This Is 40

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

If the measure of a birthday is how cool you would have thought it was as a kid, then today’s a pretty good day.

When I was a kid, it was a big deal to go to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for your birthday.

I can’t imagine how awesome kid me would have thought the idea was of spending your birthday, not at the NASA museum, but at NASA, writing stories about astronauts living in space for a year and about private companies building their own spaceships and about using the biggest rocket ever to send people to Mars.

Nothing against my current record cool-childhood-birthday, where my mom made astronaut costumes for all the kids, including milk jug helmets, but today would have at least been competitive, awesomeness-wise.

So this is 40.

Honestly, I still feel like I’m trying to get a hold of this adult thing, but I have mastered the heck out of being six.

The question I’m always worst at in job interviews is the one asked sometimes about where you see yourself in five years. I’ve found that, when it comes to such things, God is far more creative than I.

40 doesn’t look like I necessarily would have thought it would for big chunks of my life.

David Hitt in 2005 with picture of David Hitt in 1993

Me on my birthday 10 years ago, with me from 22 years ago.

When I was 25, I still thought success at 40 would mean being the publisher of a weekly newspaper somewhere in Mississippi. NASA wasn’t on my radar. Thankfully I’ve aged better than the newspaper industry has.

If I’d been asked that question five years ago, I would not have begun to imagine the life I have today.

I happened across the blog post I wrote on my birthday five years ago. Five years ago, I was comfortable. Five years ago, I had no clue that my world was about to completely fall apart. In less than a year from that birthday, I would be out of work and out of another engagement. Honestly, it sucked.

I’m blessed that it happened.

It’s hard to imagine a job better suited for me than the one I have now. I never would have left the job I had five years ago. If this job had come available while I was working that one, I would have missed out on one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve ever been given.

And, yeah, it’s hard to imagine a friend, partner and wife better suited for me than Rebecca.

When I had nothing, I found everything. Those months I spent working part-time for minimum wage at the Huntsville Historic Depot have caused me to fall in love with my city in a way I never had before, and opened opportunities for me to give back to Huntsville in awesome ways. I have an amazing wife, an amazing job, great friends, great hobbies, and a dog who blogs.

Me in a spacesuit

Me, a couple of months before my 35th birthday. The past five years have brought about a lot more gray hair, but other things never change.

I had lunch yesterday with a friend of mine, who started at NASA a month ago, and we laughed about our similar stories of how we ended up where we are in completely unlikely ways. If I had to give honest advice for someone wanting to know how to get to where I am, based on my experience, it would have to be — “Make mistakes. Have bad things happen. But never ever ever give up.” This thing we call “luck” is just being ready when opportunity occurs.

If that next year was awful after my 35th birthday was bad, this past year has been incredible.

I got married. I saw Orion launch. I made my first — and second — trips overseas. My newest niece was born the day after my birthday. I saw the sun rise over the Atlantic and I saw it set on the Pacific. Not a bad year to celebrate today.

People have given me a hard time about my upcoming 40th, and I’ve replied that I’m looking forward to it — joking that for the next 11 months, I’ll be a guy in his 40s married to a woman in her 20s. I’m living the dream.

To be sure, I make it sound better than it is. In this post, and every day. I share the awesome things more than the lackluster. The successes more than the struggles. This past month has been the first full month in over three years that I’ve had reliable air-conditioning at home. I’ve spent the past two years converting money into fat at a prodigious rate. Rebecca and I get the typical newlywed questions about kids, and the question is daunting. I rue decisions over the last 40 years that led to that point. But life, is, ultimately, life, for all of us.

But, ultimately, I’m crazy blessed. And so very grateful. Grateful to the Author of it all, to my ever-patient Rebecca, and to the friends who have been part of the story over this past year, and the past 40. Thank you for making it interesting.

So, yeah, this is 40. Rockets and Rebecca and writing and roof repairs.

I can live with that.

Me and my dad, many years ago

Hey, kid! I did go to Ole Miss, and I get to play with rockets for a living. I hope you’d be pleased.