I turned 30 on Sunday. I turned 20 during my advanced training in the Army down at Ft Huachuca - needless to say a lot has happened in the last 1o years. I don't feel 30, though never having been 30 before, I'm not quite sure what 30 actually feels like. In the last few months, as I've contemplated this milestone, I suppose I've been rather uneasy with what this means. I'm 30 and still in school - for an associates degree, mind you - not established in any career (though both will change next May when I graduate and become an RN), not sure of where I want to live, am not well connected in any church, have few close friends and am really nowhere near where I thought I'd be when I turned 20. There are, mercifully, things I am quite clear on and happy about - my wonderful wife and coming child are at the top of that list. But all in all, there seemed rather more to be sad, or at least not happy, about. The day has come and gone, and aside from a few fun new things in my possession, it was a day like any other. And instead of making me sad, it oddly made me hopeful. These kinds of milestones give us a rod with which to measure our lives. In the last 10 years, have I become more like the person I want to be? Am I making progress towards my goals? What more do I need to accomplish? What do I need to change? This birthday has given me a reason to contemplate things that I may have been too busy to focus on otherwise and in my self-evaluation, I see new strengths and new possibilities within me as well as areas that need continued improvement. But on the whole, I think I am more like the person I want to be than I was 10 years ago. And that gives me hope.
It doesn't hurt that we just finished up a week in Florida, getting home somewhat late Saturday night. We drove down, which afforded us several opportunities to be incredibly grateful. On the way down, just inside of Tennessee, we got rear-ended on the highway going 70+ mph. A young guy in a black car came flying up behind us and hit us as he apparently mis-timed his move into the left lane. I was able to keep the car on the road but unable to get his license plate. Thankfully, the damage was minimal, mostly just paint, and we did not careen off the road to an untimely demise or serious injury. But that incident came to pretty much characterize the drivers we encountered down south. Even in pouring rain with horrible visibility, people were still driving well over 70mph and hanging out less than a car length behind other vehicles. It is no wonder we saw 1 definite and 2 likely fatal car accidents on the highway in Florida. We intended to drive up and stay with my uncle in Louisville on our way back, but about 30 miles south of the city, our car started squealing horribly. It only got worse when we slowed down and got off the highway. At first, I thought it was the power steering pump, but then noticed 2 bolts just sitting loose on top of the alternator. We had to get towed into a repair shop, which was by all external evaluations, a rather seedy place ran by a couple of unkempt individuals. First impressions did not inspire much trust. But these men proved me wrong, dead-wrong, fixing the vehicle right then and there and not charging me a dime. They could have easily taken me for a new power steering pump and belts, but they stayed open late to wave off any recompense. But if you are ever in the south Louisville area and need some auto repairs, I couldn't recommend BKC Auto enough.
Aside from those 2 unfortunate incidents, Florida was beautiful. The wife's uncle owns a condo that is about a 100 yard walk from a pristine, white-sand beach. Just gorgeous. I got a sunburn in a very weird pattern on either side of my chest where I apparently failed to apply sunscreen, but that didn't stop me from swimming and enjoying the beach most of the days we were there. We even made a little side-trip to St Petersburg, which is a pretty nice city. I haven't been to Louisville in at least 10 years, probably more like 15, and got to see cousins and their kids that I hadn't seen in that time. Louisville is also a nice city - not too big but with a lot going on. My uncle is an avid sailor, so we may get a chance to head down there and enjoy some time out on the water sometime this fall.
I've received or purchased several new books that I'm either presently reading or will be reading shortly. They are:
Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, by Anonymous. I'm about halfway through this. While many of the points about the Bush administration's failure to consider Afghani culture before the invasion and the West's consistent misunderstanding of bin Laden are trenchant and important, the author seems locked in a world where neither societies nor people are capable of any meaningful change. His is a rather pessimistic view of the human condition and the book is the poorer for it.
Evil and the Justice of God, by NT Wright. I generally enjoy Wright's books and essays, what I can understand of them, that is. He sometimes assumes his reader knows the positions and parties of various debates certainly more than I do, but such is not the case with this disappointingly thin tome. He is clear and concise, but I wish he would include fewer "but we don't have space for that here's" and more expansion on those subjects. I will likely give a fuller review after I finish it.
Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole, by Benjamin R. Barber. I have only briefly flipped through this book a couple of times, but with my growing awareness of how our consumeristic culture discourages faith, reasoned thought or mere satisfaction, I thought this looked like an interesting read.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. I thought The Kite Runner was good and this is supposed to be even better. This novel covers a more contemporary period and I'm looking forward to seeing an Afghan's perception of the event in his country since 9/11.