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Where have I come from? Where am I going? Who am I?

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

It’s my birthday.

Thirty-six years ago, in 1981, my life began. Reagan had just taken office, phones were connected to cords ain the kitchen and quarter-eating video games lived in arcades.

As I time travel through my memory, all 36 years of my life compress together into one long horizon, one messy narrative, one newspaper column.

So very much has happened in 36 years. So many friends, so many lessons, so many trials, so much growth. Weddings and divorces; births and deaths; discovery and loss.

Somewhere along the way I’ve become an adult.

My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Roth, said he wouldn’t consider me an adult until I was 25.

He was on to something. It takes the first quarter of life to grow up.

You’ve got to evolve from a microscopic seed into a full-sized human, invest ten to 20 years in formal education, survive puberty, make mistakes, take risks, accept challenges, adapt and change.

Then, after all that, you’ve got to become fully independent, responsible for your health, your bills, your shelter, your transportation, your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, and your relationships. There’s a more than likely chance you’ll share your life with someone else, and maybe even a smaller life will depend on you for its survival.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt understood that true adulthood is an achievement. “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art,” she said.

If competent adulthood is a diligently crafted work of art, and success isn’t accidental, how does each of us forge ahead, through twists, turns, obstacles, distractions and dead-ends? What questions should we ask to help us progress?

If there are only three questions we can ask, they should be these:

Where have I come from? Where am I going? Who am I?

The questions arrive easier than the answers, but if your clear eyes are open, answers will come.

I once had a shaggy-haired, bespectacled friend named Joe Hoffman, a kind, brilliant, warm, hardworking, life-seizing, surf-stoked gentleman. Years ago, after a translucently clear morning surf session on the Kohala Coast of the Big Isle, we sat together, smelling the wind, tasting the air, dripping with saltwater. “This was the best year of my life,” he said, “because I’ve never felt so much love.” It was a love he nourished for his wife Linda, his son Joe, and his best friend Bowana. Love emanated from Joe like ultraviolet rays from our sunstar.

Sadly, Joe died too young from debilitating brain cancer, and my heart broke for a little while. That isn’t how I wanted his story to end. But adults have learned that we don’t script life – we respond to it. I take deep solace in knowing that Joe achieved his purpose, love, as an adult.

As a 36-year-old adult heading into the second half of my own journey, I can feel Joe’s spirit time traveling from that memory to this birthday moment of reflection.

Where have I come from? Where am I going? Who am I?

However I respond to these questions on the journey of life, love will light the way.