so this is 40

by Stephen

I turned 40. It’s a lot. Here I am minding my own damn business and not hurting anybody, and suddenly I have this new number next to my name, like, “Hey. This is who you are now. Good luck with your back—I hear that’s a thing.”

Well, I’ve got news for you. My back has been hurting for years. Oh, and before you tell me about vitamins, I already have a Vitamin D accountabilibuddy at work, so there’s that. You might say I’ve been a practicing 40-year-old for years now. So put me in, coach. I’m ready.

Like every age, 40 only comes once, and while it does come with its extra warning labels, this one also comes with an obligatory pause for reflection. It’s like that last mile-marker rest stop you’ll see for hours. “Don’t blow past this one,” the road sign cautions— to which your bladder reluctantly concedes. So, you stop and you creep in, peeking behind the corners to make sure nothing’s lurking in the shadows. A little rust is starting to show on the door frame, and grime on the walls and the weathered chalk outline on the floor let you know: This rest stop’s seen some shit.

Upon reflecting, here are some things I’ve learned that I’ll humbly share.

  1. I listen deeply to my music. Have you ever floated through your own existence, as if you were a cloud hovering over all of life’s mountains and canyons? Maybe your music doesn’t do this for you. If not, consider expanding your catalogue. Listen deeply to your music. Let it cut through the clutter, puncture your soul and fill it with emotion. I have discovered no better way to escape reality. I’ve discovered no better way to find it.
  2. I try to maintain space that’s good for reading. I don’t read nearly as often as I’d like to, but every bit makes a difference. Reading from powerful writers and exploring their lessons is like visiting the optometrist and recalibrating your vision. You’ll never quite realize how beautiful the world is and understand human empathy until you see life through the eyes of another. You might actually understand that bully from grade school or that lonely drunkard closing out the bar every night. Take or leave its value, but I think life is so much better with it.
  3. I write every chance I get. Writing is something I stumbled across as a passion of mine in only the last couple years. Writing is not only how I express myself, but it’s also how I listen, learn and understand myself. Only my true self can be found on the pages I will one day leave behind.
  4. I found my community. I found more than one. I’ve learned that some won’t accept you, and that that’s okay. I discovered in my early 30’s that the community that gave birth to who I thought I was, that raised me and coddled me in my youth, was no longer my community. That’s okay. You change, so let your community change. Just make sure you find one because life’s too short to go it alone.
  5. I question everything. Yes, even “that,” whatever “that” is.  Just because I found a community does not mean I should let them do my thinking for me. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 40 years, I’ve learned this. We’re human. Once we think we understand something, we tend to stop trying to understand it better.
  6. I build fewer walls and more bridges. This is my life motto. Our shared world is far too divided, and we all want the “other” to change. You can’t expect someone to change without giving them something to cross over. Sometimes, you’ll find it’s you that needs to cross the bridge after you’ve built it.
  7. I love. This one’s perhaps least unexpected. I don’t know who I’d be without my wife and my daughter. I’d be half the man at most. Of all my communities, my family is the one I love most deeply. They’ve carried me to this rest stop, and they will be there for all the rest, should I be so lucky.

Now— back on the road. I have a few more lessons to learn before the next stop. Cheers!

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Fewer walls and more bridges. I love that, Stephen. Cool to see you living that out, and it encouraged me to read your writing tonight!!! My life is impacted for having met you. 🙂