Never accidentally watch softcore porn with your mother and cousin on Easter Sunday and other words of advice from my 20's

I honestly couldn't tell you where I was on the Friday night prior to my 20th birthday. I was probably somewhere in the T-Mobile call center, convincing customers that they didn't want to cancel their cell phone service. I jumped on an opportunity to be one of the first retention agents in the center once they expanded into a second department. By the end of my first year in that department, I had been rated top 10% in the company, I was being sent out across the country to support new centers as they opened, and I was one of only a handful of agents who had ever been received a perfect 5 call (who remembers "WOW" calls?). I remember the site operations manager once stopping me in the hallway and told me I made him look good on a national calibration call. I did things differently and it led to a promotion that would push me to get better in a hobby that I started playing around with, Microsoft Excel. I had originally used it to replace the archaic database I was expected to use. I hadn't liked what they gave me so I built a better one, and it got me noticed.

Don't stifle your creativity. It was one of the lessons my dad taught me when I was 10. That lesson started the day he met me in the principal's office. I had brought a knife to school, so they called him down because I was going to be suspended for 2 weeks. Now before you start talking about me being crazy (I do that enough about myself), let me give you some context. Being an army brat we moved every three years, and my family always road tripped in the van in the most convoluted routes possible to see as much of the United States as we could. Four weeks in a van going from Georgia to Alaska, and three years later we took a different route back to Georgia. In every state we visited, I'd get excited about any gas station we could stop at because I wanted to collect a keychain from every state. I had a 5" metal hoop that I would attach each keychain to, and I had them all organized by the first letter of each state. My fifth-grade social studies teacher asked me to bring the collection in and talk about the country to the other students, most of which hadn't ever been outside of the small, north Georgia town with a population of 2,500. One of the keychains was from Niagra Falls, and it happened to be a mini swiss army knife with a tiny, dull blade. It was more of a crappy nail file, but well within the three-inch provision of the school's knife policy. I hadn't even been thinking about it when I grabbed my keychains because grabbing the collection itself was already a task in itself with how heavy it was from the vast quantity of tiny metal trinkets. But while it was being passed around, the knife was revealed and I found myself in the familiar four walls of the principal's office, only this time they were calling my dad down. With the amount of in-school suspensions, forged notes for acting out, that one time I elbowed a bus driver for grabbing my arm, I honestly wasn't surprised if the principal wasn't anything short of grateful for what my dad said when he was there. "He brought something in that his teacher asked him to bring in, and you tell me that he's got a knife, but it's this tiny thing on a heavy metal brick that couldn't break skin if he tried, but that's not even the issue because it doesn't break any rules, and you want to kick him out of school? Are you kidding me? Call the middle school and tell them I'm driving over there to pick his brother up as well, they aren't coming back."

And that's how I became a homeschooled kid. I was always a little jealous of Brad for that year and a half of middle school, I think it gave him a better head start in life and it's one of the reasons I think he is a little more outgoing than I am. But being homeschooled let me take classes at my own pace, and I usually worked fast so I could have more time to spend on the Super Nintendo or the computer my dad upgraded anytime technology would allow him to. I spent about an hour a day in Encarta, a new digital encyclopedia that replaced our family set of Britannica's. My dad showed me an excitement in technology, and it was just one of those things that made sense to me. I tinkered around on changing out computer components, he showed my how to solder and build a crystal radio. That kind of education wouldn't have been available to me had I stayed within the public school systems of the mid-nineties. I worked through summers and graduated with a 3.8 a few months before I turned 17, and that's when I got my first real job with Brad at the blockbuster down the hill. A year and a half of video rental stores later, and I was the assistant manager of a Hollywood video at 18. Why in the hell would I spend four years getting in debt for college when it's so easy to move up every few years with experience? It made sense to me and a few months later I started the call center career that almost killed me.

So at this point, I was working as hard as I could to get promoted to make more money than I knew what to do with, and that's why I can't think of where I was the Friday night prior to my 20th birthday, it was just another day that got lost in the ho-drum. There are a few that I can recall in my 20's, but more of the time surrounding them. Most of my 21st birthday is vacant in my mind, my 23rd I drank pints of vodka prior to "Weekend at Bernied" out of the bar and getting sick in my friend's WRX. My 25th was a few months following my divorce, so I had scaled back on my drinking following the vast quantities of whiskey I had been drinking for the years leading to the divorce. I was able to find my balance thoughbecause on my 27th birthday I chipped a tooth during a sobriety test that involved a slap fight and a sore cheek. My 29th birthday was the combo-breaker. Coming out of a deep depression, I found myself in school getting ready to make a change so I wouldn't be such a miserable wreck for another decade of my life.

It was really weird when I sat down to write this last nigh. I knew I wanted to write about how it's the last day in my 20's, but for about 4 hours I was actively pulling up memories that I had long since forgotten. It was absolute bliss realizing that in less than a day, I get to start the chapter "Chris Bentley is in his 30's". I was able to summarize a decade of my life with a slightly more experienced version of me, and that led me to realize something I wish would have been told to me.

Nothing is permanent, but that doesn't mean you stop loving. Do what you love with such fervor that it becomes your hatred to the actual process. Once you are so detested with the concept of it, find a way to fall back in love.

A friend I made in my early days of T-Mobile came into the shop yesterday, and it was the first time I had seen him in a little over a year. We talked about what life has been like since last working together at Maximus and he told me that last Tuesday he started his own life-altering journey, and how he had a lot of hard work ahead of him. I was so excited to hear his positive outlook, but I was curious about what was going to keep him motivated. I asked him to start journaling with a method I use. Every day, write down two things you hate about the overall process and one thing you love about it. If you know that your goal is positive and will only help you, after a while, the negativity repeats itself and you find that you're only complaining to yourself, and NOBODY wants to be that guy. You annoy yourself with nit-picking that you're forced to either find solutions or to find your happiness, but either way, you're no longer focusing on the negative because you overcame it. I'm going to be excited to see how he tracks his own story.

I've gone from sitting in my car for 30-minutes at a time debating if I wanted to wake up, to finding joy in the little things. I like where life is taking me because I stopped trusting that other people are going to get me to my destination, I'm building that road for myself.

Chris Bentley in his 30's? Fucking bizarre............

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