I recently turned 50 years old. Yes, that’s right, these boyish good looks can be deceiving.
For six months prior to my birthday, people kept asking how it felt to have the Big 5-0 looming on the horizon. I hadn’t really thought about it; age was never something I dwelt on.
I started thinking about it.
I thought about scores of wonderful people I’ve met and the ones in such emotional or psychological pain who came across as less than wonderful.
I thought about experiences I’ve had and places I traveled to as well as the things I missed and the times I went nowhere.
I thought about accomplishments and regrets, not really knowing which I’ve had more of over the years.
I thought about money, the times I’ve had it and the times I owed more than I made.
I thought about the times I’ve been on television and in newspapers and the feeling of relative obscurity.
I thought about the full head of hair I once enjoyed and my current state of undeniable baldness.
I thought about a lot of things.
I realized I had spent far too many years chasing things I thought had value in themselves: attention, money, looks.
I realized that for the first half of my life I had placed a premium on everyone’s opinions but my own. I was totally preoccupied with what others thought of me and constantly postured to project something acceptable, lovable.
I was concerned with impressing strangers, allowing their perspectives to overshadow and outweigh my own beliefs, so they wouldn’t reject me.
I was concerned with impressing my siblings, trying to live up to a picture of perfection created largely in my own mind, not knowing that much of the time they were as clueless as me.
I had much of it wrong: at best, money, media attention, looks, and the other trappings of “success” or “happiness” are tools to be used to advance your cause and be of service to other people, not to glorify oneself. Most of those external trappings are fleeting, not a real barometer of a life well lived.
I had much of it wrong: while I was busy trying to impress and get attention, I failed to realize that most people are too concerned with themselves and their own situations to really care how my life turns out.
I had much of it wrong: I was always going from the outside in instead of from the inside out.
At 50 years old, I have a wonderful woman standing with me, I have a great career in which I get to be of service to people all the time, I’m healthy with a roof over my head, and my ego is far more balanced than in years past. I care what the world thinks about me but far less than I had.
At 50 years old, I like to think I’ve come a long way, and I have a long way to go in this never-ending journey to live a life that’s less from the outside in and more from the inside out.
How does it feel to be the Big 5-0? It feels great.