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I’m going to try something this year for my birthday. It’s not new. It’s just a drive to finally see a ‘long-form’ creation of mine into completion. I’ve never truly done something for my birthday outside of a few pic collages and a blog post or two. Never have I had a birthday party. Never have I hung out with friends and celebrated my birthday. Never have I really ventured outside of my hometown for my birthday, and if I actually did, it wasn’t memorable. And if it was memorable, it wasn’t worthy of the “Happy” portion of the phrase “Happy Birthday.” So, for some odd reason, I want my birthday to be special this year. It’s not a “monumental” numeral like ’30,”35,’ or ’40,’ but it’s the burning desire to eradicate the similarities between my birthdays and those of one Buffy Summers (If you are a die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan then you will get that reference). The only problem is settling on a creative event that will not only become a welcome imprint for years to come, but a positive, goal-achieving, and reflective one as well.

So a quick glance at my Facebook page yesterday gave me the first idea of how I wanted to execute this year’s birthday celebration. Seven years and seven months ago, there was a fad flowing among my college friends’ pages where people wrote lists consisting of 16-25 truths of themselves and posting them for their peers to see. My list was the full 25, because at that point in time I was 25 years old and still in a collegiate melancholic haze about life; confident, but not to the point of knowing where the economic crisis would take me in the next few months. But that’s another story…

The point in why the list caught my eye was because it showcased a different side of me that I, sadly, had managed to lose track of. A lot can happen in seven years and while some of the truths from that persona checklist are still solid rods in the foundation of my very being, an equal or greater amount has morphed into new ideals teetering on the brink of madness sometimes. 

Here’s the list in it’s entirety:

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“A Mark O. Estes Production: “25: Random Edition”

I waited on doing this because I was getting tagged for both 16 random and 25 random things and I didn’t want to do 25 and be called out for being extra so here goes the top 25 things that you might already know. If you didn’t then you just haven’t been around me much, which isn’t a bad thing…

Ok… ACTION!!!!

Scene 1. I believe that no human being is perfect, but laugh when people actually believe the opposite. And they wonder why folks “hate” on them…

Scene 2. I have scoliosis, which for those who don’t know, it is the curvature of the spine.

Scene 3. People need to learn the difference between friends and associates and I believe that it should at least be a required 101 class for all universities.

Scene 4. I’ve been writing stories since the age of 8. One of the first was The Goonies 2 and I also write stories/scripts for me to act out with my action figures by directing and providing voices as well.

Scene 5. I am going through a period now of reading as much thought-provoking black books/essays that I can find. I have read two Toni Morrison books (‘Love’, and her newest ‘A Mercy’), and am now reading Michael Eric Dyson’s ‘April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr,’s Death and How It Changed America’. Next on my list are Toni Morrison’s ‘Sula’ and Ernest J. Gaines’ ‘A Lesson Before Dying’.

Scene 6. A lot of the stuff that I know or have learned in life has come mostly from TV and movies, which has strangely put me at odds with a lot of people, namely my family. The Real World Seasons 1-10 (It got hella skeezy afterwards), early BET and MTV in general and a few others are to blame for my ‘upbringing’.

Scene 7. Speaking of my upbringing, I kind of raised myself in a sense, because my parents and I have contrasting ideals and I am always the oddball on both sides of my family. It was hard growing up to be myself, because my family frowned on just about everything I did, except my schoolwork.

Scene 8. Technically, I attended my parents wedding due to the fact that my mom was three months pregnant with me at the time.

Scene 9. I am constantly ragged on about my taste in music, TV, and movies, because most of it is “white-washed” and “lack color”.

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Scene 10. Out of the over 200+ movies and TV Shows that I own, I haven’t seen more than a handful of them.

Scene 11. I have been told that I can be quite depressing company to be around, which is puzzling because I have also been told that I am a people magnet.

Scene 12. I have a tendency to alphabetize books if they are out of order in a bookstore and replace books in order of their call number in libraries if they were misplaced. Blame it on my past experience as a librarian. My books here at home are in order of their release date as well as my DVDs.

Scene 13. I had a dream about the birth of my son and in that one dream I watched him age to four years. His name was Christian Tobias Estes. Needless to say that was the best dream ever and was hard to wake up from.

Scene 14. I subscribe to the belief that its vacuous to be at every event, club, party, etc and wonder why or how your business is in the streets.

Scene 15. My first/only Spring Break Trip ever was Spring 2007 and it was to Atlanta, which was also my first time ever being there.

Scene 16. MTSU and the University of Memphis were the first and only choices for school. But after both said my grades weren’t good enough (yes not good enough), I so happened to be cleaning my room and a brochure and application to UT fell out of the bottom of a box that I picked up. I filled it out and the rest is history. Or rather God helped me come to my senses…

Scene 17. I initially came to UT for theater, but by Divine Intervention again, I was steered back to my first loves: writing, television, and film.

Scene 18. Growing up I was a social misfit in my own head. I didn’t think that anybody liked me because I thought they considered me too awkward to be around. But by my senior year in high school, I wised up and realized that people didn’t like me because I was a social chameleon and didn’t let cliques dictate my social life. So I told everyone in my last will and testament to go to hell and that good luck making it to our 1st class reunion, which I won’t be attending.

Scene 19. One of the people who helped shaped me into the person I am today, Earline Bynum, died two weeks after I moved to UT. I never got to say goodbye properly because the last time I saw her before I left she was asleep. I knew then that nothing will ever be the same and I still haven’t gotten over it yet.

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Scene 20. I wonder a lot about things that people would be frightened to acknowledge, issues that others only think about when their own being is at stake, scenarios and possibilities that most consider irrelevant or petulant. At all times my mind is operating…

Scene 21. I don’t like it when people measure someone by their achievements/status/merits and not by their complete character. While that might seem either conceited or confusing to some, I feel that if you don’t have some sense of a moral compass then you don’t have shit worth gloating about.

Scene 22. I see my entire college life as a television show (ala Degrassi) and that I am living my own spinoff now, while the rest of my friends have their own spinoffs. I can’t wait for the reunion movie to happen now. Yea, it’s that deep…

Scene 23. I am a big nostalgic person and love anything relating to the 80s and 90s because they remind me of how things used to be so simple and how film, TV and culture in general was much more creative, original and, at times, unique.

Scene 24. My senior year in high school I placed #1 in the nation in the Cranium Bowl sponsored by Channel One News and U.S. News and World Report magazine. I won a $100 dollar gift card to The Gap and had a field day at the clearance rack.

Scene 25. I have a problem with people who go out their way to be pompous and siddity and then declare that they are just “confident” or that they just have “swag” when someone calls them out on it. That’s not confidence, it’s straight up arrogance. ‘Confidence’ doesn’t have to be displayed 24/7 and is ugly and retarded as hell no matter how tight you twist it. But I still love ya!

Deleted Scene: I am a true Gemini to the core.

Commentary: Sorry if my list might sound bitter, but you got to admit that it was random at best. I tried to mix them up but I guess I had to vent a little. But this is my Random Edition so… Plus, I wanted to do something a little different with mine as you just saw. This is the first of three different editions so look out for the other three installments.”

To be honest, I cringed rereading some of those, but it’s just a prime example of youth in motion. It’s astounding to look at this mirror of words and see someone so totally different, yet not really. It’s a beautiful thing.

So here’s what I’m thinking of doing: I’m thinking about updating at least 23 of these ‘truths’ daily and give reasons why I chose to do so or not. This is just one of the challenges I’ve set up for myself. The other ‘provocations’ I’ve set up for myself won’t be listed, because they might change as soon as I hit publish on this particular blog post, which is actually already late technically.

I hope whoever reads this joins me in this journey and makes sure I stay on track on it until completion on May 23rd, 2016. It’s also a way for me to make sure I’m writing something everyday for the next 23 days.

In advance, I thank you. And hopefully this birthday will become one for the annals.

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Almost over a year ago, I had a long overdue dinner with two of my closest friends, aka “brothers for life,” and the topic of our 30th birthdays reared its foreboding head up for discussion like an unwanted, single gray hair. Our 30th year on Planet Earth also marked the ten year anniversary of when I met these knuckleheads as the new loner in a popular University of Tennessee, Knoxville dorm, but I digress. At the time of the dinner, both E and Murphy had already cashed in their 20s for a newly minted Big 3-0 membership card. They didn’t look any different than when I first met them ten years prior, except for the expected changes nature and life in general bestows so generally upon us. Throwback sport jerseys, ball caps, and jeans two times wider than our actual waists sizes were replaced with starched dressed shirts, polished shoes, and clean shaven faces. Frank might’ve put on a few pounds, while Eric had become a gym owner’s walking promotional ad for what a dedicated daily workout will do for you and the gym’s business. We’re still young adults, except the emphasis is more placed on the “adult” portion nowadays.

So there we were, three ‘young adults’ conversing on the woeful fact of turning 30. With my own birthday just a little of a month away, listening to E and Murphy discuss the dread before and after their respective birthdays hit sent an Antarctica-sized chill down my spine. It was like listening to a cheesy, but utterly effective, campfire horror yarn, except this story’s psychotic maniac or three-headed monster in the woods was actually Father Time and his annoyingly intimidating attribute/companion called “aging.” Like one of those impressionable campers, I sat gobsmacked as my best friends recounted the countdowns to their respective birthdays with an air of yearning to turn back life’s biological time piece mixed with an uncanny sense of doom. But as always, we tend to

“You can basically kiss your 20s goodbye forever,” Murphy jokingly summed up. “That’s what I can say about turning 30.”

We all laughed at that particular signature blunt response from Murphy, but I noticed that our hearty laughter was tainted with a level of awkward sadness. Our 20s were most definitely over, and soon the remnants of our youth would join them. But was turning 30 really going to be that bad? At first, it actually was. At first.

Initially, there were the standard “woe is me!” thoughts of not being content with my current situation; as well as the constant reminders of what was expected and not accepted of a man in his 30s. These nagging thoughts were followed by sleepless nights due to a restless brain with a tendency to conjure up incidents and events long forgotten, trying to decipher the many crossroads I met and why I decided to take the path that led me to that particular regretful moment in time. A case of the ‘blues’ also settled in, but they were nowhere near the hell I suffered during the bleak period between the end of my high school career and the beginning of my collegiate years. Every random memory and unquiet moment infiltrated my “daily happiness,” showing me my dated years with the bratty cackles of the most nefarious school children. It was as if a ominous switch was suddenly activated and all doors you used to have exclusive access to were placed on permanent lockdown at the stroke of midnight on May 23rd, 2013. Access denied, old man. Access denied.

But then I woke up one blurry morning and asked myself, “Do you want to live? Or do you want to ‘be 30?'”

As soon as the revelatory words left the peripheral of my mind’s eye, I knew then that this was my latest crossroads. It was a simple question, which only required an even simpler answer, one that didn’t need to be mulled over for a day or two. Not even for a second.

The arduous road I chose on that day led me to take formidable risks; fall hard on my ass; get bruised emotionally; and just live for once, which was something I wasn’t really doing before. Yes, I achieved countless victories over the years, but they were to be expected. I never really lived for myself, never followed the path laid out for me. And looking back at my 30th year on Earth… I believed I achieved a lot more than I had done in my previous 29 years.

Since May 23rd of last year I’ve fallen in love (twice); I finally went to New Orleans, on my own accord, and will be in New York City for my birthday; I rediscovered my love for writing fiction and actually loving what I’ve written so far; I came out to my family and friends, and realized that they still loved me no matter what (at least most of them); I came into my own sexually and intellectually, and in the process falling in love with myself for once. It’s that latter monumental event which is the most profound self-discovery that happened within a year’s time. It was where I came to a conclusion that life, no matter what trap or expiration date this fucked up society might have in store for you, doesn’t end at 30. Unless you perceive it to be.

A few weeks ago, E and Murphy met with me again for a movie and, curious, I asked them to summarize their 30th year, the question coming full circle from the previous inquiry I asked almost a year prior. Despite still missing his roaring 20s, Murphy nonchalantly responded, “Eh, it’s not so bad as I thought it was going to be.”

E’s response was similar, “Shit, we’re here. We’re breathing. I’m with my boys. What else could you ask for? I mean, it’s just another year. Same shit, different date.”

As you can see, their answers were a severe drastic change from the belly-aching, depressive dinner we had the previous year, and I would have to agree with them 100%. Life is what you, not some trendsetting hack behind a computer, make it out to be. There aren’t any ominous deadlines you must meet in order to live, love, get married, travel the world, achieve your dream, etc, etc before your 30th birthday. There’s nothing wrong with having life goals, but if you haven’t achieved all of them by the time your 20s have expired, it’s not the end of the world. It will feel like it in some spurts, but trust me, you will snap out of it and will continue on your journey to greatness. That is if you really, really want to.

So to all those who will be turning 3o this year, are leaving their 30th year behind, or are still in that “Oh My God! I’m 30!!!” mind state, I repeat what my consciousness asked me that one grateful morning:

“You can either live, or you can ‘be 30.'” I chose the former, and I feel pretty damn good…