Travis Naughton

Last Sunday I completed my 45th lap around that giant, fiery orb at the center of our solar system. The sun has risen and set about 16,430 times since I made my first confirmed appearance in the universe way back in 1971. A lot has changed since then.

When I was born, people still rented rotary-dial telephones from the phone company. The personal computer was a full decade away from being developed. Man had not yet lost interest in walking on the moon. Nowadays, we carry mobile phones in our pockets that have more computing power than NASA had during the era of lunar exploration.

I’ve changed a little over the years, too. I’m taller than I was when I was born. I no longer wear diapers. And with a great deal of patience, I can now grow a patchy beard in seven to ten weeks. I’ve learned a great deal in the last four and a half decades.

I’ve learned that a medium-rare ribeye is the tastiest cut of beef. I’ve learned that it is pointless to try to change anyone’s mind when it comes to religion or guns. And I’ve learned that serving others is much more satisfying than serving myself.

I’ve also learned that variety really is the spice of life. Just last week I subbed in two first grade classrooms, announced two softball games and two football games from the press box, and performed a wedding ceremony for some dear friends. This week I will sub in five different classrooms, announce two more football games, attend the Roots ‘n’ Blues music festival in Columbia, and solemnize yet another wedding.

As I begin my 46th solar orbit, I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier. My wife and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We have three amazing kids who don’t drive me completely crazy. We live in an outstanding community full of kind, funny, and interesting characters. There is very little I would change about my life if given the chance.

Sure, I’d like to be a few pounds lighter. It wouldn’t bother me if I had a few less gray whiskers on my wrinkly face. It would be cool not to have to stand on my tip-toes to kiss my wife. But really, I am pretty content with things the way they are.

When one is content, it is important to avoid becoming complacent. I am wise enough to never take the joys in my life for granted. I remember all-too-well the dark days of my youth which were fraught with self-doubt, self-pity, and self-harm. While it may appear at times that I am boasting about my good fortunes, the truth is that I feel compelled to remind myself, from time to time, of just how lucky I am to have the life that I do.

I think everyone should pause once in a while to take stock of their good fortunes. If you are reading this, then you were lucky enough to have a parent or teacher who took the time to teach you how to read. If you had a parent or teacher who took the time to teach you to read, then you had an adult in your life who cared for you. If you had an adult in your life who cared for you, then you are more fortunate than millions of orphaned and abandoned children in the world who aren’t so lucky. When you take the time to put things into perspective, you will probably admit that the life you’re living is pretty good, too. I sincerely hope it is.

I’d like to have another 45 years to add entries to my journal of good times and good fortunes. Knowing that tomorrow is never guaranteed, I’ll keep trying to live my life as if each day is my last. Hopefully, by the time the book closes on me, mine will be a life’s story worth reading.