Upon the occasion of my 46th birthday I am in a reflective mood. There is no extra significance to the 46th. It’s not a milestone like 30 or 40, or even 45, but I’m here and thinking about where I am today and felt like sharing. Perhaps this is the midpoint for me. Based on a selective family history, I might well expect to reach my 90’s, but then I could point out quite a few examples that would indicate a much shorter expectancy. I’d rather not turn maudlin, so I’ll just carry on with what I’ve learned, not so much over 46 years, but more in the last few.
I’ve learned to be comfortable with who I am. I’ve learned to be happy where I am and not depend on someone or something else for my happiness. No job, possession, or even person should ultimately determine my happiness. As my friend Elijah recently told me, “Maybe you have to find your own Zen.” Or, as scripture tells me, “I have learned to be content where I am.”
I’ve learned that a few close friends and a family that love me are better than big crowds that don’t even know me. My circle is smaller these days, but it’s stronger. The value of intimate friendship cannot be overstated and should be treasured when you find it. If you have a friend for a season and they walk away, remember the good times fondly and move on.
I’ve learned the love of a good woman will sustain me through pretty much anything. More than 26 years into this marriage I continue to learn that more on an almost daily basis.
I’ve learned that hard work doesn’t hurt and is good for your soul. Even if you work in an office, working with your hands is a good way to connect with a part of you that can go missing and working in the dirt is a reward unto itself.
I’ve learned to value time alone but not to get lost there. I love the spotlight but I realize it gets hot and I need to step aside sometimes and let others take a turn.
I’ve learned to value my parents more. The sacrifices they made for me and the way they loved me become more evident each day. I realize they aren’t as young as I always thought they were and having watched them say goodbye to their parents means I will likely do the same to them one day. I treasure my weekly talks with them and cherish the time we spend together. I’ve learned to think of them more and make sure they know I value them.
I’ve learned parenting doesn’t end when the child moves out, or even moves on to an adult life with a wife of his own. In fact, the ache in your heart is stronger the older they get and the more they become their own person. I am learning to accept a new role but that’s taking some work.
I’ve learned that it is more important to spend your money on experiences and people than things, especially creating experiences with people you love.
I’ve learned just how much it hurts to carry one of your closest friends to his final resting place and how hard it is to walk through the grief with his family, but I’ve also learned how much joy comes from remembering the little bit of time you had together and knowing a buddy went ahead of you to scout a place to rest.
I’ve learned a lot about grace and second second chances but I’ve also learned that there are toxic people that you have to distance yourself from to protect your family.
I’ve learned that the rest of the world isn’t like me and learning about and from other cultures is a revelation. I regret it took me as long as it did to leave my own hemisphere but I intend to leave it a lot more in the future. I realize relating to people who aren’t like me, don’t look like me, don’t think like me, and don’t believe what I believe is good. I’ve learned from them and I hope they can learn from me.
I’ve learned to try not to be a stereotype and to fit no mold. I enjoy that part.
I’ve learned that learning can be fun, uncomfortable, and even painful, but ultimately it is worth it when I learn and grow.
I’ve learned people will let me down, even those close to me. I let them down too. When they do I should forgive them and love them anyway, hoping they will do the same for me.
I’ve learned that my faith is my own. It’s personal because it should be and that doesn’t mean it is customized for my specific beliefs to make me feel better. I’ve learned a personal faith is one that has been tested and accepted by me, not handed down or assumed. It involves a personal relationship with my creator and while I would like you to believe what I believe (because I think it is good) I won’t push it on you, beat you up with it, or get mad at you if you don’t. Your faith has to be personal to you too.
I’ve learned that a friendly debate is difficult because there is a belief that to disagree with someone is to not like them, but I’ve learned that is far from true. I learn more from those with whom I disagree and I appreciate their willingness to challenge me. I hope they feel the same.
I’ve learned honesty is in short supply and finding a person of integrity is like finding gold.
I’ve learned to express my love more, not be ashamed of tears, enjoy the moment, laugh more, tell my family and friends how I feel about them, let my passions show, and find peace in the moment.
Finally, If you’ve made it this far, thanks. I appreciate you