…and it feels like you are starting all over again.

You spent the last years of your Austin life looking for bookends to wrap around the first years. You’d throw on a bicycle helmet and tight mesh shirt to whisk away the sweat, and travel all the way to the old neighborhood, then on to Manchaca from your little apartment on the Greenbelt. You’d lurk around in Book People and Whole Foods, hoping that some kind of cosmic grace would align your present and past selves together, and 1999 would again be waiting for you outside the window. But the bookends never came.

Then, one day you woke up in a duplex in Waco that was a lot like the first duplex in Austin. You were married to someone instead of living in sin. But, the neighborhood and air felt eerily similar, and it also felt like you’d finally graduated from some kind of terrible school you just couldn’t quite seem to finish.

This morning, you wake up and see the pudgy, bearded self poking out from under the tight, mesh running shirt, and you are reminded of a picture that was taken at a Halloween party when you were first down in Austin. This was long before you actually started riding a bike again, and you thought with all of the Lance fever in the air it would be hilarious to find an old spandex bicycle outfit from Goodwill, grab a helmet, and apply a bunch of fake blood and bandages all over your face. Some semi-professional photographer had set up a photo booth, and the party host loaned you his bicycle to make the enduring shot most authentic.

The pudgy, unkempt, self in that picture is who you remind yourself of this morning. Not the athletic you that could easily knock off a twenty-five mile round trip on his bike before breakfast.

Of course, you are much grayer and thinner now. But, you still kind of feel as if you are still just starting out in the world, without a clue of what you’re really supposed to be doing next. The happenstance career you command rolls along at a glacial pace. You aren’t really that pleased to see the face you see, but you are too busy with books and work and a brand new marriage to care.

The world is full of the same opportunities in 2012 as it was in the year 2000, which can mean nothing but a true gift from God. You carry with you about the same debt, and after adjusting your income for inflation, you’re making just a little more money to keep you full of beer, barbecue and creature comforts. Thanks to your wife, you have a pass to a local gym that you have yet to use.

You grab the dog and go running up and down the back street of the neighborhood, a single mile round trip when it’s all said and done.