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.

Have A Good Time

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life’s a mess
But I’m having a good time

Oo, I’ve been loving and loving and loving
I’m exhausted from loving so well
I should go to bed
But a voice in my head
Says “ah, what the hell”

Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time

Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland
But I think it’s all overdone
Exaggerating this and exaggerating that
They don’t have no fun

I don’t believe what I read in the papers
They’re just out to capture my dime
I ain’t worrying
And I ain’t scurrying;
I’m having a good time

Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time

Maybe I’m laughing my way to disaster
Maybe my race has been run
Maybe I’m blind to the fate of mankind
But what can be done?
So God bless the goods we was given
And God bless the U. S. of A.
And God bless our standard of livin’
Let’s keep it that way
And we’ll all have a good time

Repeat and fade:
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time
Have a good time


Pirates! Pizza! Presents! Party!

Once upon a time, a year or so ago, one of my coworkers — not Heather — was talking to me about planning a birthday party for her son, who was turning 4.

And, as a single guy with no kids for whom that whole world was alien, it seemed insane.

Fast forward to this past weekend. I’m at KidVenture with more kids than I can count building a cake wearing a pirate bandana. What brave new world is this, that has such parties in it.

It still seems a little insane. The party probably cost more than all the presents put together. Caden could have asked for something that cost that much for his birthday, and been told it was way too much. The cake alone probably cost more than any single gift, and — and I can’t stress this enough — came with instructions. The cake cost that much, and didn’t even come fully assembled. I had to build the cake in situ.

On the flip side, the cake was, as Heather put it, “a birthday miracle.” I won’t tell the story behind it, since she blogged it better than I could, but it really was a little slice of happy ending. The look on Caden’s face when he saw it was wonderful, but it didn’t do justice to the look on his mom’s face when she brought it out of the grocery store.

And the party was a wish fulfillment for Caden. He loves dressing up. LOVES dressing up. He comes home from school, and immediately changes into a ninja or Iron Man or a clone trooper or something. It’s like what they say about Batman — Batman is the reality, Bruce Wayne is just a costume. Caden’s in costume when he wears civvies to go to daycare. That’s pretend. The real Caden is a superhero. All he wanted from Santa was a sword. And armor. And two shields. And lately, the real Caden has been a pirate. Iron Man and the clone trooper have been getting short breaks as the pirate becomes the normal go-to.

So Sunday night, Caden got to dress like a pirate, and be on a pirate ship, and have rings and gold coins and eye patches and other treasure and share his booty with his friends. So, yeah, maybe the money would have bought a bigger and better toy or something, but buying Caden the Pirate a night on his own pirate ship was kinda priceless.

As the party got closer, we began to worry. The snowpocalypse was upon us, and we were afraid it would come before the party was over, or, more to the point, that other people would be afraid it would, and decide not to come lest they be trapped. We watched the radar with bated breath.

And then, right as we were setting up, the phone calls started coming. And every time it rang, our hearts skipped a beat. Here comes the first person to send regrets. But that first call was for directions. Others were similar. There was one regret, from someone who had to be in Birmingham that night; completely understandable. But the place ended up being packed. I’m not sure about Heather, but the number of kids was quite adequate for me.

For me, it was an interesting experience. For the kids, I’m part of their life. But this was a new thing, being the guy there setting up the cake and thanking people for coming. And it wasn’t an entirely uncomfortable fit, really.

So, yeah, fast forward to now, and the whole kid party still seems kinda insane. But, you know, that may not be a bad thing.

Happy Birthday, Heather!

Happy birthday, Heather!

May today bring you happiness, fun times with friends and family, a great reminder of how special you are, and maybe a cool present or two!

May the coming year of your life be an amazing one, and may your Father bless you in cool and creative ways that you could never imagine today! I hope the next year of your life is one you can look back on a year from now as an incredible journey of adventure, blessing and growth!

Thanks for letting me be a part of that journey! Love you!