Several weeks ago, I reached the half-century mark with birthday number 50 – one of those dreaded “0” birthdays that causes so much consternation and gnashing of teeth.
During a surprise birthday party, my daughter announced that I`m going to be a first-time grandfather come springtime. Surely a day that will live in infamy!
What does turning 50 mean?
I suppose this is a good time to reflect on some changes in my attitude brought about by traveling through youth and into middle age.
First of all, I expected to bald by now. All of my mother`s brothers were bald and shiny and I thought I would be likewise. Though my hair is white and a little thin in places, I still have it.
Next, I worry less about what others think about what I think. Over the last few years, I have spent a lot of time deciding what I think about things. It surprises me sometimes to find that I no longer hold the views that I once did. More liberal in some ways, but more conservative in others. Strongly opposed to mistreating people while equally convinced that people are responsible for themselves and that victimhood is a national disease for which no cure is now available.
I see the smallness in many conservative positions that seem to me barely disguised tools for promoting one group while holding another group back. Similarly, I see many liberal positions as thinly veiled, unworkable theorems that result in creating new categories of victims and seem primarily aimed at convincing the underprivileged that they cannot make it on their own. I suspect my political philosophy may defy definition as either liberal or conservative. That`s OK with me. In fact, I like that.
The prospect of becoming a grandfather is both exciting and frightening. Exciting to realize that through me and my child, new life is coming into the world to continue the struggle. Frightening to contemplate what kind of world this child will be coming into. To be honest, excitement far outweighs the fright. I think grandfathering will be easier than parenting – I can hardly wait!
I have truly learned the meaning of Thoreau`s admonition to simplify. I leave more white spaces in the margin of my book of life than I did when I was younger. I don`t schedule every waking hour to be invested in some worthwhile pursuit. There is more time for reflecting, reading and enjoying friends and family.
I worry more about doing the right thing and less about winning the battle. Battles come and battles go and sometimes I can`t remember which ones I won and which I lost. But the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having chosen the harder right rather than the easier wrong warms the heart long after battle scores are forgotten.
Patience is a virtue always in short supply is my life. Everything can be pushed. Now is better than later. The truth is, the world really turns at its own speed without regard for my pushing and pulling. About all that the rushing around has accomplished is a nervous stomach and need for lot`s of Rolaids. I don`t need as many Rolaids now as I once did. I`m glad. They really have a chalky taste.
As a young man, I was sure that security came with financial worth. As a non-young man I am very sure that it does not. Now I know that real security comes from living life true to your own code of values. The truth was always in plain view, on those little necklace pendants that say “to thine own self be true.”
A half-century of living brings me back to where I started. Tell the truth, treat your fellow man as you would like to be treated and pay your bills.
Thought for the Moment
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
– James 1:2
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.