On the first occasion of my nineteenth, I was a college freshman, as full of self-doubt and angst as I was of acne. Bespotted where now I’m beamish, confused where now content, frustrated where now fruitful.
M and I had already dated throughout that school year, and at the time, nineteen was legal drinking age. Not that the milestone mattered to me, as I was a teetotaler for those four years. (I gave up not-drinking after college, when traveling through Europe.) I made the mistake that birthnight of abandoning M to head to a Thomas Dolby concert with my roommate, and returned to find that Marci had gone on a bender in my absence and wouldn’t speak to me until the next day.
Today I am nineteen yet again, having been married one less than twenty sun-go-rounds to my beautiful Marci, and in the kind of heaven that I would create were I the creator’s creator, I would inscribe for us a lifetime of lifetimes. Being limited to just one with her is not enough.
In my first XIX, I doubted I would ever be content, much less happy. On this second XIX, I may not be smarter, but I know better. And were I to travel back in time to frighten the earlier me, looking parentally old to my younger self though seeing the world similarly askew, I would offer this advice:
“Don’t worry, kiddo! Relax and have a good time. Be open and try to connect with people. It’ll all work out just fine.
“Oh—and buy some stock in Apple and Microsoft.”
On second thought, best not to change a thing. No idea what I’d inadvertently alter. I’d probably just watch my younger self from behind a tree and let the younger me continue to muddle through. Him with his t-shirt and flared-leg jeans, splattered with twenty colors of oil paint, wandering through campus feeling generally outside. No sign yet of a spreading middle and thinning hair–not that it’s hurt my looks, of course. Right? (To be sure, I peaked some undefined while back, but the lack of women throwing themselves at me now that it’s too late is offset by the lack of women throwing themselves at me back then when it wasn’t, so it all balances out.)
A bit over half a decade from now, I’ll be nineteen yet again: I look forward to reaching my nineteenth anniversary of fatherhood. I like the sound of that. B will have stopped having birthday parties by then—or at least parties that his parents throw—but that’s no reason for me to stop celebrating my own anniversaries of parenthood! And once again celebrating a nineteenth, five years further down life’s chute-the-chute, as G heads to college and we empty our nest. It seems as far ahead as my original nineteenth seems past, but it’s close, close, close.
In a long enough life, so many opportunities to be nineteen again. Gladly, only one full of my own teen angst and acne, my existential crises and frustrations social and sexual. The subsequent years have been increasingly mellow, even if I retain enough of my youthful intensity to frighten the natives on occasion. Luckily, I’ve had a wonderful partner to help me through the years, to look forward to our twenties with, and to make me a better person than perhaps I’d have been otherwise, if, just before my first nineteenth birthday, confused and crazed, I hadn’t fallen in love with the beautiful girl with the amazingly curly and thick brown hair.