Tonight at midnight, I will turn 45 years old.
I know, I know... I don't look a day over 57. I mean, LOOK at that photo!!
I've always looked older than I was. I was getting into dance clubs at the age of 17, when the age was 21. I also got hit on by a lot of older women (good looking older women, I'm proud to say). It may have been the thinning hairline or who knows whaaaaat.
Y'know what? I'm so diggin' my forties. My 20's were spent on chasing women, drinking, smoking weed, dropping acid, taking mushrooms and, well... chasing women. I also had one loser of a marriage that lasted six months. It was truly my brainless era of my life.
My thirties... that's when the light began to go off in my head. I was working at a bank (one of the MANY jobs I had) and all us tellers had to decorate our stations because the fair was in town. Some tellers put hay near their window, some dressed in overalls... me? I created some stand-up paper dolls that were based on the freak show. I had the stretching lady, the bearded woman, the vampire boy and the strong man.
A guy came by my station to deposit his paycheck and he chuckled at my artwork and asked where I got them. I told them I made them and he said they were cool and he left. Not what I'd call a monumental moment. But an hour later, I got a call at the bank and it turned out that guy was the sales manager for the local newspaper. He wanted to know if I'd like a job as an ad builder for the paper.
As much as I hated working at a bank, I freakin' LOVED my boss. Kathy was a great woman to work for and she was someone I could always talk to about my life and what I wanted to do. She also read whatever comics I recommended. But I was also a HORRIBLE bank teller. She only had me there because I kept moral up and I made her laugh.
So, when I told her about the offer, she told me to go for it. Not after an hour, or a couple of minutes... she said it the moment I finished my sentence. "You're a horrible bank teller, Tom." she laughed. "This could be the start of something big." So, I went to work for the paper, building ads and adding cartoon elements when needed.
From there, I moved to the editorial department and from there to another newspaper and from there to Puerto Rico and from there... well... here. My thirties were a time of self-discovery... in myself and in my abilities as an artist.
My forties have been a time where the wheels have left the runway and I'm airborne. It's not always the most comfortable feeling, because now I'm no longer a fanboy who can blast anything on the message boards. My name is known or somewhat known, so when I say one thing... it gets spread over the net. Weird.
One thing I did when I turned 40, was build bridges I personally napalmed on online message boards. I looked at the stupid, stupid things I wrote out of jealousy, or stress caused by something outside the issue, or just plain stupidity of wanting to be part of the mob. I then wrote emails to every person affected by those online postings and I apologized. I told them how stupid it was to do that shit and that I was embarrassed by my actions. Because, although I don't think I'm an old man... I HAVE grown up.
Things still cause me to react online. A bad review that seems more personal than objectionable... a decision to change a character I'm passionate about... someone who might see me as I was back in my 30's, rather than the person I am now. I can't hold back my opinions.
But I have learned to take a step back... breathe deep and think before I type. I also always use my real name, rather than some made-up name. That helps a ton.
Don't be afraid of getting older. Be afraid of that number holding you back on what you really want to do. Never say "I can't do that now... I'm 35, 39 or 45 for God's sake." I didn't begin my career in comics until I was 34.
And I didn't find true love until I was 36. There's no timeline for life acheivements. They happen when they happen.
And they DO happen.
So... 45 at midnight. It's one of those numbers that cause you to look back and reflect on your life. I did it today.