Favorite Films – The 80’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started earlier this week. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last blog focused on my favorites from the 1970’s and this one will feature the 1980’s.

I have a feeling that there will be more movies per year for me to pick from in this decade.

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1980 was a year for sequels.  Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason returned for another adventure in Smokey and the Bandit II, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker faced off in The Empire Strikes Back, and Christopher Reeve was back as Superman in Superman II. We were first introduced to Jason in the first of many installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Queen provided the theme song for the film Flash Gordon.  A few years before he was dealing with a Delorean, Robert Zemeckis directed Kurt Russell and Jack Warden in Used Cars. Jack Nicholson yelled “Here’s Johnny!” in the Shining and Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin dreamed of knocking off their boss in Nine to Five.

I mentioned in the last blog that I had a feeling it would be more difficult to pick just one movie per year as I headed into the 80’s.  That was proven to be true as I looked over the movies for 1980 and saw three of my all-time favorites were released.  ANY three of these could easily be my one pick for the year for the following reasons (1) all three of them have an amazing cast (2) all three of them are funny (3) all three of them are all full of great movie lines!  I want to break the rules and make this a three way tie!  Alas, I have to pick just one.

The first runner up – Caddyshack. Such a funny movie that is quoted every day on golf courses all across the country!  Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all combine their talents to make this such a funny movie!  Second runner up – The Blues Brothers. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are Jake and Elwood Blues.  It is a comedy of epic proportions and has one of the best soundtracks ever.  Also, very quotable.

The pick for my favorite, though, has to be THE most quoted movie of the ’80s – Airplane!  “I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley!”

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Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hayes and SO many more!  The Zucker Brothers brought us this comedy, a direct rip-off of a film called Zero Hour (look for the comparison on YouTube), and it is a joke after joke laugh riot.  Having serious actor say these comedy lines straight makes the line even more funny!  The scenes with “Johnny” are worth the price of admission!

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1981 brought us some great films.  Some of my favorite action movies from ’81 include Burt Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine, and Sylvester Stalone and Billy Dee Williams in Nighthawks. Adventure films included stop-action creatures from Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans and our introduction to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark (the face melting scene still creeps me out!).

1981 was full of comedies, some better than others (Remember Ringo Starr’s Caveman?!).  Dudley Moore was brilliantly funny in Arthur.  The Muppets return for fun in The Great Muppet Caper.  Chevy Chase, Dabney Coleman, and Nell Carter appear in the underappreciated Modern Problems.  George Hamilton plays dual roles in a film I recently blogged about, Zorro The Gay Blade.  Not his best, but I still laugh at Jerry Lewis’ Hardly Working.  And Mel Brooks offered up History of the World Part I (and left many of us longing for Part II).

Stripes starring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis comes in as a close second here.  It could easily be THE favorite for this year.  It is still funny today, and I find myself quoting it often.  Just edging it out as my favorite is The Cannonball Run.

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Burt Reynolds leads an all star cast in the race across the country!  Silly fun and many funny lines.  Dom Deluise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Farrah Fawcett, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Roger Moore, Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Tillis, and so many more star in this comedy, which will always remain one of my favorites!

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In 1982, Sylvester Stallone introduced us to Rambo in First Blood while Harrison Ford starred in Blade Runner (which finally just recently got a sequel).  ET phoned home, Sean Penn was stoned out of his mind in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Scott Baio had super powers in Zapped!  Airplane II: The Sequel recycled some old jokes and was not as good as the original.  Michael Keaton drove Henry Winkler crazy in Night Shift.  Creepshow was creepy (and had a cool cameo from Stephen King).  A favorite from this year is Steve Martin’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which is shot in black and white and Steve interacts with old movie stars.

My top pick for 1982 has got to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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I didn’t care for the first Star Trek film, but this one was excellent.  Again, we have the original cast back on the Enterprise.  This film goes back to the original series for a tie in.  Ricardo Montalban played the character on the series and now, years later, he finds Kirk and plans to get his revenge.  It is a great story, and the film has a powerful ending.  The best of the entire series in my opinion.  Montalban is just amazing in this movie!

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The scene with William Shatner screaming “Khan!” – how can you not love it?

1983

I can already sense the backlash I am going to get for my pick from this year, please remember this is MY list and not yours!

In the comedy category, 1983 had Michael Keaton stepping in for Teri Garr in Mr. Mom. Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, and Mr. T are a riot in DC Cab while Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis) get their first feature film in Strange Brew. Dan Aykroyd takes on “mom” in Doctor Detroit while Rodney Dangerfield takes on his mother-in-law in Easy Money.  1983 also introduced us to the Griswold family as they make their trip to Walley World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

The Skywalker’s were back for the third part of the original trilogy in Return of the Jedi, while Christopher Walken woke from a coma with psychic powers in The Dead Zone.  And who can forget Al Pacino’s thrilling performance in Scarface?  My pick for favorite of this year is a holiday classic – A Christmas Story.

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So why this film?  Because it remains one that I faithfully watch every Christmas.  Who can’t relate to the way the Parker boys feel as Christmas approaches?  While it is set in the 1940’s, their excitement mirrors what every child feels during the holidays.  It’s a classic!  I had the chance to see the Christmas Story house this year (and blogged about it) and it was fun to walk through.

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As I looked over my list from ’84, I once again see more comedies than other genres.  Eddie Murphy went to Detroit to film Beverly Hills Cop, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis took on the spiritual realm in Ghostbusters. Michal Keaton and Joe Piscopo are mobsters is Johnny Dangerously.  We meet the first batch of recruits in the first Police Academy movie, while Cannonball Run II fell flat, despite a great cast. Sight gags and puns galore were seen with Val Kilmer in Top Secret, and we first met Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie.

1984 was the year the Detroit Tigers last won a World Series.  I will never forget the excitement of that series or the season that led up to it. Perhaps that is why my favorite flick from 1984 is The Natural.

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Robert Redford is Roy Hobbs and he is an amazing ball player.  The film is based on a 1952 book by Bernard Malamud.  (Spoiler, in case you haven’t seen it) In the book, Hobbs strikes out at the end.  However, in the movie, there is an amazing homerun that knocks out the lights and sparks fly all over the place – one of my favorite endings!

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“Knock the cover off the ball ….”

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My list of favorites from this year is not too long.  Not that there weren’t some great films released, because there were, but many of them didn’t make an impact on me.  I enjoyed the James Bond film A View to a Kill (Roger Moore as Bond), Harrison Ford in Witness, and Chevy Chase as Fletch.  The “Brat Pack” film The Breakfast Club was released with your “stereotypical high school teens”. The Goonies was one I watched once. It was ok, but I didn’t see the hype that everyone else did.  As stupid as it was, Transylvania 6-5000 always made me laugh.  Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., John Byner, Geena Davis, and Michael Richards are all part of the cast, and there are some funny (and some very dumb) scenes.

Who would have thought that a board game could inspire a very funny film?  Clue came out in 1985 and had three different endings (it varied on wherever you saw it).  Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Madeline Khan, Michael McKean, Eileen Brennan, and Lesley Ann Warren play the various people from the game and it is just a blast to watch.  This easily could be my pick, but there is one film that stands out far above the rest.

As someone who always loved stories about time travel, I was hooked immediately by the trailer for Back to the Future. It remains one that I can watch over and over today.

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There is just SO much to love about this film!!!  Great story.  Great characters (and a great cast).  Comedy.  Suspense.  Good music and a cool car that when it hit 88 miles per hour, you saw some “pretty serious sh*t!”

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1986 really doesn’t have a stand out film for me.  I enjoyed Top Gun with Tom Cruise (it also has a sequel coming out).  Little Shop of Horrors was an ok movie (Steve Martin as the dentist is a high light).  Tough Guys had some good scenes, but with big stars like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, I expected more. One Crazy Summer had some funny scenes, but wasn’t a laugh out loud riot.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was good.  I loved the premise of this kid skipping school and doing all that he did … and still making it home before his folks found out (what kid didn’t want to do what Ferris did?!).

The only film that stands out to me from 1986 is one that you may question.  It gets the my pick as favorite for sentimental reasons.  The Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.  I don’t care how many times El Guapo yells “It’s a sweater!”, I laugh!  But that is not why I picked this one.  Back when my oldest son was just diagnosed with autism, we were watching this movie.  There is a scene where the Amigos are sitting around a campfire and they begin to sing the song “Blue Shadows”.  My son walked to the TV and just stared.  He loved that song.  At that time, we had no idea if he would ever really speak more than a few words.  He would watch this scene over and over! I even have it on my iPod because it makes me think of him.

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After the song, we used to have to wait for the turtle to say “Goodnight, Ned” before we had to rewind that scene.

1987

1987 offered up some classics.  Who wasn’t freaked out by the rabbit scene in Fatal Attraction? Even though you saw it coming, you cried when Richie Valens died in La Bamba. Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World was given new life on the radio thanks to Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. “Nobody gets outta here without singing the blues” is one of my favorite lines from Adventures in Babysitting.  Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks team up for a Dragnet movie that misses the mark.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson first teamed up for Lethal Weapon and Kevin Costner played Elliot Ness in The Untouchables.  We also enjoyed the fairy tale The Princess Bride and Mel Brooks parodied Star Wars and space movies with Spaceballs (“We Break for Nobody!”

If you loved Airplane, but have never seen Amazon Women on the Moon, you need to.  It’s as silly as Airplane and has some very funny scenes.  For years, I’ve joked that I’d like my funeral to be like a roast.  I said I would want people to share funny stories about times we shared together.  In this film, there is actually a funeral that is a roast – with a dias that includes Steve Allen, Slappy White, and other comedy greats!

My 1987 favorite goes to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

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This is just one of the best John Hughes films.  You get every emotion watching this film.  There are times that are laugh out loud funny and there are times where you are wiping tears from your eyes.  Steve Martin and John Candy are just great together.  This film makes me miss John Candy.  He was such a great actor.

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In 1988 Dirty Harry returned in The Dead Pool, Tom Hanks wished he was Big, and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were Coming to America.  Bruce Willis starred in the first Die Hard and Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice.  I was impressed by the interaction between humans and cartoons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and (as a Monty Python fan) loved John Cleese and Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda.

With my favorite movie that kicked off this decade (Airplane), it should come as no surprise that my pick from 1988 is The Naked Gun starring Leslie Nielsen.

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Shortly after Airplane, the Zucker brothers created Police Squad.  It was a short lived TV show starring Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin.  It aired just 6 episodes.  The show is the premise for the movie.  George Kennedy replaced Alan North and OJ Simpson (pre-murder trial) also starred.  Ricardo Montalban plays the villain in this and is just great.  Not as many lines as Airplane, but just as funny!!

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1989

As I come to the last year of this decade, I am faced with the same issue I had with the first year.  I have many favorites from this year and wonder just how I can pick only one movie as a favorite!

Comedies included Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights, Weird Al Yankovic starred in his first film UHF, John Candy was Uncle Buck in another John Hughes film, and Charlie Sheen was Wild Thing in Major League (“Just a bit outside!”).  Bernie is dead, but he still has quite an adventure in Weekend at Bernie’s. Jack Palance plays a wonderful bad guy in Tango and Cash and the Griswold’s host Christmas in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And I can’t forget to mention that Doc Brown and Marty McFly return in Back to the Future II (which some people hate because it goes back and forth from time to time – but that’s what I love about it! That, and the fact that they reshot original scenes from Part I and then had the characters interact within that scene.)

Two films that really stand out from 89 are not comedies, but adventure movies.  The runner up for my favorite is Tim Burton’s Batman.  As a fan of the 1966 Batman, I was excited to see how this film would be portrayed.  Michael Keaton played Batman and I thought he did ok.  Jack Nicholson as the Joker was amazing!  I loved his interpretation of the character (though I still believe Cesar Romero is the best).  It was really well done.  This brings me to my favorite film of 1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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In the Indiana Jones series, I always felt this was the strongest of them all.  Harrison Ford is again great as Indy, but his father, played by Sean Connery, steals the scenes.  I can easily see my dad and I fighting with each other like these two do if we ever were off on an adventure like this.  I just love their interactions with each other.  They are both just perfect in this film.  The final scene is also just a picture perfect ending!

So with that, let’s ride into the sunset.  When we return, let’s dive into the 90’s, ok?

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Thanks for reading!

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31 Years Ago

The year is ….

1988

  • Ronald Reagan is President of the United States.
  • It cost 24 cents to mail a letter.
  • A gallon of gas was 91 cents.
  • The Washington Redskins beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII
  • The Winter Olympics were held in Calgary.
  • The average yearly salary was $24,500.
  • The LA Dodgers beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

1988 movies included Rain Man, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Big, A Fish Called Wanda, and ….

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1988 music included:

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…and Sweet Child O’ Mine from Guns ‘N Roses, too!

It was also a very special year for me …

Always an Abe!

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I was reminded by Facebook’s “Memories” feed that it was 31 years ago this week that I graduated from Lincoln High School. (25 years later – to the day – I would graduate from college.) It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. Some days I can’t remember where I put my car keys, but I can remember graduation day like it was yesterday!

The ceremony always happened outside, unless it rained. If it rained, less people from your family could attend, because it was moved indoors to the auditorium. Luckily, the weather cooperated June 9, 1988, and we walked the stage outside in the stadium. The band performed some songs prior to things getting started. As a senior, we played through most of them. I remember conducting a number – it was called Tin Pan Alley. That is a memory I will never forget.

At the required time, the seniors left the band to go line up to walk in (to Pomp and Circumstance). I will always remember in the days leading up to graduation, sitting in band class and the seniors having to “sit out” during a number because we weren’t going to be there when they played it. Sitting in class listening to Pomp and Circumstance while the underclassmen played it was weird. It was then that I knew exactly how the seniors the year before felt when they had to listen while we played it.

I remember someone telling me that your senior year will go fast – they were right. There were times I wish there was a pause button. It was my favorite year of high school hands down. Our football team was undefeated. I had a solo in the marching band show. I went to all the dances and the prom. I got my first new car and spent many hours with my friends driving around listening to mix tapes I had made.

Things I Miss Most

It’s 31 years later and there are times I wish I could go back. There are so many things I miss about high school:

Friday Night Football Games. Yes, I miss playing in the Halftime Show, but I also miss watching our boys win! My classmates were always out their playing hard, and as I said, were undefeated my senior year. Coach Jim Benefield was the BEST! Hands down.

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Movies in Class. Whenever you walked into a class and saw the TV and VCR, you were instantly excited. Even if it was some dumb educational film, it was a welcome event!

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School Holidays. Winter Break! Christmas Break! Extra days surrounding other holidays! We had a lot of extra time off! And who can forget Summer Vacation?! In some countries, extra days off and built in vacation time is looked at as a must. Productivity in those countries are high and workers are happy. Sadly, once you graduate, you seem to work to death and often have to fight to get time off! I miss those holidays!!

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Yearbooks. There was a time where you didn’t know what your picture looked like until the teacher passed them out. 9 times out of 10, mine came out looking terrible. Even Picture Retake Day didn’t help! There are plenty of bad yearbook pictures of me! There are also plenty of other kids with bad yearbook pictures. Today, I love sitting back and reading the things people wrote in my yearbook.

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Less Responsibilities. This holds true for most adults. We tend to look back at the days of ‘freedom”. Who wouldn’t want to be in a position to not worry about whether or not you have enough money to pay bills?!

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Working While Going to School. My first job was at a boat marina. They worked around my crazy band and school schedule. I don’t remember the hourly rate, but I do remember getting a check for $150-$250 every two weeks. It was like “mad money”. I used it to buy albums, tapes, books, and gadgets. I really had no bills, and a teenager rarely saves money.

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Passing Notes. Long before texting, we used to write notes and pass them back and forth in classes and in the hallways. Sometimes, I’d get caught passing one in class. I did most note passing in the hallway. Many times it was just stupid gossip, a drawing, or the “Do you want to go to the dance – check yes or no” type note. Some folks even got real creative about the way the notes were folded, too!

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Lockers. I am sure my locker partner, Joe (who was always good at numbers), can remember our locker combination! I remember it was outside the library, under the clock, on the second floor. I rarely used it after freshman year. I kept most of my books in the band room or in a backpack. A lot of girls decorated the inside of their lockers, and on game days, they often decorated the lockers of the football players. I think my locker was basically a storage place for whatever I didn’t want to take home.

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Less Technology. I’ll be the first to admit that I am connected to my phone today. But, back in school, we weren’t connected to it. We talked to people. We had to use the card catalog to find books and encyclopedias to write reports. We used maps. We watched film strips! We had to thread the film projector. We rewound tapes to listen to a song again. Yeah, technology is great, but there were advantages to not having it too.

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Field Trips. You had to have your permission slips! I never did the Washington DC trip. I did do a Florida Trip to Disney. I also loved those little trips to places like the Detroit Science Center or Cranbrook. I remember having my mom chaperone a couple times. Field trips were probably more frequent in elementary and middle school, but the ones in high school were always great fun!

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Young Love. As you flip through a yearbook, you can often see those high school romances (the ones that lasted, and the ones that didn’t). I know a few people who married their high school sweetheart and they are still together!! That’s amazing! With young love comes hurt in many cases. I witnessed that at a prom I DJ’d recently. I remember seeing this guy sitting on the floor with his face in his hands and I thought, “I know how you feel, pal.”

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Dances/Prom. It wasn’t until high school that I even attended a dance. It always seemed like it was just me and a few friends going to get out of the house. We never danced with anyone, we sat and talked and listened to the music. We walked around and drank that really crappy punch that always seemed to be the drink provided. I remember going to Homecoming with a gal who asked me. I had no idea even how to dance! After that night, though, I realized dancing with girls was a whole lot more fun than sitting eating those stale mints and drinking that punch! I remember using some of the money I was making at that boat job to rent a tux and go in on a limo for the fancier dances.

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Teachers. No surprise here. Go back and read some of the many blogs I have written about the teachers I had in high school. They were the best! Mr. Shaner, Mr. Benefield, Mr. Balos, Mr. Yanoulaki, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Beltz, Mr. Harvey, the list goes on and on. I am friends with many of them on Facebook. I am also friends with other teachers who I never had in class, but always respected and made an impact on me. I was lucky to know them in high school – and after!

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Friends. My core group of friends and I have pretty much stayed in touch since high school. With My Space and Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with those I lost touch with. That’s one thing about technology that I am ok with. A downside to this is that since we all are connected on Facebook, our chances of a real reunion probably won’t happen (Not that we ever really had one – we didn’t. We tagged along with the Class of ’89 once, but nothing official for my class.) What was great about high school is that you always saw your friends every day. It was always extra cool when they were in the same class as you. The ones that weren’t, you couldn’t wait to meet them in the hall to tell them about something silly that happened or to plan something for after school. I miss that, but at the same time, when I am finally able to hook up with a friend on the phone or on social media, I enjoy picking up where we left off.

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The Future. In high school, the future seemed so unclear. There were infinite possibilities. Your career path had not been chosen yet. There was a blank canvas for you to paint on. You had so many choices. You were in control over what you did next. The future was bright and it was something to look forward to. I’m not saying that 31 years later, I have no future, I do. It’s just different to look at it and know that the future is a bit more narrow since there is a lot less time ahead of me. I can still look ahead and know that there are a lot of good things awaiting me. I still look forward to the future, but I am looking at it through eyes that have seen more than an 18 year old. I have experienced more hurt. I have seen more cruelty and negativity. I have seen more dishonesty and hatred. I have lived through much difficulty. I look at the future a bit more cautiously now than I did at 18. I am smarter now, I hope.

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Final Thoughts

Would I love to go back to the days of my youth? Would I love to have less responsibility, no bills, and have more time to just have fun? Yes. Without a doubt! However, if I were to go back to those days, I would live through some hurtful times, through depression, and shame. I would likely make some of the same bad decisions. I would make the same mistakes, maybe more.

Truth is, if I had the opportunity to go back and change things, I probably wouldn’t. Anyone who has watched Back to the Future or any time travel movie knows that all it takes is one small change to change everything else in the future. Would I like to go back and erase embarrassing moments? Would I like to go back and take back words I said in anger? Would I like to correct a mistake? Sure. But if I did that, it changes where I am today.

Yeah, I went through some real crappy times, but they all brought me to where I am today. Today, I am a happily married man. I have an amazing wife. I have two wonderful sons. I have some of the most amazing friends. I have a loving family. Life is good. Why would I want to change it?

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