I turned 50 last month. I know it’s no big deal – even elephants live to 50. Heck, most of the U.S. population makes it past 50.
What was most interesting about my birthday: my kids’ reaction to me turning 50. Actually, not me turning 50, but the fact that “I was young once.” Let me explain.
Christine threw me a small COVID-safe 50th party with my family. My out-of-town parents and siblings, a few of my cousins, and my son Evan came into town. During the party, Christine had slide show pictures of me from my ‘younger days’. The picture below was taken when I was about 19 or 20. (I know it is a little self-indulgent, but there is a point.)
When the kids saw this picture they said, “Whoa, Dad, you used to be a stud.” Key words: used to. More like, ‘what happened to you?’
I don’t feel old. While I don’t feel 19, I also don’t feel 50. What I am talking about here may not resonate. If you are older than me, you look back to when you were my age with a somewhat patronizing smile, inside knowing it’s so silly to reflect about being ‘only 50.’
If you are younger than 50 you probably can’t relate either because you are still hung up on however old you are right now, and frankly, 50 seems old to you.
Therefore we could say that this age thing is meaningless – except when you are young. This year, 2021, is a big year for the Ross family. I turned 50, and then two weeks later Sydney turned 16. Zach turns 18 in August, and Evan turns 21 in September. All of those ages actually mean something. Legally, they get to do things that they didn’t get to do before. Notice I used the word ‘legally.’ But 50 really is meaningless.
As my birthday came and went, it dawned on me that with the blessing of some good genes and a little self-discipline, it’s not a stretch to think that I have at least 30 more vibrant years to travel, entertain, dine out, exercise, be mobile, etc. However, the real question is, “what am I going to do to make those 30 years count”?
That seems like a good question. What am I going to do with those years? Which got me thinking, what did I do with the last 30 years?
Looking back over the past three decades (that statement seems crazy to me), my life was pretty good.
Out of college my then-wife and I traveled, worked, and lived in lots of places. We really did have a lot of fun.
Then we had kids – a whirlwind.
Finally, we moved to Colorado-a brilliant idea.
While not perfect, my life was/is very blessed. Even though I’m not married anymore, I now have an incredible partner – Christine – that spoils me (extra bonus: she is my “Editor-In-Chief” on almost everything I write).
Besides not doing a better job saving, the other thing that stands out to me: I know that I have wasted a lot of time. I am not even sure where that time got wasted. It wasn’t watching TV or surfing the Internet (maybe a little of the latter). It’s definitely not on social media. I do know I could have read more books and been further ahead (whatever that means) in my own life journey.
Here’s what I concluded: when I’m 80, I don’t want to look back and have those same two regrets. Making and saving money aside, I know that traveling and expanding my influence and ability to contribute to others is most important. The last of those include a lot of reading, writing, and thinking. I know I procrastinate and avoid dealing with hard/difficult things. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
At some point I am going to have to choose: keep doing what I have been doing, or, stop wasting time and get clear that there simply is not an infinite supply of time.
Most everything I want to accomplish has no hard deadline. I still want to get my pilot’s license. The list of places I yearn to visit is still much longer than the places I have been. I have several other books I want to publish. And, time-is-a-ticking.
If nothing else, turning 50 – any birthday, really – is a reminder that one more year has passed. There’s one year fewer to do the things I want to do and enjoy the people I love the most. The trick of course is to stay present to these phenomena throughout each year.
I’m not going to make a moonshot promise or guilt others to some call-to-action. I am definitely not here to tell others what to do or judge how they spend their time – we all get to decide that for ourselves. My kids love spending hours on TikTok while I think it’s a complete waste of time. Who’s to say I am right? On the other hand, we all will be faced with the opportunity to look back and evaluate how our time was spent.
I know watching TikTok videos is not how I want to spend the next year. Here’s to a year that counts.