“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”
I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!
And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.
Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..
Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.
I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.
Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????
We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.
I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.
When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.
The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.
Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.
Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.
I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.
Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.
I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.
So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.