Thursday, December 06, 2007


Ok, I’m up now. Almost 1:30 p.m., and I’m up and about. It is not the first, or second or even third time I have been up today, but this time I’m staying up. Sleep has been a dubious luxury of late… my time has been stretched to the limit, but for now I am caught up. There is more coming - there’s always more coming, but for now I can take a little breather. Maybe I can get my equilibrium back. Perhaps tonight I can get to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep all the way through the night.

It’s a rainy, gloomy and wet December day in Sacramento. I have only two essays, a take home final, a photography portfolio and a column (this column) left to complete before I graduate with honors from California State University, Sacramento with a bachelor of arts degree in government-journalism. December 22 will be the pinnacle of a quest that has taken me to places both far and wide - figuratively and literally. It has been a quest that has spanned no less than 25 years. Today I turned 45.

Milestones such as these are cause for reflection and these sleepless nights are due in part, I am sure, to some of that. However, with the rapidly approaching conclusion of my undergraduate career, it is also a time to look forward. It is a time for optimism, but with uncertainty comes a certain degree of trepidation. I have been comfortable these past few years. Indeed, I know how to be a student. (Some may say it’s about time, but that’s a story for another time.) This uncertainty isn’t limited to my own future and where my path will lead me next - indeed, there are a multitude of good ideas and only a handful of bad - but in many respects it is spawned by a general restlessness that can be felt throughout the world.

Closer to home, there is an upcoming presidential election. Our nation is in dire need of competent leadership. This time there are more candidates than I can ever recall running and I cannot say that any of them is giving me much hope. We are in the midst of a housing crisis the magnitude of which, the experts say, is unprecedented - and the worst is yet to come. The nation is polarized based of false ideology where the most significant difference between Republicans and Democrats is how they spell their party’s name. And then there’s that pesky little undeclared war that has claimed nearly 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and maimed countless others.

More than entering the work force to begin yet another career, I am asking myself what I can do beyond making a living. In 45 years, I have seen some bad times and I have seen some good. The nation and the world are at the same time both better off and worse. We have taken a thousand steps forward in places and in others our feet have remained firmly anchored in cement. The United States has grown more powerful and prosperous than any other nation in recorded history - and in record time. I have seen nations built and borders dissolve, heroism and tyranny, compassion and cruelty. The question still remains: What can I do?

Although the answer isn’t anywhere near crystal clear, one piece of it absolutely is - write about it. If not for those of us running the show today, perhaps for our children who will be steering us tomorrow. For our grandchildren who will be paying for our foibles and for anyone who is a seeker, thirsty for perspective, hungry for knowledge - the words, others and mine, will be there. We did not achieve what we have due to our own brilliance. It came from the generations upon generations of our predecessors. Where we gleaned their knowledge and wisdom, we have thrived and where we have failed to study their mistakes, we have failed miserable.

What can I do? Maybe it means nothing today, but perhaps my children, my grandchildren and countless generations of successive great grandchildren will benefit from my experience written here and elsewhere. By myself and by others. By the scribes, the philosophers, the thinkers and the journalists.

Maybe they will read what I wrote.

On this wet, rainy, gloomy December day in Sacramento.

On my 45th birthday, 6 December 2007.


OldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Dear Mike....A VERY VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, my dear!
I milestone reached through hard earned times both good and bad....I so agree with you about, What Can I Do...Or in your case, "What Can You Do?" And writing; expressing oneself; encouraging others to speak up and state what they feel and their views---Is a great way to create a legacy, which is something you are doing and have been doing for quite a while! And this blog and ALL the other writing that you do, advances your ideas each time you put 'pen to paper', so to speak...!
CONGRATULATIONS on this Birthday and on your coming graduation...Indeed, a fantastic accomplishment! You are an inspiration, Mike! A true inspiration!

Theo said...

happy birthday, young one.

awareness said...

Blowing warm birthday wish kisses down to you from c-c-c-c-cold Canada, Mike. Happy Birthday.

You've written a beautiful reflective piece on your 45th birthday and on the eve of your graduation.... one that is a springboard to now and beyond! Writing is in your soul Mike, and when one lives outward from there, the passion in what you do shines.

I'm thrilled that I have been able to read along the last year and a half of this part of your journey. Like Naomi, I have felt inspired by your pursuits and by what you have shared with us.

As they say in the Maritimes, I wish "the very best buddy fella." Now, go get some sleep!! You've got a couple of weeks to go!!


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Happy, Happy Birthday! The same day as my husband's birthday!

May your year be one of joy, comfort and growth.

Finally, I posted something on my blog admiting my age! It was difficult.

Ellen said...

A very Happy Birthday to you, my friend.... and many more to come!

I will be in touch by e-mail soon.... sorry I can't come by more often..... I'm having my own private "superbowl" season with parties up the ying/yang.

Take care and keep up all the good work.... you are a voice of our generation, and I am proud to know you, and proud to read your work.

mckay said...

feel, think, write, live and write some more. your words are a gift to your family - those alive and those not yet born. your words are also a gift to yourself, hmm?

i hope your day was everything you wanted, needed and then some. happy birthday to my big bud, sam.


Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday...I'm glad you were born, as your writing has been a gift to us all! :)

kenju said...

Since I didn't make it here until after midnight, I shall have to say belated happy birthday, Mike. I hope it was truly memorable!

flleenie said...

Happy 45th Mike!

CyberKitten said...

Excellent post - as I have come to expect from you.

The very best of wishes on your Birthday. 45 isn't so bad. Been there, done that, lived through it. [grin].

Here's to the next 45 years. It's going to be one heck of a ride!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Michele sent me back to you tonight to say A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Mike, one more time!
Do you feel any different since turning 45 two days ago? (lol)

d sinclair said...

Hello Mr Altman, Michelle sent me...

Happy 45th!

Your writing is really powerful - why worry about 'making a living'? Just live - and please keep on writing. Money will come, be sure of it.

joy to you! d

Bobkat said...

Happy belated Birthday!

As ever you have expressed some of the things that haunt my consciousness as times too. Particulalry as I approach the end of my MBA and a year ahead as a divorcee. things like this are always a time for contemplation. It's natural to feel this way I know.

I have a feeling that you will be just fine!

Jerry in Tampa said...

Happy Birthday Mike! May you have the best in health, happiness and propserity!

Jerry in Tampa

Lee Ann said...

So sorry I missed it.
I hope it was great.
Good luck with your graduation.
Hope your holiday season is going good so far.

Unknown said...

Dear Mike--I am SO glad that you left a comment on my blog to let me know you are 45!! Happy BIRTHDAY! WOW, you must be very proud to not only have graduated and finished the 25 year plan, but to have graduated with honors--that's just beautiful.

As you know, I have been taking time off from blogging--mostly from depression and from the physical pain from last November's surgery, but also because I just didn't know what to write about.

Now, I want to start writing as Marcy Peanut again, but, as you know, when I switched to the Google version of Blogger, they (Blogger) melded all three of my blogs together. In other words, my avatar for all three blogs is now Bhakti. I have no idea where my Marcy Peanut avatar went! I would like to contact blogger and ask them how I can get my Marcy Peanut avatar back, since I wish those words to be written under the quise of Marcy--mostly since I related so much to Marcy from Peanuts.

Well, back to you---I would have to agree that our country is in need of dire repair. Lately, I have been having this thought that China will overthrow us in the next 20 years. Now, I am reading a book called "The Middle Way" and right in the first chapter, the writer talks about how China will most definately take over the world if we don't start looking out for ourselves (and if we don't stop borrowing so much frickin' money from them!).

Well, I am a strong believer that things will play out the way they are supposed to. I also believe in free will. It's difficult to explain this dichotomy in thinking, since it seems so paradoxical; but it's not, really.

To say it plainly--everything is cyclical. Things go round and round in a circle.

After the Muslim extremists and the Christian fundamentalists/American Imperialists totally dismantle the world as we know it--well, the next stage in this cycle of life will be the age of enlightenment.

I know we'll meet again there...

For now, please ride my buttocks to start blogging more. I need to have a purpose and an audience, or I'll just make excuses not to write anymore.

Kathleen Jennette said...

Missed your birthday! Hope it was a great one and yes, one to be celebrated! Every birthday is a miracle and blessing... So I hope you celebrated, and continue to celebrate with gusto!

Belizegial said...

Mike, happy birthday! You're almost at the goal post and congrats are in order.

I am in the direct polar opposite position. Just relearning how to be a student and at the start of my quest for an MBA.

Every time I visit here, I gain new courage to continue on this journey.


craziequeen said...

Belated happy birthday, Mike :-)

Hope that, after a couple of days, you have grown into '45'.

So many people offer me advice on birthdays and often trot out that platitude 'it's just a number'.

Michele sent me to say each number is a mnilestone, and each milestone is a life marker.


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Just stopping by to say hello and wish you a happy holiday, Mike.

hope your days are filled with light.