Nothing says turning 50 years old like a call from the gastroenterologist’s office reminding you with a chirpy voice that it’s time to schedule your colonoscopy. Really? How did they even get my number? I am on the Do Not Call List! This was the first call I received to celebrate my birthday month of August. For those who luckily aren’t familiar with colonoscopies, it’s a procedure where the doctor/plumber puts you to sleep and goes on a freaking safari inside your body just to “explore,” but it starts on the dangerous side of the savannah.
In real sports there is a halftime. This is where the players take a break and the fans and commentators take time to reflect on the first half. As I turned 50 yesterday, I will take this as my personal halftime and reflect on my last 50 years of life. I will pass on the end-of-game analysis that’s not in the halftime report but rather the eulogy.
50 years old is life’s halftime (at least we hope). The truth is, even with all the experts on social media, no one has figured out how long I am going to live, not even WebMD. Hopefully, this really is halftime. In reality, it could almost be over, although I sure hope not. Maybe I have a good decade or two left in me, or maybe I have another 50 with all my faculties before I head off to the great big football stadium in the sky. Yes, it’s a football stadium up there.
Over the last 50 years, I was born, raised, went to school, on to college, then to work, started a family, became a dad, and then worked and worked some more. I owned a business and went broke. I returned to work flat broke, and in some ways broken. I dusted myself off, got to work, went back to college, and continued to work, which is where I am today.
Come with me as I take a look back on 50 years, of course in 2000 words or less.
The Early Stages
I had a wonderful middle-class upbringing with two loving parents and two siblings who are fantastic people. The siblings didn’t always get along growing up, for one reason only: I was the favorite child. That fact was very difficult for them to handle. I understand, and I don’t hold a grudge. I have moved on.
I remember a lot and have also forgotten a lot from my early stages of life. For you young parents out there, I don’t remember the stroller I had, the clothes I wore, or my birthday party themes. Actually, I do remember one fact about my clothes, and that was my size. I went from “slim” pants to “husky” over night and have kind of been there ever since. So, young parents, please don’t stress yourself out with this stuff from birth to 10-ish years old. When your kid is 50 he or she will have no recollection of the crap you worried about as parents. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Part of the reason I don’t remember much from this timeframe was that I was the third child. Before the digital age, my generation had to take photographs and have the film developed, and those were put in albums. As the third child, my parents gave up on taking pictures of me as a kid. They had been there, done that, I suppose. There are lots of pictures of my very older sister, less of my older brother, and practically none of me. This is okay by me because I knew I was the favorite kid, even without the photo albums.
Point of reflection: All parents have a favorite kid! ALL of them. If you have not been told you are the favorite, well, it’s not you.
I was off to grade school, which was an awesome experience, except for seventh grade, which could generate its own insightful article. After that traumatic year, my schooling changed for the best. I remember many of my teachers, but the ones who stick out are Mrs. Stone (my third and fourth grade teacher), Mr. Sater (my PE teacher in elementary school), Mr. Ferguson (my advisor and Dean of Students), and Mrs. RG (one of the best teachers I’ve ever known and probably my favorite because she got me through math).
Then there were the coaches (Kuntner, Hewitt, Oliver, McClain, Becker, and so many others) who left a wonderful impression on me, followed by my childhood friends like Miles, Jonas, Kevin, Tina, and many family friends whose friendships I still love and cherish today, even though we are all “grown up.”
To sum up the early stages, like every kid, I went through some crap I have chosen not to write about, but for the most part my rearing years were good. It is amazing how much stuff you forget from those early years.
The College Years
I no longer drink tequila. In fact, I rarely drink at all anymore. I am not sure if that is because of college or due to the fact that when you are 50 you don’t bounce back very quickly after downing some adult beverages. In most cases now, we just bounce, and that is usually off the floor. College was a great experience where I truly grew up, but no longer do I hold those same habits or rituals, thankfully.
I learned how to get the most out of dirty underwear. I learned Cup-a-Soup never expires and that certain smells from roommates were best left uninvestigated. We learned about ourselves, our sexuality, our values, and our style. We learned how to think critically and began the process of becoming adults, although admittedly I was super far from that target.
Point of reflection: College is where I learned both what I wanted to be and how I wanted to be. I also realized tequila is no friend of mine, and neither is peach schnapps, for that matter.
I met some incredible people, made some stupid decisions, and started to love learning. Honestly, I would not have changed a thing. I have great memories with people like Kirby, Car, the whole Barnard fourth floor, Josh, Bruce, Jeff, and so many more from those days.
The Working Years
The time we were supposed to grow up ended like a sledgehammer to the head once all the pomp and circumstance expired at graduation. It was that “oh, crap” moment to get serious and get to work. I have worked hard ever since, even though decades have passed since I entered the workforce.
During these years I have learned how to serve people. That was my original chosen profession; I studied Hospitality Management. Serving others is not always intuitive, even from people who expect and mandate to be served.
I learned to work hard, and I learned to love people who work hard. I learned how to be a leader (although that is always a work in progress).
Point of reflection: Working does not mean you stop living. Both are important, and it doesn’t have to be all or none.
I didn’t always learn from that reflection. Some people and cultures work to live and some live to work. Whichever your belief system, you don’t have to make work a death sentence. Life shouldn’t end in the workplace; your job should enhance your true passions.
I have had some fantastic people influence me, including Archie, Paul, Alex, Joe, Scott, Jeff, Jackie, Steve, Sarah, Noema, Arianne, Marcy, Jackie, Marty, both Pammys, Dennis, and a host of others who were mentors, friends, and colleagues from the past and today.
Avocations and Hobbies
I had an enjoyable avocation for 30 years: officiating American football. For close to 25 of those years I worked at the collegiate level. I retired three years ago this season. I met so many awesome people, from my supervisors and other officials to the fans and, yes, even coaches. It was what I thought defined me.
After many years of officiating, I quit cold turkey after my parents passed away to spend more time with my family. I hung up the stripes, cleats, and whistle for good. What was surprising to me was how much I didn’t miss it. While I missed some aspects, I didn’t miss the overall pursuit I thought had defined me for so long.
Point of reflection: What you think defines you may not actually be the truth, especially once you stop being that person.
Officiating taught me so much. I learned how competing works, that the best talent doesn’t always equate to the best team or winning, upsets happen, people root for the underdogs, fans are fans, some win some lose, humans make mistakes, and all youth league parents are a little bit crazy. I also learned how to make decisions in high-pressure situations in front of thousands of people and millions on television.
I gained lifelong friends: Al, Willie, Todd, Matt, Denny, Big Time, Bryan, Daniel, and so many more. This avocation was hard but never felt like work, and it was a major influence on 30 of my first 50 years.
I distinctly remember the day my wife moved in with me and we had our first garage sale together so we could “get rid of duplicates.” I quickly realized that it was not a joint garage sale. All my stuff was for sale, but none of hers. Sure, her stuff was nicer and was not bachelor-pad chic, but nothing of mine was kept. That was my first lesson in marriage: what is mine is hers. I believe her vow to me was, “What is yours is now mine.” Mine was something like, “I vow to put the toilet seat down and never leave a mess in the sink.” I knew I should have read that before we got to the altar.
Marriage is the best and hardest pursuit you can ever undertake. Having true love is special, and you know when it is right. It is the place where you can be just who you are. It is hard because I have left the toilet seat up and a mess in the sink.
Point of reflection:Marriage is a wonderful institution; that is, if you love to live in an institution! That was the punch line to my brother-in-law’s toast on my wedding day.
Honestly, my wife is a superwoman with a huge heart who has put up with me as her husband. At the same time, she has been an incredible partner and without a doubt a fantastic, loving mother. I’ve been embraced by her relatives especially Grandma Lil’ my wife’s 99 year old grandmother who is stronger than most people I know. I could not have asked for a better family to be married into.
Life: It Just Is
Most days, we work more than we are with family and living life, or at least that is my truth. My eyes have seen many things, and my heart has felt joy, sadness, sickness, and death. It is the cycle of life. The news today is abhorrent, from terror and mass shootings to war talk almost daily. Not all is great; not all blows. It just is.
In my first 50 years I have lost both of my parents, all my grandparents, many relatives and some friends. I have known four people who have committed suicide, a boss who fought cancer vehemently before it took him, a 22-year-old friend I once held in my arms as a baby who was fighting depression and accidentally overdosed. I have seen a lot of illness, been to too many hospitals and funerals to count.
Life has its ups and downs. It is not always rosy and happy, but it is precious. I miss my parents dearly. I miss that 22-year-old who is finally at peace, but I wish he was here for his parents, his brother, my kids, for himself and me, as we all adored him. I miss the people who have gone before.
Point of reflection:Don’t get too high with the wins and don’t get too low with the losses. You are never alone, even if you feel like your mind is running out of control.
Besides the downs, life sure does have its ups. Luckily, I have participated in just as many joyous occasions as somber ones. I have two wonderful teenagers (yeah, I called them “wonderful”), a 13-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. They are my pride and joy. They are everything you want in kids: kind, humble, respectful, and smart, and I could not love them more.
My son is the best big brother to his younger sister and the reverse is the same for my daughter to my son and that makes any parent beam with joy. They are friends, confidants, mentors, role models to each other and always laugh at each other’s jokes. Don’t get me wrong they are still teenagers and all that comes with that, like poor hearing when their parents ask them to do something. My son sometimes leaves the seat up and my daughter leaves a mess in the sink. I have no idea where they get that from?
Both are student athletes as they work hard in the classroom and on the basketball or volleyball courts. Yes, I love them equally! I could not be more thrilled and honored to be called their dad.
Life is fulfilling if we allow it to be even if it just is.
Time to Get Back to the Game
As halftime is ending, I will close up this jog down memory lane. I normally don’t get worked up for birthdays, but this one has thrown me into this reflective state for about a month or so. I would not say I got depressed, but I became hyper-reflective of my past, my present, my realities, and my future, and I began questioning everything, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! I am sure I have been a joy at home especially being an introvert by nature.
Final point of reflection:Random grunts now happen spontaneously and involuntarily. Welcome to 50.
Now that my birthday has finally passed, and much like the new millennium in 2000 it came and went without a pitter, why did I work myself up into such a frenzy? I know better! I am 50, damn it!
I have met some wonderful people on this ride through my family, childhood, school years, hobbies, work years, and recently the likes of Martha, Shay, Lila, Steve, Susan, Lacey, and others with whom I can’t wait to see our relationships evolve.
I have less hair in places it should be, I am still husky, and I have had some big losses and some big wins. I have learned I am not perfect. In fact, I am very imperfect—perfectly imperfect, as I ask my kids to be. Life continues to go on either way. I continue to evolve as an HR Leader for “The U,” and my love for writing and speaking about family and Human Resources has helped me become The HR Dad. I can’t wait for tomorrow, but I will enjoy today.
As I become wiser and a member of AARP, my hope is that people have peace in their lives, in their minds, and in their hearts. Regardless of our age, we are all Smack Dab in the Middle of Life, and at 50 I am happy to be here. There is so much to live for, despite the dark days that go along with the awesome days.
The day-to-day struggle is not what you will remember. You will remember the people, the good times, and some of the bad. You will never remember working until 10:00 p.m. that one Tuesday 20 years ago. Create great memories that you will cherish forever; you won’t regret it once you hit 50.
I have a wonderful job that affords me meaningful work with people I respect so much. I love The U, my tribe, the people in my workplace, my friends (which is a short list by the time you get to 50), my family, and all of you.
Onward and up!