For the first time in several years, I’m looking forward to my birthday.
My birthday is later this month, and I don’t usually make a big deal about it. Between falling right around Thanksgiving and being fairly close to Christmas, birthday celebrations were usually pretty low key growing up. Plus, once I got into high school, I started getting clothes as my birthday gift. While I appreciate a nice new shirt, it was never really the fun thing I wanted for my birthday.
Last year, my birthday came mostly as a relief. I turned 41, which meant I was done with 40. You can tell me all you want that 40 is just a number, but I did not enjoy being 40. I’m sure a lot of it was mental — except the hernia surgery, that definitely was physical — but it took me a while to come to grips with being 40. In some ways, I’m still figuring it out, especially coping with how fast my nose hair now grows. Seriously, it’s bizarre.
This year, I turn 42. I’ve really been looking forward to 42 because, as I’ve read, it’s the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. And if 42 doesn’t start out with some sort of metaphysical enlightenment for me, well, there’s that other little bit of advice from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — Don’t Panic. Words to live by.
However, I recently became concerned that 42 would not be everything I’m hoping it will be. I got an email alerting me to “the 10 most boring places in Alaska,” and was surprised to learn that several communities on the Kenai Peninsula fall into that category.
While that was disturbing, even more disturbing was the criteria used to determine just how boring a place is: percentage of the population over 35; percentage of married households; and percentage of households with kids, among others. The hypothesis is that older, married folks with kids aren’t very exciting.
So, based on that criteria, I am, apparently, one of the least interesting people you’re going to meet.
The criteria for making places exciting? Lots of single people between the ages of 18 and 34.
The website in question, roadsnacks.net, claims to use “data, analytics, and a sense of humor” to “deliver infotainment about where you live that your real estate agent won’t tell you.” The site, based in North Carolina, has lots of lists, touching on such topics as snobbiest, most dangerous, and most redneck places, among others. I’m afraid to look and see what else they think the Kenai Peninsula has to offer.
Now, I never expected to be featured in a beer commercial for being the most interesting person anywhere, but give me a little credit. Just being an Alaska resident makes you not boring — ever been to a gathering Outside where somebody finds out where you’re from and peppers you with questions for the rest of the evening?
What’s more, I think I’ve done more exciting things since I turned 35 than I did in my 20s. When I was younger, I was working my butt off to make ends meet. I didn’t have time or money to have fun. Now that I’m a little older, I’ve got a little bit of disposable income (what doesn’t go toward kids’ expenses). I’m still working my butt off, but at least I can afford to go do something in my free time.
And I would argue that engaging in just one Alaska activity, whether it be hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowmachining, ice skating, driving on studded tires, or just shooing moose out of your garden, ups the excitement factor significantly.
Indeed, the only “boring” category I don’t fit into is being over 65, but if you’ve talked to any of the old timers around here, they’ve got some pretty interesting stories to share themselves.
I have a great family, a nice house, and no car payments. We have wonderful neighbors who don’t complain that I leave my Christmas lights up on the roof year-round. We live in a great community, with lots to do. The wilderness and all it offers is our back yard. If all that makes us boring, I’ll take it.
So maybe 42 isn’t the answer to everything, but being boring is the key to happiness. It all sounds pretty exciting to me.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.