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Hitting milestone has editor reflecting on 1st 40 years

March 20, 2006|by BILL KOHLER

It's a milestone that strikes fear in the hearts of everyone - 40.

Forty means, officially, the end of your youth, the end of people referring to you as a young man, the end of the first part of your life and the beginning of the last part.

The beginning of the end?

For me, 40 is just a number. I still feel pretty young, I think I look pretty young. (As my wife and daughter can tell you, I still act young - and sometimes pretty immature.)

I turned the big 4-0 over the weekend and I'm pretty much taking it in stride. Many of my old (ooh, bad choice of words there) friends have crossed the bridge in the past few months and they appear to be OK. They opened their eyes the day after their birthday and were still the same person, albeit perhaps a little hung over.

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My sister turned 44 last month and she's way cooler than most people half her age.

With a hat's off to my favorite magazine, Esquire, and as a way to share some insight into the first 40 years, here's my version of what I've learned:

Nothing says life is good more than a fresh snowfall and a 5-year-old's laughter.

Every once in a while - whether you're 40, 20 or 60 - you've got to roll the windows down, crank up something good on the radio and sing until your throat hurts.

It's amazing how smart my parents became after I turned 25.

Speaking of parents, nothing has a bigger impact on how a child turns out than parents. Not TV, drugs, friends, teachers, the media. Parenting is the most important job in the world.

The best things about this country were laid out for us more than 200 years ago: We can be whatever we want, say pretty much what we want and assemble peacefully when we want.

Nothing truly is easy. Most good things require hard work and perserverence.

You know you're getting old when you cancel subscriptions to sports magazines and re-up with Consumer Reports, Parents, and Better Homes and Gardens.

Newspaper work is harder than it seems. We require so many things from our reporters: Get it right, keep it short and get it done on time. Oh, and make the story interesting, relevant and easy to cut if space is tight.

The work is tough, but very few things are more satisfying than putting out a brand new paper every day - the right way.

Walk to work or to the gym. It's amazing how you see your neighborhood or hometown differently from the sidewalk. It's really night and day. Plus, you get to meet people you never would have when you're driving.

High school and college really are very important. Both can be what you make of them. I wish I would have taken my studies more seriously ... well, maybe a little more seriously. College was just way too much fun.

No person is without some bit of regret. I regret my mouth, you know that man quality of saying things before you think. I should have listened more and talked less. How my parents kept from slapping me upside the head with a rolled-up newspaper once a week is a mystery.

Losing weight and quitting smoking are the two hardest things to do.

I respect people more for how they handle the hard times and confrontations, not for how they ride out the smooth waves.

Buy the name brands more often. Taste is one of God's greatest gifts and should not be wasted on the bland.

Like in baseball, life is never as bad as the worst day and never as good as the best day. The truth is somewhere in between.

My parents worked hard and sacrificed for their kids. They probably overdid it on both fronts. But, man, as long as there's love, discipline and laughter in there (which there was), a kid can't ask for anything more.

Very few things in life are as good as a day at the ballpark. The smells, the sounds, grass so green it hurts your eyes. Some of my most vivid and important memories are from trips to Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards.

My friend Scott Thornton would have turned 40 this month, too. He died nearly eight years ago. I miss him. I wish he could have seen the Red Sox win the Series two years ago and we could still play "9" at Muni together. I want to argue with him about the war in Iraq, politics and whether I should get my daughter guitar or trombone lessons.

Men and women really are from different planets. We try and try to figure each other out usually with mixed results. I guess that's the fun in it - the trying part.

"Dear George: Remember - No Man is a Failure who has Friends."

My first 40 years have been good. Great upbringing, lots of good friends and a wonderful wife and daughter. I wish everybody could be so fortunate. Here's hoping the next 40 are as good.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail.

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