My Top 10

I was thinking the other day about this subject: my top life-defining moments.

What does that mean? Does an event have to be supremely profound for it to define a part of your soul? Or can it be fun, painful, mundane?

I think all such events contribute to your life in one way or another. Here’s my list of the top 10 experiences of my far:

10. MetroStars/Red Bulls games – If there was ever anything to teach patience and devotion, it’s being a fan of Major League Soccer’s New York franchise. Since 1996 I’ve seen many losses, yet I still spend the $30 and tank of gas to see games in Giants Stadium. Looking forward to the new stadium opening in 2010.

9. World Cup 1994 – I’ve never before seen a spectacle like the World Cup. No other sporting event compares to the month-long, beer-soaked, blood-boiling insanity that is the World Cup. I think I heard people arguing over tactics, their favorite players and worst villians in 60 different languages, countless dialects of English, and maybe one or two guys speaking Klingon! When the Irish beat the Italians in Giants Stadium, the Swamp was a sea of green, singing, dancing bodies. The Irish came in force, supported by their American brethren in the New York area. I really hope we get the cup in 2018.

8. France and Spain – The countries opened my eyes to the vast possibilities that exist for life on this little rock we call Earth. Riding the train from Paris to Madrid was an incredible slideshow of scenery. And it caused me to readjust my perception of my place in the world. It also excited me — just imagine the places and people I have yet to see in my life!

7. Cliff jumping with my brother – There is a set of cliffs on the Delaware River above Matamoras, Pa., that boaters and locals jump off during the scorching summer months. My brother and I also found this a great place to cool down. Those lazy summer days brought my brother and I a little closer together. It didn’t prevent the occasional fistfight between us, though.

6. Backpacking the Appalachian Trail – I’ve backpacked two 30-mile treks on the AT, first in the Harriman section of New York and second south from High Point, New Jersey during my years in the Boy Scouts. These were spectacular opportunities to look out onto America from the tops of mountains. If you’re thinking it’s callous that this tops cliff jumping, don’t worry. My brother knows he was on these journey’s with me, too.

5. My 100-Miler Badge – Of all my accomplishments in the Boy Scouts, this one I’m particularly proud of. We paddled the Upper Delaware Scenic River from Hancock to Port Jervis, NY. Then we paddled up the Neversink River. This journey included rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mtns. as well as cave exploring nearby. In a way the cold, upper Delaware River mingled with my blood and soul. I still drive the scenic road above the river from time to time, just to peer down, a little like the eagles that fly overhead. And sometimes, I think I can see the part of me I left behind.

4. Loss of my virginity – There’s not much to say about this one. How much can you say about five minutes in your life? But what little I can say is that I got a speeding ticket in my girlfriend’s car on my way to that event. I estimated: the sooner we got back to her house, the sooner I would get lucky. This wasn’t the definitive moment of manhood, but I thought it was at the time.

3. 11th grade American literature class – For so many years, I’d learned about English…well…from the English point of view. At least in literature. Or it was text book grammar and spelling. But this was the first time a teacher made me see that we have something truly special in the American literary movement. From Washington Irving to Melville, Poe to Thoreau, to Hemingway and beyond. That class inspired me to become a writer.

2. My marriage – I was told after the vows were said, rings and kisses exchanged, that “It takes a big man to cry at his own wedding.” Yes, I cried that day. They were tears of joy because I had found someone that I knew I could spend the rest of my life with. I don’t know about that whole “big man” thing. I never subscribed to the notion that men should hide their emotions, act as if they’re made of stone. I’d rather be known as a crying human being than an inanimate, emotionally devoid lump of rock. There are times when you are overwhelmed by the joy and pain inside. Holding back will only serve to tear open the fragile human heart in your chest, or maybe harden it against the world, chilling your soul. I hope nothing ever does that to me.

1. The births of my sons – I guess it’s cliched to list this as a defining moment in one’s life. I’ve heard it a million times before. Some people are too bubbly and saccharin with this. But it’s true. It did change my life. Not in the way people think. There’s people who think that having children should make me reject certain beliefs, styles of music, etc. Having children only added to who I am. You shouldn’t become a different person; you should become a deeper person. My sons made me see life different, but most importantly they made me a happy man.

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