Today my grandmother would have celebrated her 91st birthday. But she did make it to 90. And aside from the rather sudden end, it didn’t seem to anyone that she was struggling, not living life, or not enjoying herself. Ninety. I’d happily sign up for that. I just turned 46 the other day. A little more than half-way to the full life my grandmother lived. So now I’m officially in the Second Half. At least I’d like to think so.
I have learned a lot in the First Half. Some of the bigger lessons —
- Get comfortable in your own skin as soon as possible. I wish I hadn’t worried about how others perceived me when I was younger. Everyone is different. Everyone is an individual. This should be a cause for celebration. Do not spend years trying to rub down your rough edges. The rough edges are what make us, well, us.
- Some people will appreciate and even embrace your own skin, your edges, your individuality. Some will not. Life is not a popularity contest. And if you live your life as if it were a popularity contest, you won’t win. It’s impossible. Instead, hold on to the people that hold on to you. They’re the only ones you’ll need.
- And you will need. For some reason, I’ve always been extremely reluctant to rely upon anyone for anything. I’ve even viewed this as some sort of badge of honor. It’s not a badge. It’s fear. Fear of relying on someone else for something, and having that person fail or not come through. Or worse yet, proving me a fool for relying upon them in the first place. Relying on someone, making yourself vulnerable, depending upon them, is part of being human. In candor, I think I’m still working on this Number 3. I’ll try to fix it in the Second Half.
- Find something to be passionate about. That thing will most likely change over the course of time. That’s OK. But it’s important to find something for which your belly burns. Something that stretches you. Something that will bring out things in yourself that you didn’t know existed or thought impossible. The corollary here is that you’re capable of much more than you think you are. More suffering. More happiness. More empathy. Whatever. You have more in you than you think.
- Stay positive. Look for opportunities in every problem. They are there. It is easy to be negative, to criticize, to see a glass half-full wherever you look. Anyone can do that. The hard part is the opposite. Take that approach.
- Never give up. This one I have preached for years to the Little League teams I’ve coached. The odds are very low that the kids have a clue as to what I’m trying to say. This is a big one, and worth the repetition. I honestly believe that if you don’t quit, if you don’t actually give up, if you refuse to lay prone and silent on the canvas, you never truly “lose.” I’m not sure that winning and losing is as binary as people think. A light switch turned on or turned off. We have been trained to believe there is always a victor and always the vanquished. I’m not so sure that’s the case, in real life. Nothing is more frightening to an overwhelming favorite than the little guy who simply keeps getting back up. And nothing is more inspiring to the rest of us than witnessing the little guy who refuses to quit. Never quit. Never allow yourself to quit.
It’s a bit ridiculous to attempt to sum up lessons learned over the course of 45 years. But I think these ones above are reasonably important. I wish it didn’t take me so long to learn some of them. I wish that I had perfected all of them. But I suspect that part of the deal is exactly that — figuring it out as you go. No one really has a plan, it only appears that way. A mystery.
Like the wave breaking in the distance then rolling towards the boys in the photo at the top of this post, what the Second Half holds for me remains a bit of a mystery. I’m going to try to settle in and enjoy the ride.
Thanks for reading.