So I turned 40, which I guess deserves a bit of reflection. All in all, it doesn’t seem so bad and, as they say, certainly better than the alternative. I will say that age has maybe taught me a bit about life and maybe happiness obtained from living it. If blessed with forty more years, I expect to revise and hopefully learn more lessons along the way. But, these are a few brief observations and conclusions I have reached at this point in my journey.
I have learned to be a little more comfortable with my own quirks over the years to be a bit more content to be myself with less worry about how things are perceived by everyone around me. There does seem to be a bit of truth to the saying that “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” We are all works in progress. Hopefully, we are all trying to become the best versions of ourselves possible. With this imperfection being a universal truth, letting how others perceive you take up much of your attention is a poor use of time. It seems more important to be honest, as long as that honesty is not simply an effort to draw attention to yourself or obtain a reaction from others.
I have learned that human nature is such that all too many of the people we interact with on a daily basis are most interested in how any interaction with others can benefit themselves personally. Whether some direct benefit is on their mind or they are simply perceiving you might be able to help them in some way down the road, people who are truly your friends without this return on investment are few in number. However, you cannot let this prevent you from still trying to be kind to other people and to help them as best you can. Happiness in life seems to be being as good to others as you can in spite of the fact many will inevitably not remember it and/or will not readily return the favor. This is just human nature, and it seems to me that age teaches you that you cannot let it bother you in the least or be used as an excuse to quit treating people in general as you want to be treated. True friendships will be few in number, but you have to keep on trying to treat others as you would like to be treated with the understanding those few true friendships will be valuable diamonds discovered along the way and are definitely worth all of the effort.
I have hopefully learned that simply being around and influencing your children, spouse, and other family is much more fulfilling that I ever imagined when I was young. You start out in early adulthood wanting to change the world. But, that drive is thinking of big things or events that you can accomplish and often considers little about how family can fit into this equation. Only with a little age do you begin to realize that the single largest impact any of us can hope to leave to influence the world positively will be in our children and other family members. I am still enough of an idealist that I have not lost my desire to have a positive impact on things through my career path and in other areas. But, you will have struck a poor bargain, if you trade the pursuit of these things for the chance to be an active part of the lives of your own family. As in all of these regards, I am not perfect, but I shudder to think of the joy and fulfillment I would have missed by not taking the time to have a good conversation with my own children and trying to experience them as they are developing. None of the barns, buildings, or other things built by those who came before me are standing for long, but the ideas and lessons they left behind are still influencing the world through me and those other family members who knew those great individuals. This is really the only lasting legacy most of us has any hope of leaving behind that might make the world a better place.
The world we live in can be a tough place. It is even tougher on you, if you try to be different in any way from the status quo. This is something I think one learns too, along the way. No matter how pure your motivations and no matter the positive results, there is always a reason that some things are the way they are, and there will be a push back when that existing order is changed in any way. Being a rebel for the thrill and rush of rebellion is worth little in life. It will only hurt you and increase this type of push back. But, something real and positive that stands to benefit those around you can and is sometimes worth the push back. Age just teaches you that this is natural and inevitable, and, while not something that should be sought out, has to be worth it on its on merits, because the effort may have costs. Doing what you think is for the good and treating others fairly as best you can determine, without regard to how it may affect you, has to be something you can look back upon with fondness and is worth the cost, if you truly believed in what you were doing was good and right. Sometimes your judgements about these things will be faulty, but a mistaken belief like this with a pure motivation is still something you can feel good about. Being able to look at yourself in the morning in the mirror without shying away is worth a lot, but rest assured their will be costs, even when your efforts were not on a grand scale.
So, I guess that is about it. These are my big reflections on turning 40. Why share them? Well, perhaps, they will benefit someone else as they encounter the bumps of life and attempt to find their place in this world. I hope that anyone who reads these descriptions realizes that I am not describing my perfect efforts or my perfect understanding of the lessons of life. No, the point is that my actions more often than not fell quite short of perfection. Some times my motivations were not what they should have been. Yet, it is the mistakes then, the mistakes now, and the mistakes that you and I will inevitably make in the future that hopefully will allow us to continually get better. Getting better, bit by bit, is the best we can hope for and something we can never afford to give up upon, if we are to stay motivated to live the type of life we need to live in whatever time the good Lord decides we have to live it.
– Clint Stroupe