Goodbye To The 30s … or On Turning 40

I just returned home from an evening out in Pasadena to end my 30s and the first half of life with some great friends that I’ve known since college and who all now live here in Los Angeles. Last night was a blast hanging with my church friends from All Saints who kept me out way too late for the night before class began on Monday. I rolled in at 12:30 and I was back up at 5:30 to prepare for the first day. It was great to be with new students though, and then I was back on the town tonight with Mike Williams, Darren Crowe, and Richard Davis. We took in “The Simpsons” movie after dinner, which also was pretty funny in parts. The guys stayed out with me until the clock struck 12 just to make sure that I was still moving at such an old age of 40. Everything still seems to be working here 42 minutes into 40.

Ever since my last birthday, I have dreaded this birthday. I know everyone hates to turn 40, but for some reason it was a really big issue for me. I think it’s because I don’t feel I really lived much of my youth until I was in my 30s. I started caring for myself, my body and my time in my 30s (or at least more so). I allowed myself to have fun and not worry what others think so much. I never danced, had much alcohol, dated much, had a cigarette, or engaged in any other “youthful indiscetions” until I was in my 30s. Most people experience this in their teen years or in their 20s, but life never gave me that chance. I was on the path to being a politician or a preacher, and neither allowed for much playfulness. I also was busy working 60 or 70 hours a week, finishing graduate school, building a career and doing those things many people do in their 30s. But I finally hit a point in my early 30s where I could not do that any more, and I knew I had missed out on part of life. So it’s hard to walk away from my 30s because I feel like I actually am just now turning 30, and now I’m ready to live what the 30s are supposed to be. But I already lived that in my 20s. So my life has been in reverse, and that’s ok.

As my 40th birthday approached, a peace came over me about it that surprised me. I’ve been telling everyone, and I even planned a couple of outings and parties myself. I wanted to celebrate my life thus far, and it has been an incredibly rich and good one. I also realized that nothing has been lost. I spent a lot of my early life trying to live someone else’s life, and I finally realized in my 30s that I only have one life and I have to live it in a way that is true to myself. At times, that has been difficult for others to understand because I’ve chosen friends, places, churches and dates that best fit me and not what others expect from me. I’ve moved around places and jobs, churches and traditions, and careers and friendships as I searched for what was best for me — and it took me a long time to get to the point that I even considered myself in my decisions. In my 30s, I started doing that, and it has been the source of joy and sometimes of pain. But as I’ve peeled back the layer of the onion to get to “me”, I feel more free and more effective with every step.

I also just needed to lighten up, shed the preacher boy uptightness, and just have fun more so than I did in my 20s. I struggle to even say anything here for fear that anything will be misinterpreted, but I realized that spending an evening going out with friends was a whole more fun to me than spending a night at home playing board games or watching TV (not that there is anything wrong with that, and it can keep one out of the slammer too). That just seems boring to me, and life is too short. At times I’ve been excessive probably, but all in all I have few regrets. I’ve met the most incredible people in my 30s, traveled the world, worked in the most fascinating jobs, and lived in some interesting places. I also learned a lot about my failures and weaknesses that are a plenty.

Is there anything I would change? I wish that I was in a relationship of lasting significance. I wish I had prayed more. I wish I had a hobby. I wish I had managed my money better in my 20s. I wish I had worked out and been “hot” when it actually was somewhat within my reach. I would have avoided a few career paths. But all in all, I’m exactly where I should be right now at 40. I’ve got a satisfying and growing career that is equally matched by a satisfying and enjoyable social life that is full of diverse friends and fun experiences. I have learned from mistakes. I think I know how life works for the most part. I have been humbled by circumstances that humiliated and shamed me, and I realize that life can be harsh and difficult. But overall, everything is as it should have been. So how can I ask for more? I really can’t, and that is why I’m experiencing a great amount of peace as I turn 40 tonight. It’s been good, and I am convinced it’s going to be even better.

I realized this past week that everything that I’ve worked on and dreamed of for years is finally coming together. Where it hasn’t, I see glimpses of hope. Who is to say that I can’t begin “to live my best life now” (to quote a preacher that I am ashamed to admit that I am quoting).

So one hour into 40, I’m doing ok. In fact, I’m doing great. It’s the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m ready to welcome it. In fact, I am not feeling any different. But a time comes when it’s time to put some things aside and move into the future with intention and discipline, and that time has arrived. I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.

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