My Year in Review

So, here I am at the end of 43, about to turn 44 tomorrow. And looking back, this year has had by far some of the most interesting and unexpected turns. As the last couple of hours’ worth of sand trickle through the hourglass, I would like to take a moment to reflect on all the wonders I was able to experience.

When I wished for a fun and exciting year, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Who knew where a simple audition for a game show would lead me? A visit to New York for the first time in almost 20 years, an appearance on national television, a perfect trip to Europe, and getting a brand new car for the first time in my life! Not to mention this was also the year that I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree and gave the valedictorian speech, That alone would be enough to make anyone’s year. But that’s only the surface of my life.

It had been less than a year before that my wife had passed when I hit my 43rd birthday, and the last thing I wanted to do was anything. I was mad at the world for continuing to carry on as if nothing happened. I was mad at myself for not doing more to prevent my wife’s death (not that there really was anything I could have done), and, I hate to admit it, mad at God for taking her away and leaving me alone again. When my birthday was approaching, I knew I needed to move forward or I would never move at all, and so I forced myself, one step at a time, to take a step out of that box, or that box would become my coffin. And so, I took a step. And another step. And I began to see the sun again. I began to live again. I still missed, and still miss, Heather terribly, but knowing her, the last thing she’d want me to do is wallow in misery and self-pity. I know she’d be happy for the joys in my life and it would have been so good to share those with her. But I’ll have plenty of time to tell her all about it when I see her again in heaven.

One major change this year is my finally moving closer to God again. I don’t know why He does the things He does, but it’s enough for me to know that HE knows why He does the things He does. I realize that, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not all about me, and one goal for my 44th year is to get more involved with helping others, volunteering where I can. I’ve gotten back into reading my Bible and praying and I am finally ready to get back to church.

I intended to make the theme of this coming year “Dreams Come True.” Last week, a dream I’d been waiting on for eighteen years seemed to finally come true. Saturday, I followed a tradition and went to the Disney Magic Kingdom. I was supposed to go with my best friend for lunch, but he fell ill, so it was just me. I got my birthday button and strolled down Main Street. A barbershop quartet started singing, “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.” I stayed and listened to that song, thinking he had indeed brought me that dream. As I headed toward the Cinderella castle, I saw the characters were performing. I get to the castle in time to hear Mickey shout, “Dreams come true!” Then the princes and princesses came out and Princess Aurora (who I’ve taken pictures with – twice!) sang, “I walked with you once upon a dream.” Somebody was trying to tell me something!

I told my friend this and he pooh-poohed (pun intended) the idea, saying it’s Disney, what else would I expect but stuff about dreams? The point I made to him was that I spent all of twenty minutes there. If I had shown up later, I would have only heard the quartet sing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, and the characters at the castle would have been singing about being pirates. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I still believe that my theme should be “Dreams Come True”.

Ironically enough, I found out today that the eighteen-year long dream turned out to be just a dream, after all, so the day before my birthday, it seems that my theme is already falling apart. But then I realized that dream was shattered before my birthday in order to make room for the dreams that WILL come true! So, hang on to your hats, true believers, and prepare for Jax out of the Box: Year Two – Living the Dream!

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Me!

Today after work I went to try out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I’d just had my 43rd birthday yesterday and for some reason just decided I wanted to try something different. After a couple of wrong turns, I managed to finally find my way to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, which is a very nice hotel. I stood in line for about an hour, and halfway through my wait, a guy came up to ask me if we were supposed to have our applications with us. I told him that, according to the website, we were. The woman in front of me, a cute redhead, turned around and said she didn’t have her application either, so she hoped they’d still let her audition. That started a great conversation between us. Her name is Beth, and she’s studying to be a marine biologist. As we were talking, we were led into a waiting room. When it came time for the two of us to be seated, the guy said there was one seat left in that row. She turned to the person behind us and told her she could have that seat, because she wanted to be seated next to her “Millionaire buddy”. We talked some more while we waited for the last of the people to be brought into the room. Then, finally, it was time to begin.

The first part of the process was a thirty question, multiple-choice test which we had ten minutes to complete. They were questions that would be on a typical Millionaire show. After the tests were completed, we had to wait while they were scored. Then the numbers of those who passed were called out for the interview portion. I made the cut. My new friend Beth did not. Thus began the next phase.

Those of us who passed sat at the back of the room while we waited for one of the three interviewers to call us. I waited…and waited…Finally, after what felt like hours, but was probably fifteen minutes at most, I was called. I sat down and the interviewer asked me questions about myself and what I liked to do, what I would do with a million dollars – those types of questions. Then she asked if I could stay for a video interview. I said I absolutely could.

And then more waiting. Only a portion of those interviewed were asked to stay for the video interview. Finally, it was my turn. I was escorted to a room which had the video camera setup. The guy asked me some more questions, but, halfway through the interview, the memory card on the video recorder filled up. So, I had to wait some more while he tracked down another recorder. He finally came back, we finished the interview, and he told me if I was selected for the contestant pool, I would receive a postcard within two weeks. I headed out of there feeling pretty good about my chances and, worst case scenario, I got to do something different and fun.

And now, more waiting for that postcard…