First, here I am in 1989:
(picture by Margarette Rogers)I was nearing the end of college--my undergraduate degree, anyway; I didn't know it at the time, but I would keep going back for sixteen more years until I eventually earned two master's degrees. I cut most of that mass of hair off just a few months later, though frankly I miss it sometimes. I liked having long hair.
Now, fast forward ten years to 1999:
(picture by Heather Dobson)I'd had a beard for most of the previous ten years--though as you can see in the picture from 1989, it was a little sparse when I was younger--but I shaved it off near the end of 1998, and kept it off through half of 1999. (I haven't been beardless since.) This is how I looked when Anna and I met right in the middle of 1999, though by the time of our first date on August 11, I'd grown my beard back. I gave up the contact lenses not too much later, when my astigmatism reached a point where contacts didn't work very well for me. Besides, I look better with glasses anyway.
And here I am, about a year and a half ago, in the middle of 2009:
By this point, I was a full-time stay-at-home dad of one, and a part-time college English instructor. Not a whole lot has changed since this picture was taken, except that now I'm a father of two, and I have even more gray in my hair and beard.
As I write this, I am just three months away from turning 44, twice the age I was in the first picture above. Sometimes I miss the person I was in 1989, half a lifetime ago. You give up things as you get older, like the notion that you've got in you a string of great novels just waiting to come out, or the idea that someday you'll be a well-respected professor at a prestigious university. But after a while, you realize--or, at least, I realized--that it's okay to reach middle age without having published a book, there's still time. And the people teaching at prestigious universities are so busy with grading their students' work and reading the Important Books that they're s'pose to read that they don't have the luxury of reading cool science fiction and fantasy novels (especially the ones with covers by Darrell K. Sweet), lots of Ray Bradbury stories, and books about Zen Buddhism.
So in every way that really counts, I'm better off now, certainly happier, than I ever have been.