05 February 2008

Top 30 of 30 - Part 1

For the past month or so, I have been making a mental list of the top moments of my life. My life has very slowly been flashing in front of my eyes - or rather it has been flashing by my pituatary gland, or whatever other organ of secretion is responsible for this ooze. I figured that with my 30th birthday come and gone, it was now time to put together a "Top 30 of 30" moments in my life. However, as I wanted it to be a reflection of my actual life, it is not exactly a top 30, but rather a list of 30 moments that have defined my life. "Top" would seem to imply the best 30, in which case the list would be entirely populated of moments of me as a five year old licking the batter from my mom’s cookie dough (that and certain x-rated moments in my 20s!)

Having set this Herculean task in front of me, I soon realized that the list wouldn’t be all smiles and chuckles. Not that I have lived what I would consider a difficult life - on the contrary, at thirty years old, I feel infinitely grateful for the opportunities that life has afforded me. My life has been healthy for the most part. God granted me the ability to converse at a level above that of a primate, which helped me into an Ivy league school. I was also blessed by being born into one of the richest countries on earth. Finally, I have been supremely fortunate to have wonderful friends and family throughout my life. For all these reasons and many more, I can easily say that the first 30 years of my life have been extraordinary. To find out why, I now present to you, the 30 moments of my life :

#30 - Birth. December 20th, 1977, 8:30 pm EST. One can ask why I would include a moment that I have no recollection of. To those I would say, had I sustained a head injury causing memory failure, this would also mean that I couldn’t remember the event, yet it would certainly be a very important event in my life! As such, it is only fitting that I begin this list of my life’s events with the event that started it all (I will assume that my life started at birth and no conception - that was probably an event worthy of the top moments of my parents lives).

#29 - Nude modelling. May 1999. Before you ask, yes, I do wear clothes. In the 22 years between the first two items on the list, I could be seen regularly wearing clothes. This item is not so significant by itself, but I feel that it best represents my outgoing nature. I nude modelled for a total of $20 (american, which at the time worth something) for about 90 minutes of work while I was a student at Cornell.

#28 - Disney World. March 1988 (I think?). Although I don’t quite remember when I went to Disney World, I think it was when I was 11 years old. In any case, I do remember the trip quite well. It was the first time I ever flew. My parents brought the whole family on the obligatory childhood dream. I’m not sure I was so into any particular Disney characters, but I knew that my parents were sacrificing a lot to bring us there. Epcot centre was my favourite - but at the time, those interactive rides were brand new; now I can practically have the same experience with a Play Station 3! We also went to Cape canavral - on the road I remember watching for crocodiles; I was so naive.

#27 - My grandfather’s death. February 1993 (I think?). Well I warned you that it wasn’t going to be all lollipops and cotton candy. Apologies to my grandfather and mother for forgetting the date, but I don’t think the date is so important as the impact that my grandfather had on my life. We often don’t understand the impact people have on our lives until much later. Growing up, my grandparents represented the farm, as they owned and operated a dairy farm in Newington, Ontario. It meant summer time in the country. Now I realize that my grandfather represented to me more of a progressively conservative approach to life. He was a man from a previous generation, but he constantly was looking forward. His passing would be my first close experience with death - it goes without saying that these incidents often have a profound effect on one’s outlike on life.

#26 Rose Bowl - January 2007. The biggest and brightest sports event I have ever attended. Spending New Year’s with my good friends Josh and Shelley was fantastic; not to mention watching that Boise State - Oklahoma game on TV the night before! Michigan lost the game, but it was always worth it to hear that Ewok-like USC victory chant.

#25 Starting to work - March 2004. So this one may be a little lame, but the importance it played in my life cannot be underestimated. Although I graduated from Cornell in May of 2002, it wasn’t until March of 2004 that I had a regular stable job. With my Ivy League degree, I had finally "made" it, by becoming a data entry clerk for Employment Insurance. At the time, I was beginning to wonder if I was destined to sell my baseball card collection to make end’s meat! Of course, I continue to work for proverbial man; but the man, in this case the Canadian federal government, is a pretty decent pimp, outfitting me with a decent salary, training and 8 foot by 6 foot cubicle!

#24 The chosen one; little league baseball - June 1988. Growing up, my parents put me in a lot of sports: soccer, hockey, baseball, football, shufflboard, bowling, dodgeball, ad infinitum. I managed, for the most part to suck at them all. Of course, being a runty little kid without coordination, there wasn’t much I could do well. Until about the age of 12, when I suddenly became coordinated - of sorts anyway. At this time, I was really into baseball. I loved playing, watching, and following America’s pastime. Around this age, I was beginning to be a decent player but it wasn’t until Ron and Rollie Lefebvre were named coaches of the Cornwall Legion little league team that anyone gave me the chance to demonstrate that I could hold my own. Ron and Rollie did something that was heretofore unimaneable - they chose the best players for the team instead of the sons of well placed fathers. Our little team of miscreants quickly became a powerhouse in Eastern Ontario baseball. More than any other point in my life, being chosen for that team would give me the confidence I needed to perform well in baseball. This confidence led to greater confidence in other sports and eventually into other aspects of my life. It is difficult for me to pinpoint any other point in my life that would have more of an impact on my future success.

#23 Nintendo - December 1990 (I think?). For my 13th (or maybe 14th) birthday, my grandmother gave me a Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the greatest thrill of my life. Video games have become so ubiquitous in our society, it is hard to imagine how I could have existed - socially anyways - withouth this Nintendo system. I know you are probably mocking me, but honestly. Imagine as a male youth growing up in the 1990s without video games. I would have been ostracised; who knows, I may have ended up with a hormonal imbalance that would render me violently anti-social. Thank goodness for Mario and company.

#22 Road trip - June 2002. After graduating from Cornell, I hopped in a car with my friends Josh and Evan and we drove across America. Jack Kerouac it may not have been, but it was the most liberating experience of my life. After nearly 20 years of in class education, I was finally getting some "street" sense, quite literally. The highlight of the trip was probably the 1,000 mile drive from Denver to Dayton to make it back for Evan’s brother’s high school graduation. The trip left me empty afterwards and I continue to search for how to fill my spirit like that trip did. If you do such a thing, I would encourage you not to miss classics of Americana, such as the Mitchell corn palace, Wall Drug, or Sand Dunes national park.

#21 to #18 Relay success - 1992 to 1999. Track and field has been the sport that has defined most of my athletic life. Although I had quite a bit of success in a variety of events at a number of levels, by far the most exciting and memorable of my sucesses have been in relays. Although these should perhaps be higher up in the list, I’m just going to list them all right here together.

#21 Making it to OFSAA - 4 x 100m, May 1992. The venue was Richardson stadium, Queen’s University in Kingston. The actors were Marc, myself, Joey S and some guy whose name I forget (Jason I think?). Marc, Joey and myself formed a common theme of 4 x 100m teams at Saint Lawrence High School. The 3 of us made it to 5 straight OFSAAs and had 4 to 6 different runners on the 3rd leg. Jason Dennis was by far the most regular, but other secondary characters include this other guy Jay, my good friend Phil and a fellow St Croix (elementary school) alumni, Jacques. Our best finish at OFSAA was 5th in 1993 when Central Tech from Toronto broke the OFSAA record. We actually broke the Eastern Ontario record that year as well and had a team that woudl have medalled nearly every year except that year (story of my life). But the top moment of my high school 4 x 100m career was most likely that fated race in May of 1992. I was a completely naive rookie back then - I thought that running 48.5 was the epitome of speed. It is funny to think about it now, but I have rarely ever have more delight in my performance. This is perhaps why the Special Olympics are so great; and I say this with all sincerity. I was so uninformed and unsullied by knowledge that the sheer excitement of my success could not be ruined by anyone.

#20 Winning Easter Regionals, 4 x 400m, May 1997. Again, this was not the most prominent of my successes in high school track. But it was memorable as it was done against the odds and with friends. Our relay team consisted of myself, Marc, my friend and javelin thrower Geoff, and a tenth grade student. Of course Marc had won the open 400m in convincing fashion earlier. In Marc we had the definite best 400m runner in the area. He had broken the regional electronic record and there was a little doubt we could anchor our team to a solid performance. But as I was injured, I could do very little. My hamstring was badly hurt and I could hardly run full speed for the previous 3 months. We put the 10th grader lead off, and I was then handed the baton. As it was a 3 turn stagger, I would have to run an extra 20m or so (we were in lane 8 and I grabbed the baton at the start of the exchange). To this day, this was probably my best 400m run, but I didn’t ever get an accurate split of my run - I definitely ran much further than 400m as I took the baton as early as possible and handed off as late as possible. With our javelin runner running third, I gave him the baton in the lead. But it was very tight with 4 other teams. But the end of his run, we had dropped back to sixth. However, every other team had put their best runners on the first 2 legs (I only knew this afterwards). Despite the fact that teams were nearly 50m in front, Marc weaved in and out of the remaing teams like he was the only German made car stuck in a sea of Russian imports. I watched in wonder as he brought us in for the win. It seemed as though we had somehow made something great out of nothing.

#19 Penn Relay finals 4 x 100m, April 1999. My first time at the historic meet, and our team of scrawny Ivy leaguers made the Eastern finals (basically the "b" finals, as the top 8 teams go to the Championship of America - this is a meet with over 120 teams entered). This meet was memorable not only for our success, but due to the conditions. It was cold, rainy, and miserable. They actually had to put off the meet due to the rain for only the 2nd time in the 100+ year history of the most historic track event in North America. This gives you an idea of the conditions. In relay, you often put a piece of tape as a marker on the track for when to take off. In this race, the gun had already gone when the guy beside me told me that my tape had blown away. My hands were freezing, I was nervous, there was water on the track, and my heart was racing at over 200 beats per minute. I ran back to flatten the tape and got ready for Marc, who handed off to me. It was all a blur as Florida, who would go on to win nationals, was a bit ahead of us. Marc came barrelling in next to UMBC, who we would go on to beat 3 more times that year. I finished the race and walked off the track, simply looking for my pants and sweater. Marc seemed convinced that we would make the finals. We watched another hour of heats before hearing the annoucement that we had made the finals. Of course, ABC had been broadcasting the finals for many years, so I had delusions of being on TV, only to learn that they no longer had a contract for Penn Relays. Damn Brent Musburger.

#18 All East, May 1999, 4 x 100m. The pinnacle of my achievements in sport. In my sophmore year, I anchored the Cornell 4 x 100m relay to 7th place finish at the IC4A meet. This is the East Cost conference meet, with about 90 member schools (in Division 1). As I did not run that summer, it actually marked the last track meet that I ran with Marc. Later that year, he ran in a meet in Decmeber before the car accident that claimed his life. Since I didn’t run that Decmeber, this meet is symblamatic of my career in track and field. I was hurt for most of my career bewteen my last year in high school and my 2nd year at Cornell. But I put everything together by the end of that spring in 1999. I don’t necessarily regret anything in my track career, but I am disappointed by much of it. It still bothers me how I walked away from the sport, but the loss of Marc was too difficult for me to be able to handle as a competitor. Although at the time I saw this meet as my coming out party and a chance for me to start to have real success, it was actually the last successful track meet in in which I competed.

#17 Pneumonia - 1986 (I think?). When I was 9 (I think), I had pneumonia. They put an IV in my arm, I screamed, I cried, I mostly slept. I was in the hospital for about a week. My teacher came to visit me and brought a card signed by all my classmates. Although I don’t remember the pain I was in, I do remember getting that card.

#16 Home owner - January 2007. This may not seem so important now, but certainly this is one of the biggest decision I will ever take in my life. In the year since I bougth the condo, it has mostly meant being able to play video games at lunch, paying insane property taxes, and freaking out about the amount of dust on my floors. I would have thought paying off my student loans was to be the most significant financial transaction I would ever make, but owning my own 650 square feet of this world has at least validated those same student loans!

Stay tuned for the top 15!!!


Anonymous said...

J'adore ta liste... Tu sais vraiment comment écrire pour accrocher ton lecteur. J'attends la suite avec impatience.

Anonymous said...

I've never left a comment but I have to admit, your list has me interested. Wondering if bickering and fighting over "which country to attack" while in Kent's basement will be somewhere in the top 15...lol.

Anonymous said...

This task you've set for yourself is a challenge for sure - but you're crafting a really amazing short story of your life. That's pretty cool. I hope you print this out and keep it for yourself, because when you're 60, it will certainly be something to look back on... and when you do your top however many later in life, certainly those events that stand out will change. I must say though that you absolutely know how to keep your reader reading... kudos.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely LOVING this list Rich. It has inspired me to make my own list. Looking forward to your next 15!

Anonymous said...

Mom said
It is with great interest that I read your list,as I have been around for some of the moments . Regarding track, the day you and Marc won(within 1/100 of a second from each other) 100m @ EOSSA track was a beautiful moment to see. You went on to much loftier competitions, but that was a pivotal moment.
I hope the Cornell Grad will enter in ,because it cost a LOT of money, and wonderful memories were made for our entire family.
Oh yeah, and I these writing skills ;I think you got them all from me. HAHA

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