Today I am a man! Er, wait. I mean, Today I am a quarter-century! (Old. I'm not literally a quarter-century, (and if I were, I sincerely doubt I'd be typing this post) but I am a quarter-century old).
Yup, 25. Two, Five. Yeah a big ol' 5 times 5. Uh-huh, 2 times 12.5. Yessir, a dozen and a baker's dozen. 16 less than 41. And so forth...
It's always seemed odd to me that you "humans" have such an affinity for nice round numbers. How when things are 10 or 20 or 25 or 100 years along, somehow that's a special time. But what the hey, I'll play along. And so it seems that as I turn 25 it is an appropriate time for me to look back at my life, to examine what I've accomplished, to remember what I've experienced, and to renew my driver's license.
Thus, in honor of my 25 birthday, I give you the Cliff Notes version of my life (they're still a little long, but it's been 25 years, so give me a break):
May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II narrowly escapes death after being shot in the Square of St. Peter (located somewhere in the abdomen I believe...). Some say the fact that he survived was a miracle. The Pope himself credits the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. Others point to the controversial new science of "medicine" used to treat His Holiness. Still others categorically deny that he survived. Regardless, it is universally agreed that this is clearly a portent of a great event scheduled to arrive four days later.
May 16, 1981, very late at night. A stork is seen flying over northern Ohio. A bewildered zebra at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (7th oldest zoo in the United States) nuzzles a misdelivered infant.
May 17, 1981, 12:28 Central Standard Time. Thanks to next-day delivery services, the infant is properly rerouted from the zebra pen to St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Matthew Bryan Novak is born.
May 17, 1982. Within a year I have already proven myself to be loud, selfish, and needy. I have already perfected the crafts of crying and spitting up, and am making terrific progress at directed urination when they take off my diaper. For my parents I have clearly been a worthy and stinky adversary.
January 5, 1983. A new challenge presents itself: a younger sister. Fortunately, my cuteness is nearly unparalleled. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.
May 17, 1983. The adversarial relationship with my parents continues. I discover a new weapon: the tantrum. It comes naturally to me.
November 12, 1985. A third Novak child is born. I cease having my own room (an apology to the rest of my siblings... you don't make this list (though you easily could, I'm just trying to condense)).
September 2, 1986. I begin kindergarten. The alphabet is displayed nearly everywhere. Even in a large circle on the floor. We are each are supposed to sit on the letter which begins our first name. Max someone-or-other is assigned the letter 'M'. I attempt to sit on the next closest letter - 'N' - since it begins my last name. Despite my efforts I am moved to the letter 'O' - which begins zero of my names. Nick Otsuka gets the letter 'N'. I suggest that if he took the letter 'O' then we could both have a letter than was connected to our name. My protests are in vain. To this day, I hold a grudge against Nick Otsuka. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.
September 7, 1987. I begin first grade. For the first time ever I pee in a public urinal. Having never before used a public urinal, I hadn't yet learned the trick where you pee without pulling your pants all the way down around your ankles. Thus begins my love affair with mooning people.
September 8, 1987. Mrs. Boulton gives me my first real criticism: my handwriting is terrible. Throughout the year (and indeed, throughout my early education) I insist handwriting is a meaningless art that should not receive any significant attention, and certainly does not merit its own grade.
October 25, 1987. The Twins win the World Series. My love affair with baseball is solidified.
October 6, 1988. I have my first crush, Jenny Raskob. I finish my first chapter book, My Side of the Mountain. I begin reading constantly, and though I enjoy chapter books, I usually prefer to Choose My Own Adventure.
June 23, 1989. My overactive imagination overacts; I am convinced there are dinosaurs living in my neighborhood.
January 22, 1991. I decide I want to be President.
June 16, 1991. I throw out the first pitch at a Twins game. I meet Kirby Puckett and get Jack Morris' autograph. The Twins go on to win the greatest World Series of all time. Puckett is the ALCS MVP, Jack Morris is the World Series MVP. I take credit.
September 8, 1992. I begin middle school. I am completely out of my element, and share classes with almost none of my friends from elementary school. I become an absolute nerd. Choose Your Own Adventure books are replaced by The Hardy Boys. As I have been highly successful in suppressing terrible memories, I am unable to recall much else of middle school, except that solid foods are less of a challenge.
March 4, 1993. The wide-spread use of the personal computer vidicates my earlier claims that "handwriting is a meaningless art that should not receive any significant attention, and certainly does not merit its own grade." In your face Mrs. Boulton.
May 22, 1995. For some reason or other I end up in the high school band room. Written on the black board is the "Band President's Useless Fact". The day's useless fact is "Marshmallows are not the most efficient mode of transportation."
September 5, 1995. I begin high school. I embrace my nerdiness. I get a buzz cut. I wear nothing but t-shirts. I join the band. I get involved with theater, debate, speech, student congress, and various church organizations. I am a geek.
May 19, 1996. I am plunked in the head with a baseball, knocking me unconscious. I wake up in a Porta Potty, vomiting. I lose consciousness again. I wake up on a bench with a killer headache. I am transported home. I vomit a lot. I am transported to the hospital. I continue to vomit. I wait for a long time to see a doctor. My vomiting turns to dry heaving. I get a cat scan and am told I have a concussion. I am told that eating solid foods will pose a challenge. I am transported home, and my dry heaving stops. I request soup because I am extremely hungry. The soup boils and is placed in a bowl to cool. Before cooling, my sister brings me the soup. She releases the bowl before I have it in my hand. I am covered in nearly-boiling soup. I have second degree burns over much of my, um, lap. I sit in a tub of cold water for the next 12 hours. I shiver a lot. The next few days are very difficult.
December 21, 1997. I have an adventure in the dark.
April 20, 1999. I perform well at some state student congress thing, and get to compete at the national competition. I decide to stop being quite so nerdy, grow my hair out, throw some gel in it, and abandon t-shirts for slightly more fashionable clothing. Suddenly people seem to accept me. Even girls. I regret embracing my nerdiness.
June 9, 1999. I graduate high school.
August 29, 1999. I begin college at St. John's University. I am completely out of my element, and share classes with almost none of my friends. I become an absolute nerd. The Hardy Boys are replaced by Nintendo 64. That's not entirely true. I read some excellent books, take some wonderful classes, get a great campus job, learn how to play Big Yellow Ball, and by the end of the year, I've made a key friend in Christopher Dykhoff, who agrees to room with me the next year.
September 3, 2000. I begin my second year at SJU. I have a pet rat. Her name is Sally. I put her in a hamster ball which is then attached to a remote-controlled car, and I drive her around the dorm. Life is good.
November 17, 2000. Through Chris I meet Mark. Through Mark I meet Joel. Through Joel I meet Brendan and Marsh. Through them I meet Gavin, Connoy, Crowley, and Tesch. Thus is born my core group of friends. We hang out, we laugh, we watch Marsh eat a dinner steak sandwich, by which I mean a dinner steak stuck between two dinner steaks.
February 16, 2001. My partner and I receive a standing ovation during a dance competition for our swing dancing. Despite this fact, we still place only third, since the final round required dancing a cha-cha. I maintain that no straight man can dance a proper cha-cha.
May 11, 2001. Sally dies. I give her a Viking funeral, setting her and her possessions into a tiny boat, setting the boat aflame, and pushing it out onto the water. I advertise the event for all who wish to attend. The flyers say "help us put the 'fun' back in 'funeral'".
September 11, 2001. I am all packed up and about to head to the airport for my flight to Greece (by way of NY City) when my dad calls and tells us to turn on the TV. I watch the second plane hit, and all of the ensuing chaos. Our study abroad group is delayed 2 weeks.
September 25, 2001. I forget my passport at home. I get it just in time to get on the plane. On the plane my seat is isolated from the rest of the group. Then I get sick. Then when we get to Athens my luggage doesn't turn up. The study abroad program improves from this point on. I spend a month and a half in Athens, and a month in a half in Rome. I love both places and learn a lot about myself. Study abroad is amazing.
January 29, 2002. I meet Laura Guetter while playing intramural volleyball. A couple weeks later Joel, Dykhoff, Marsh, and I perform a lip-sync to "The Elephant Love Medly" from Moulin Rouge. It is hilarious. The crowd loves us. Laura is in the crowd. Therefore, she loves us. Therefore, she loves me. This paves the way for us to begin dating a short time later.
November 24, 2002. I begin my fourth year as a hemorrhoid sufferer.
April 27, 2003. Vincent Ball is invented. Perhaps the greatest day ever at SJU.
May 25, 2003. I graduate from college.
September 1, 2003. I begin law school. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.
February 21, 2004. I propose to Laura. She says nothing at first. Then hugs me. Then says "sure", but does not take the ring. Later that evening I finally confirm that it was a yes. All this, despite the fact that it was possibly the most romantic proposal ever. I'll have to write more about it sometime.
May 28, 2005. I get married. Life is good. Wife is good.
May 17, 2006. I turn 25.
Well, there you have it. A very long (yet short) summary of my life. Lots of stuff got left out that maybe should have been included (like how I was responsible for the fence on Knox Hill, or all the times I needed stiches). But that's all I've got the time and energy for right now. If anyone actually read through this all, I congratulate and thank you. Also, you therefore deserve a mention. So leave a message announcing your accomplishment, and maybe birthday greetings, and any addition to my life story you find relevant. After all, I think that'd be the better summary - what other people have to say about me. Anyways, that's where I'll leave it for now. It's been a great 25 years, even though that's a long time, I feel like life is just beginning.
May you have many more