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February 6, 2013: Richard Zowie turns 40

From A to Zowie

February 6, 2013: Richard Zowie turns 40

By Richard Zowie

Richard at 40

Richard Paul Zowie (as opposed to Richard Lee Zowie, my Dad) at 40

As I drove to work on Friday, February 1, I heard Katy Perry’s song “Wide Awake” on the radio. In the past, I thought Perry’s appeal is more in how she looks than in how or what she sings, but as I listened, the lyrics got my attention.

It gives me a lot to think about today, February 6, on my 40th birthday.

February 6, 1973 seems like a thousand years ago, and it’ll probably take a few weeks to realize that I’m not in my thirties anymore.

In Perry’s song, these three sets of lyrics gave me much to think about…


I’m wide awake/Yeah, I was in the dark/I was falling hard


And now it’s clear to me/That everything you see/Ain’t always what it seems/I’m wide awake/Yeah, I was dreaming for so long


I wish I knew then/What I know now/Wouldn’t dive in/Wouldn’t bow down/Gravity hurts/You made it so sweet/’Til I woke up on/On the concrete

For me, the song represents the continued maturing I’ve gone through as an adult as I further lose my innocence regarding certain areas of my life. We develop an increased awareness as we gain more experiences, observe and process it all. At 18, I knew everything about life. At 40, I know I still have a lot to learn but experience flickers of wisdom. Truth might be simple, but the world is a very complicated place.

Granted, I don’t agree with my parents on everything, but I will say this: my parents both were born into poor families during the Great Depression and had high school educations and some vocational training, and they have far more wisdom than many people I’ve met who have master’s degrees. (One Army soldier I knew had an economics degree from a southern university but could neither budget nor even balance his own checkbook).

But, you live and you learn.

One certain person has always asserted to me that a person is wiser and has better insight if they have more life experiences. I don’t agree. If you don’t learn from your life experiences, then you’re not wiser. All you will be good at is in making terrible decisions. Those who learn or who consistently make good decisions are to be revered instead.

The beginning of my forties bring to mind the ending of a relationship for me. When you’re in a relationship, it is easy to view things through a heart-shaped lens of love and assume that no matter what, love will save the day. But the truth is, when things are ending, such as my marriage, you tend to look back more objectively and see mistakes on both sides. You see which mistakes of yours are fixable and then wonder: what would a relationship would be like if I fix my shortcomings but also have someone who treats me with love and respect?

What would 40-year-old Richard Zowie say if he could travel back to 1991 and talk to 18-year-old Richard Zowie?

One: Don’t be in such a hurry to get married. When you are ready, the right woman will show up. Worry about college and getting set up in a good job first. I’ve seen lots of people enter into storybook marriages…and then into nasty divorces. Besides, the twenties (particularly the early twenties) are a stage where we are still learning to be adults. Unless you have matured, know who you are and what you want and understand the responsibilities of marriage, it’s not a good time to get settled.

My mother told me once that you should date a person for at least a year before you even consider marriage. The first six months, she said, are the newness stage. After that time you and your significant other start to see each other in natural light. That’s when you each must ask: is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?

Two: Get a good education and a well-paying job. Getting out and doing different things can give you a clearer perspective of what you really want to do.

Three: Develop self-confidence, self-respect and assertiveness. If you lack these things, people will walk all over you in life. Trust me: I have learned the hard way. My sons appear well on their way to not going down that same route as I did, thankfully. When I was 18, I thought you had to punch somebody’s lights out if you wanted to be taken seriously. Turns out, all you really have to do is be assertive, firm, and look the person in the eye. When people sense a vibe that you are willing to stand your ground, they tend to walk away. My late Aunt Margaret, for example, was a quiet, serious lady. But, with her approach, she received lots of respect.

And, finally, these lyrics from Perry’s song:

“I’m wide awake/Not losing any sleep/I picked up every piece/And landed on my feet…Need nothing to complete myself, no…Yeah, I am born again/Out of the lion’s den/I don’t have to pretend/And it’s too late/The story’s over now, the end…”

(A shorter version of this column appeared in the February 6, 2013 issue of the Genesee County Herald)

Richard Zowie grew up in Beeville and now works as a writer in Michigan. His e-mail is fromatozowie@gmail.com, and his blog is at www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com.

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