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Old Man Smoking a Pipe – Birthday 2008

My yearly birthday blog post.

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The 23rd of May, My Birthday. I have become and old man smoking a pipe. At twenty five years of age, I still pretended that I was a youth, and at 26, I was just one year away from 25; but at 27, I cannot deny that I am a full grown, full fledged, bearded and crusty adult. I say this with a smile, as I just turned 27 years old last Friday.

Oh well, I am old. I have now acquiesced with Mira’s teasing that I am “soooo ooollllddd.” I suppose I am, but I think that I like it. I would not ever want to be 18 and totally (completely) stupid again. Teddy Roosevelt said that, “The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.”

My deep gutted approval of this quote only shows my new-found age.

At 18, I realize now, that I did not know which way was up: I was confused, angry at things that I could not change, clueless, and absolutely careless. I would jet to one far corner of the world only to long for another, I would be harsh in my love affairs, and singular in my intents. I walked a jagged line in those days between any and all extremes that I could find. I was a traveler who was just starting out on a path that was very sharp and shaky. I could not fully feel out my intuition. I simply thought too much in my youth: I mistakenly thought that I was right, I thought that I knew what I was talking about, and I thought that I was vastly more important than what I really was.

My mind was clouded by things that did not really matter and did not yet know how to make myself happy. I did not yet have the wisdom then to know that I do not know anything. I hope that I can always look back on my proceeding years and laugh at my own stupidity. I think that this critical reminiscence is an indication that I am growing in my life and changing with the seasons. Walking down the Path, and ever and always moving with the Path. If I can ever look back on where I stood five years previously and not think that I was a moron, I would become very frightened, as this could only mean that my development has grown stagnant.

Give me anything, but don’t give me stagnation.

The second time that I tried walking slow and smoking a pipe in China at the age of 24.

I smile as I think about the Road that leads back to my youth. It was a good long Road full of trials, errors, loves, blunders, laughs, loud uncontrollable laughs, excitement, and, yes, adventures. Given all of this, I at least now know that I am assured to wake up each morning with a big smile on my face. This is my sole definition of success.

If a person wakes up smiling then they are as rich as any king and as vast as any kingdom. A deep, true, and unprovoked smile is the most sought after thing on planet earth. Through growing up and getting “old,” I have learned how to smile. No, I no longer cringe when Mira decides to bust my balls about being an “old man.” I take this title with a smile, for I have earned it. I have just grown into the apex of manhood: my wits have finally caught up with my feet.

For who would not want to be an old man with nothing to do all day but walk around smoking a pipe, pondering the lilies, and writing just to save their life, I ask with a jesting laugh?

As a birthday present to myself this year I bought a good Japanese made bulldog pipe to rotate in with the pipes that I already have. Smoking a pipe was always an activity that I have flirted with over the years, but never actively jumped into. I was given my first pipe when I was 18 years old in the south of Florida. But I could never figure out how to smoke the blasted thing. I walked too quickly in those days, and did not know that pipe smoking is a delicate art and could not be done with force. At the age of 24, I picked up another pipe in China – it was a really awesome hand-made pipe with a bovine bone stem – and again I struggled with smoking it. My attention could not be brought to a point then, as I was unable to find the time to just sit, smoke, and think simple thoughts. Then a year later at 25 I met Mira’s father, who is a pipe smoking oracle of wisdom, and we went and bought me a new pipe at a tobacco shop in Alexandria, Virginia. He then taught me how to pack it and the philosophy behind smoking a pipe. I was learning how to walk slow, Mira’s father taught me much, but was still not completely ready. Now, at 27 years of age, I have the impression that my ambition, lifestyle, and world view have come to a point – a glorious intersection where everything seems balanced and OK – and I picked up the pipe that I purchased with Mira’s father, sat down, and smoked it. It felt ok; it felt good, in fact. I am learning how to walk slow.

I simply cannot envision myself as an old man without a big ornate pipe hanging out of a corner of my mouth. So let it be, let it come.

Cheers to being an old man smoking a pipe!

But I really feel as young as a glassy eyed, just born stumbly legged fawn – forever looking upon a new day. I suppose I have just entered into the dawn of my manhood. Today, at 27, I call myself a man for the first time. I am doing what I want to do and I feel comfortable. I have grown into my shell, and am enjoying the beauty of this day. I have grown into traveling as well.

I take the ups of the Path as well as the downs, I want cold rain showers as much as bright sunny days, long Roads as well as short ones, birds singing and lizards screeching. I want all of the emotions, feelings, and impressions that come with being human. I am beginning to feel that joyous balance of non-duality, as I travel through a non-dual world.

I am beginning to find what I set out for on that fateful day I stepped off the farm in the summer of ’99.


Filed under: North America, Travel Philosophy, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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