Is it taboo to discuss your age on your blog? If so, I’m engaging in a major faux pas today as I announce that it’s my birthday and I’m turning 40. Woo-hoo! Let’s here it for all the middle age guys out there!
I’ve always heard life starts going down hill after turning 40. I’m not sure why people say that. Is it because the average life span in America is 78, so in the mind of most people, your half way home? Is it because people believe the “fun” times of young adulthood – like partying on spring break or at Mardi Gras – are over?
Or is it perhaps that your body starts to catch up with you as more aches and pains come each morning as you roll out of bed?
Now that I’m here, I’m feeling like I don’t want to buy into the pessimism of what I’ve heard.
Thoughts on Turning 40
In the past year, I’ve done three new and remarkable things:
I completed my first marathon, I oversaw almost all household duties so my wife could finish the CPA exams and her MBA, and I’ve started this blog. I did all this while holding down a full-time job as a teacher. That does not feel like slowing down or going down hill to me. It feels like life’s just ramping up.
I can truly say my 40 years on this earth have been great. I was blessed with a loving family growing up and have carried that same spirit of love forward into my own family. I have been fortunate enough in my life to experience many athletic and academic achievements in high school, to enjoy good health, to travel to some fascinating places, and to teach young people about the Bible, seeing them experience God in special ways.
All that being said, I don’t want to live in the past.
In the summer of 1994, I started dating my wife Kim. We had gone on our first date the week before the semester of college was over. We would be separated for the entire summer as she went back to New Jersey and I stayed in Ohio. In order to stay in touch and not rack up huge charges on long distance phone calls, we would have to write one another letters. (Yes, actual pen and paper letters…no email kiddos.)
During that summer she helped her church’s youth pastor lead the teenagers on a wilderness trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. During one of her first letters to me, she was explaining the preparations they were making and she used a funny word to describe the name the youth pastor had given the trip. He called it “The Advance.”
I have to say I thought that was pretty corny. What they were going on was a basic youth group retreat…to get away from it all…relax and enjoy nature…rejuvenation…solitude…get right with God. To call the trip “The Advance” was just a youth pastor’s cheap trick to try to get the kids excited about going.
But was it a cheap trick?
Think about it for a minute…many of our lives function much like a retreat, don’t they. We take one step forward and two steps back, never gaining any traction. We retreat from challenges, from conflict, from relationships, from spiritual issues, and from our dreams. We retreat into the past to relive fond memories and wish we could have those moments again. We retreat into our mind and emotions and choose to never share those pieces of ourselves with others. We retreat and give ground…we retreat again and fall back…we never move forward.
But when we Advance, our whole mindset and body posture seems to change. We are looking upward and outward. Our energy is creating momentum in the forward direction. We confront life’s challenges and meet enemies like mediocrity, pessimism and doubt head on. We chase new dreams instead of trying to relive the one’s from our youth. We make progress in a purposeful way to improve and develop ourselves. That’s the nature of advancing.
I have come to believe Kim’s youth pastor was on to something when he called the trip an Advance. It’s changes one’s perspective to view life using this term.
If I’m going to make the rest of my life as meaningful as the first 40 years, I need the mind of a soldier about to take a ridge. Move forward…step by step…face what lies ahead…and go for it. I will use my valuable past experiences as reference points, but I’m not going to choose to live in that world. I’m Advancing.
Questions: What are your thoughts on turning 40? Is it depressing? How do you keep yourself from living in the past?
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