Today is my birthday. Now, the word birthday emits varying degrees of emotions of people. Some are nonchalant about it and treat is as just another day. Others experience a debilitating fear as they realize their finite time on the planet is one year closer to coming to a close.
As my 40th year came to a close and the next began creeping in, I noticed more and more the subtle lines on my face becoming more evident and deeper. And as I look back on the past four decades, I can’t help but wonder have the best years passed? Have I plateaued? Are the lines worth it?
It seems there are generally two times a year when a person tends to take a step back and reflects back: New Years and Birthdays.
But there’s a distinct difference between the two. Now, I don’t know about you, but when New Year’s starts rolling around, I start thinking about the past year and the one coming up. I consider the successes I’ve had as well as the failures then start making plans for the year ahead and how I would like to improve and grow.
Birthdays, on the other hand, have a tendency to make me consider my life as a whole. What has my life been all about? Am I at least moving in the direction of the person I ultimately want to become? Am I creating any sort of impact at all?
This is a relatively new concept in my life… reflecting back. Planning for the future, yeah I’ve pretty much always done that- or at least dreamed about what I’d like the future to look like. Planning… that may be a stretch. A majority of my life consisted of me having what I thought was a brilliant idea and then jumping into it for all of about 10 seconds before finding something else that interested me more.
No, but this idea of looking back on my life and finding meaning in how I’ve lived and being at least a little more purposeful in what i do moving forward really only begun a few years ago. Basically, when I started feeling like my life actually had an expiration date.
My dad always said, like I’m sure most dads do, time goes by quicker the older you get. Of course, I’d just roll my eyes and be like “sure, whatever.” But now I’m actually experiencing that very phenomenon.
I turned 40 last year and all of a sudden, I was like holy shit I’m 40 how the hell did that happen? Now, I’m not just 40, I’m IN my forties. And it seems like the pressure is on. It’s time to get shit done; otherwise, I’m going to wake up tomorrow and be 50 Jesus Christ!
Now, I in no way regret the life I’ve lead. I in no way have had a boring life. Have I made mistakes? Done things I’m regretful of and am not proud of – Oh Fuck Yeah! But I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet has those moments. Many are even going through some right now.
While those moments do cross my mind occasionally, I try not to dwell on them.
Instead, I look back and smile at all of the cool shit I’ve allowed myself to do and all of the amazing people I’ve allowed in my life. When I position my recollection that way, then I can honestly tell myself I’m living a fulfilling life.
And one thing I can honestly say is I’ve always been true to myself and followed my heart after my passions. I never let things hold me back in at least trying new things.
It’s when I get in my head about who I wish I was or what I wish owned or what I wish I’d done that I start doubting that my life has had any meaning at all.
The same mentality applies when I start thinking about the future and what I want to make of it. When I start comparing myself to others who I perceive as having a better life, a better job or better shit, that’s when I start thinking my life is really nothing but a big pile of crap.
However, when I think of all of the amazing experiences I’m going to have and the interesting people I have in my life and those I have yet to meet – I’ve got a really fulfilling and meaningful life ahead.
I will probably never have kids. It’s sometimes difficult to say out loud cause I think I’d be a pretty cool dad. But unless God changes how babies are made, it’s probably not going to happen. But I have gotten really close to my youngest sister and her 3 children and I get to be the coolest uncle ever! I have the opportunity to impact their lives.
I’ve started planning a trip to Peru in September where I am going to take a 4 day, 3 night trip up Machu Picchu. How insane is that!
The fact is I’ve lived a pretty incredible life and it’s going to keep getting better.
So, were these lines worth it? I’d say so.
Every line is a memory.
Every line is a lesson.
Every line is a smile and the promise of more to come.
Joshua D. Abel
Men’s Empowerment Network