really happy about it and enjoyed being where I was. However, I couldn’t associate myself with any of her friends. I just came from a different world and perhaps a different background growing up. I was probably her only white-collar friend.

That whole world I ran into was an eye-opener of sorts for me. I saw the struggle of a lot of people. I wondered if that was the kind of life path that would make me learn a lot more about life itself. After all, being single with no kids, I was an outsider in this grown-up world. As much as I wanted to think, “maybe I should mix in,” I couldn’t mix in because it would have made me become something I just simply wasn’t.

I used to let it worry me, that if I wasn’t this blue-collar, hard-working man, that I wasn’t anyone.

Eventually our friendship came to a point where it didn’t work anymore. (And if you are a avid reader of this Blog, you know the full story).

But enough about that.

It all leads to a big lesson in life: Don’t be something you are not.

I know where I’m at, and I should be damn proud of it. I’m not a blue-collar man. I shouldn’t let that peer pressure that bother me. That’s a feeling that I should leave behind in the past.

That reminds me of what other things I should leave in the past. As I open the door to 30, what should I take with me, and what should I leave behind at 29?

I’ve taken a few days to think about all of this.

THINGS I’LL TAKE WITH ME

My family — ALWAYS. This also includes my “second family,” estranged or not.

My newfound ability to socialize — I have a lot of work to do on this, but I’m a lot better now than before. I shouldn’t be so shy and afraid to speak my mind and say certain things. In addition, I shouldn’t always bottle things up in my head and all to myself.

The love for my surrogate nephews/nieces — This never goes away, no matter what. I don’t get to see them anymore, but I still love them as much as I did before.

Journalistic momentum — The ability to be creative with my sports journalism profession through social media, as long as I stay within the hourly parameters. Thinking outside of the box is something I strive to do, and I hope I can utilize it as much as I can.

Devotion to community — I’ve stayed in Sterling and Rock Falls all 30 years of my life. As much as things have been tempting to move away (opportunity, women, etc.), I haven’t left and want to remain devoted to the community I live in.

Those friends I easily associate with — With the journalism job comes dealing with the high school sports community, which is something I enjoy and would like to continue to enjoy. I could easily decide to budget-cut Facebook friends, but to me that is pointless. I should stick to people that have a lot in common with me, rather than search in vain for different answers and go nowhere.

My long-time friends — Those close from school days. Some friends going back as far as 25 years. They stuck with me this long, why not continue to have them along my side. They’ve been with me through the good and bad, and at my best points and my lowest point.

The peace that finding a girlfriend is going to happen in time — This is a hard reality for me, but I have to keep telling myself that time and patience will be my greatest allies in finding the one thing that is missing in my life. I’m also hoping that crossing this plane will help in that regard.

The love for travel, history, dive bar food … and all of the other good things about me.

WHAT I CHOOSE TO LEAVE BEHIND

Acting like a kid — When I mentioned maturity, I would later find myself acting in a way that wasn’t like much adults. Somehow that kid inside me made a return straight out of 1997 and began posting funny memes on Facebook, posting every single little thing that comes to mind on Facebook, whatever. I think that attention-seeking nature stops. Obviously it has proven to be annoying.

Fast food and pizza — Unfortunately I have to announce that my two streaks came to an end recently. One was a pizza breakdown, and the other was a choice to drive to a 50’s Drive In at Oregon (cross that off my bucket list) only to realize after eating that it was fast food. SOOOOOO … None of that will happen again.

Bar life (w/ small exceptions) — I haven’t buckled toward needing cable at home yet, and it’s been 3 years. Whenever I want to watch something on TV, sports stuff in particular, I’ll head over to one of my usual bars and watch it. However, most of the time I’ll be the only one there paying attention to the game. I need to be in an actual sports bar with sports people in order to enjoy the sports I’m watching. I’m doing myself no good by watching things alone. The biker bars just aren’t doing it for me.

Toxic people — They’re only hurting me. I choose not to be hurt.

The 5 o’clock shadow — It’s been a problem for me in my adulthood. It’s there, then it isn’t, then it’s there, isn’t, and there again. I’m starting to realize that it’s a big indicator of lack of care for myself.

AND THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR MY 30s IS THIS …

Stop being so negative!!!!! Especially about myself!!!!

This is my biggest problem, and the biggest reason why I feel people stray away from me. I know some people that were once with me and are no longer as much, with the feeling that they don’t want to be around someone who is so negative about themselves. That’s how I lost my best friend.

I often get down on myself about being single, being overweight, working at a gas station, and not working in a blue-collar environment. Moments of frustration with these things were once bottled up in my head, and I wound up posting rants on Facebook about these frustrations to try to search for answers. No one cared. People simply drifted away.

My family tells me that they love me. I’m told that Jesus Christ loves me. However, I’ve had a hard time loving myself. What do they see in me that I can’t? I think it’s time to ride the positives instead of the negatives.

They say pride is a sin. However, I hear even the best people preach it. Pride was an important slogan during my high school days. I have had a hard time trying to be proud of myself. I’ve been told that I have many things to be proud of, chief among them being my journalism career.

Not too long after that depressing period of my life, I took a blank whiteboard and wrote some things on it.

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As I look at it, how many of these things are missing from other people’s lives? In addition to all of that, I pay my bills on time. I have an immediate family that has not been riddled with separation or divorce. I have freedom to travel whenever I want to. I’m blessed with a lot of things that others may not have.

Why should I feel so negative? Sure, there is the one big thing that has eluded me my entire life, but I must, MUST tell myself that my time will come one day; and it will come before I know it. My time will come, and come before I know it. The more I worry about it, it’ll never come. I have to tell myself that with each depressive bout, each depressive pout, and each time I put myself down that it makes it even harder to have what I want — and I have to work twice as hard to restore it.

I get down on myself about being single? — I know that one day my day will come, and come before I realize it.

I get down on myself for being overweight? — I should be thankful that I am moving around and doing things, and being alert about it. I should diet.

I get down on myself for working at a gas station with odd hours? — Hey, I chose this job. I should be thankful that I have a job. Working in the public makes me meet more people and provokes conversation, and sometimes memories in the long run. That’s why I love my customers so much. I’m starting to realize that I have a great crew of co-workers to be around, too.

I get down on myself because I’m not a “macho man” with “dirty hands” working at a blue-collar job that attracts women? — Be it customers at the gas station, people I grew up with, or current or former co-workers, how many people have I run into that are just like me and still have it good in their life? A lot. How many men do I know that use their head more than their hands and are happily married? A lot. Those are the people I tend to associate with the most, and not all of them are single. Just because I see attractive women gravitate toward men who are opposite of me, it just means that they don’t see the true value of me. And it they can’t see that, then she most likely wouldn’t be worth my time anyway.

It’s high time to get the pessimist out of me.

I can do this.

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