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This Friday, May 24, I will turn 38 years old. I don't really worry much about celebrating my own birthday anymore, but I do use it as a point of reflection.

A birthday cake with candles on it, sitting on a table in a room with a window that shows the full moon outside.
My 38th birthday party in a world run by AI (AI generated, just for fun).

I like to think about where I am in life, where I've been and where I'm going. The answer to those questions seems to change a lot from year to year, and I don't normally address them in such a "public" forum (does it count as public if no one will ever read this?), but this year I'm going to start a (hopefully) new annual tradition of writing things down here.

Where I am now seems like a simple enough question to answer, but things are rarely as simple as they seem on the surface.

For starters, I'm actively pushing, running and growing a small business with my amazing wife. It's a scary proposition, and failure isn't an option given the stakes. We've sunk so much time, money and energy into this thing, and we're both excited and nervous to see what the rest of the year will bring.

On top of that, my youngest child is getting ready to start high school, my middle child is a couple years from graduating and hopefully going off to art school, and my oldest is a year from leaving for army basic training. I never actually imagined myself as a father, and I never imagined I'd be able to raise any kids, let alone 3 kids that I couldn't be prouder of. They've all got their quirks, and they all have things about them that amaze me each and every day.

Where I've come from is a little more complicated.

I've shared bits and pieces here from time to time, but only those who really know me even have an inkling of what has made me who I am today. The thing is though, there isn't really many people in my life who've been around more than a short while.

My wife has known me and been alongside me longer than anyone else. We met in 2004 in the Wal-Mart toy section. She was putting away toys and I was goofing off. I thought she was beautiful from the first time I saw her, but I never expected to wind up together, let alone for 20+ years. We've been through so much together, and we've lived the vows we took on September 24, 2008 in every way.

The person who's been in my life the second longest is probably my amazing friend Austin. We met working at Express in 2014, and though we've had our ups and downs I consider him more of a brother than the siblings I grew up with.

Speaking of those siblings, and bringing my extended family into this, I've not been as lucky as many other out there in that aspect. After my mom died in 2005, the family kind of fell into disarray and it hasn't really recovered. My brothers have gone off to their own lives, one of them talks to me from time to time and the other wants nothing to do with me after we disagreed on some things last year.

I've got 3 sisters, one of whom I've never met, and the other two don't really have much interest in being a part of my life these days. One of them dislikes my life choices and the other, well we just never really had much of a relationship. I love them all dearly, and while I know the chances of every having a normal sibling relationship with them are slim, I want them all to be happy.

I also got my father and my dad, both of whom have their own flaws and both of whom I've fallen out with from time to time. They've both also had their moments where I considered them the father figure I needed, but neither has actually lived up to that dream. If nothing else, they've both shown me in their own way how I can be a better dad to my own children, often by demonstrating how NOT to act.

I've got other family out there, but most of it isn't really what I would call family. Uncles, aunts, cousins, people that've passed through my life in their own time and aren't really a part of it anymore.

I will never claim to have had the hardest life out there, but I've also had to overcome a lot to get where I am today. As the title of this post suggests, I've been severely underestimated my whole life, which is something I think about often.

I had so many dreams when I was younger, and all of them were shot down by those who claimed to love me. I wanted to play football for Ohio State, I wanted to stand on a stage and sing in front of thousands, I wanted a million other things I was told I couldn't be. The worst part was I believed those people.

My wife's family told her I would leave her when she became pregnant with our first daughter. They said I was a bum who wouldn't stick around. No one in her family, or mine, thought I would make it through basic training, or ever make anything of my life. Most of them thought I was nothing more than a waste of space.

It was kind of funny to see how differently many of those people viewed me when I was making six figures as an incident manager at a global company. Money was all they cared about though, because when I got laid off and decided to start my own business, the warmth faded quick.

I've learned a lot since that moment, the day before my birthday in 2022. It's been a bumpy road at times, and a lot of sacrifice has been needed, but things are looking up.

And that brings me to where I'm going.

I know I'm a good writer, a good photographer and a decent business mind. My wife keeps me grounded, always encouraging me and helping me the best I can be. This new venture we've started together is about to get very real, and I'll have a ton to share in the future on that experience. What we've built already is amazing, and as far as I'm concerned, the only way for it to go is through the roof.

If you would've asked me 10 years ago what I thought I'd be doing in a decade, I would have probably said I wanted to be the CIO of a company, or maybe a VP somewhere. As a matter of fact, I did tell one of the directors I used to work with that I would be in one of those positions at some point. As it turns out, I was kind of right in that I'm now the CEO of my own company.

As I hit my birthday, and pass that milestone, I look forward to what the next couple years hold. I'll be completing 40 trips around the sun soon. When I look back and evaluate my life on that day, I want to be able to say I've once again beat the odds and expectations. Then again, I work better under pressure, and I don't know what I'd do if people didn't underestimate me.

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