When I look in the mirror in the morning, I see a young kid looking back at me. I wipe the steam from the mirror and a recent college graduate, in the big city, off on his own for the first time, stares back at me. He looks younger. I don’t see quite the same number of wrinkles and worry lines. He has a full-head of hair too. He seems to laugh and smile with an ease I haven’t seen in a long time.
I see other things too. I see a young husband and father trying to juggle work, married life, and doing his best to take care of his young family. He races from home to work and back home again, he’s harried, he’s constantly playing catch-up.
At work, he has his share of ups and downs. He covers a few big news stories affecting his community, local sons and daughters outfitted in military uniforms, heading off to and then returning from war; the new U.S. President-elect, full of hope and promise, making a campaign-style visit before taking office; heated election nights with the results too close to call until the wee hours of the morning; and too many municipal, school board and planning commission meetings to count. He stands up to a couple of bully developers and politicians. He writes a few articles that even he concedes “aren’t half bad.”
He works hard to build first a newspaper career and then later a career in Corporate America. He has his home and then his home-away-from home in Cubicleville, USA. On the homefront, he simply tries to give what his wife and kids need the most, his time and his love.
Where’d the years go?
When I look at the man in the mirror, the man looking back at me, on good days, looks to be a young guy, in his early twenties. On other days, the man looking back at me looks to be in his late thirties, maybe even his forties, but still full of energy and enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, when I go to a more trusted source, it says something altogether different. Yes, my official birth certificate, with creases and folds from years of being boxed in one metal container or another, gives it away. You open the certificate and my birth year jumps off the page. Instead of 25 or 35 years old , I’m actually much older, significantly older.
In fact, I recently celebrated my 50th birthday.
Too young to join AARP
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to skip rocks across a small little creek after basketball practice in our local community hall. We’d watch little gray-haired men walk stooped over on the sidewalk and say that we were never going to get old like that. Like Peter Pan, were going to stay young forever. We thought 50 was ancient. In our warped, little minds, you hit 50 and your life was over.
I write those words now and half expect a representative from the AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons) to come and pummel me on the spot. And he or she would have every right to hit me. I was wrong then and I know it. I can’t explain it, we just thought 50 was old. Sorry AARP.
I know better now. Age is a number, just a number, that’s all. Society says that when you reach 50 you should feel one way. Instead, I feel another. In many respects, I still feel like that 20 year old, crouched and ready to run, waiting for the starter’s gun to go off.
The funny thing is that a small part of me thought that might I never make 50. My father suffered a major heart attack in his early 40s. He survived and lived for another twenty-plus years, but his life changed significantly. I watch what I eat and go for regular doctor appointments, but a small part of me expected a similar fate.
The time, speed equilibrium
I’m still amazed with how quickly time has passed. Individual days have dragged. I sat through a meeting a couple of weeks ago that I thought might never end, but the years have have flown. One day I started out in my twenties, I blinked and thirty years magically slipped through my fingertips. Oh, I wake up feeling every bit of 50 and it certainly takes more time to recover from a long weekend or an especially hard run or exercise workout, but, like the twenty year old that I once was, I’m still searching for answers.
I keep looking for the answers to the challenging questions that vex me. Why do we have cancer and illness? Why does evil seem to win out over good? Why do good people die? Why do politicians lie and cheat? Why can’t I get Billy Joel’s song “Uptown Girl” out of my head? Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone when he shot President John F. Kennedy or was there a second accomplice? Why is Greenland called green and Iceland called ice, when the opposite is true?
I won’t even touch on the significant personal questions that cause me problems in my own life. Everyone else seems to know exactly what they want, where they want to go, while I struggle with the simplest of questions.
I feel out of place at times, but after 50 years I have learned a thing or two. Like Robert Fulghum wrote so many years ago, everything I ever really needed to know, I learned in kindergarten. Here’s a few of those lessons.
- Tell the truth.
- Do the right thing.
- Keep learning, keep growing.
- Put in the hard work, it doesn’t solve everything, but it goes a long way.
- Be comfortable with who you are and find your soulmate so you have someone to share the good, the bad and the ho-hum ordinary.
- See the good in people and life.
- Treat others, especially your enemies, the way you would want to be treated. (I still stink at Jesus’ Beatitudes, but it doesn’t mean I still don’t try each day to follow them.)
I have no idea what the next 50 years will bring. I hope to lose a few pounds. I feel like I’ve let my health get a little away from me in recent months and I’m working to get back on track. (I’m thinking this could be God’s way to help me learn finally how to be patient and understanding with myself.) I want to run another marathon, maybe the Philadelphia Marathon or the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
I still have goals on my bucket list that I want to accomplish. I have places that I want to travel. I want to be there for my kids as they achieve special achievements. There are still work achievements I want to accomplish. There’s many things I still want to try. I still have a couple books and blogs in me that I’d like to put down on screen or paper.
I hear that Superman’s and Batman’s capes are for rent. Who’d a thought? I guess there’s too many bad guys out on the street. Stepping in and being a Superhero, that sounds pretty amazing. I hear too that the Philadelphia Phillies could use a strong right-handed reliever to help put them over the top in the National League East. Okay, that ones probably out of the question, but you get the idea.
Most of all, I want to enjoy the next 50 years with my family and friends. If I get that, I’ll be the luckiest guy in the world, certainly luckier then the young guy looking back at me in the mirror.