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Some Random Thoughts on Turning 50
Old 01-14-2009, 09:44 PM   #1
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Some Random Thoughts on Turning 50

Today, I celebrate the completion of 50 years on this Earth. While I know that more of life has likely passed than remains to me, it somehow feels like a midpoint – a time to pause and take stock, to review where I have been and where I might go. Frankly, it is somewhat astounding to be here. If you had asked me in my teens or twenties, I never would have believed that I could live this impossibly long. And yet, sometimes life seems to have quietly slipped away in the space between one breath and the next. Certain happy events live in my memory as if they occurred only yesterday, while the sad ones thankfully remain lost in the gauzy embrace of time.

At this point, I must finally admit that some of my childhood dreams are simply not going to happen. I am not going to compete in the Olympics, or become an astronaut or a U.S. Senator. It is equally unlikely that I will ever guide a camel caravan over the sands of the Sahara, climb the high mountains of Nepal or sail single-handed to Tahiti. And it has at long last sunk in that I have never been, am not now and never will be the best at anything I have done or will do. There will always be people who are smarter, more diligent and more successful than me. A great many things will remain forever beyond my reach. I know also that I will never have the most money, the biggest house, the fanciest car or the most opulent lifestyle.

But while I have not achieved my highest aspirations, neither have I realized my worst fears. I have not known real sickness, injury, strife, poverty, loneliness or despair. I made it through my years in the military without shooting at anyone or having them shoot at me. I found a wife who loves me, a place to call home and some small measure of professional success. It pleases me to think that I have made a positive contribution to my community and to the lives of the people around me. And while no one would make a TV special about it, I have traveled to some interesting places and have done some memorable things. As far as material possessions, I certainly have more money, a bigger house and nicer cars than the teenaged me would ever have dreamed possible.

All in all, I feel content with the way things have worked out. I do not regret the choices I have made along the way or the path my life has taken as a consequence of those choices. I am happy with the material things I have and cannot think of anything else that I need or want. Indeed, my only real regrets are those times when I hurt other people -- the times I was rude or spoke harshly, the times I did not listen and was not sympathetic, the times I did not help even when I knew it was needed, and the times I was selfish and petty. I am hopeful that in the fullness of time those whom I have harmed will forgive me.

Going forward, I would like to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle for however many years I may have left. I also would like to travel more. One of my fondest childhood memories is reading my great uncle’s National Geographic magazines and dreaming of going to see all the wonders pictured in its pages. Our world, in all its infinite variety, is a stunningly beautiful place, and I want to see and experience as much of that beauty as possible before I go. I would like to spend more time helping my local community. It is a fine place to live, with many fine people in it, and I would like to do my part to ensure it stays that way. Financially, I want to have enough to support my travel habit and to live out my days without burdening anyone.

I find myself thinking about my young nephews, poised at the edge of their adult lives, and wondering if there are any words of wit and wisdom I can offer from my half-century vantage point. I realize that if they are anything like me at that age they will undoubtedly pay me no heed. But it has been a long, tough slog for me to learn even these few lessons, so they are going to hear the valedictory regardless.

First, take your victories where you can. Victories are not only those events in our lives typically considered momentous, such as graduations, weddings or births. Rather, each day brings with it the opportunity to succeed in a difficult task, to make a friend or to learn something new. Take time to savor every one of these accomplishments, even if they are small. Not only will your life be enriched at that moment, but you also will build up a reservoir of confidence and happiness to help you make it through the inevitable hard times. In the same vein, be happy now. You need to seize the joys of life along the way, not wait for that mythical “someday” when you will be happy. Because, if you wait, that day will never arrive.

Second, let your defeats roll off you like water from a duck. To live is to strive and to strive is sometimes to fail. You will undoubtedly fail more than once, but that does not make you a failure as a person. When you do fail, take whatever lessons you can from it and then let it go. Dwelling on it will not change the outcome and will only make the rest of your life harder.

Third, be kind to those you meet. There are so many people in this world struggling under terrible loads, most of which we cannot see. Treat everyone with respect and gentleness, try not to judge them, and help them when you can. A smile and a kind word cost you nothing, but may be the very thing someone needs to make it through the day.

Finally, remember that the things you do and the people you meet are more important than the things you have. When you look back on your life, you will almost never remember the various and sundry material things you have possessed. You will, however, remember the people who have shared your life and the experiences you have had together. Do not be afraid to love and trust someone special. Your life will be infinitely the richer for it.

Gumby
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Old 01-14-2009, 09:55 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Today, I celebrate the completion of 50 years on this Earth. While I know that more of life has likely passed than remains to me, it somehow feels like a midpoint – a time to pause and take stock, to review where I have been and where I might go. Frankly, it is somewhat astounding to be here. If you had asked me in my teens or twenties, I never would have believed that I could live this impossibly long. And yet, sometimes life seems to have quietly slipped away in the space between one breath and the next. Certain happy events live in my memory as if they occurred only yesterday, while the sad ones thankfully remain lost in the gauzy embrace of time.

At this point, I must finally admit that some of my childhood dreams are simply not going to happen. I am not going to compete in the Olympics, or become an astronaut or a U.S. Senator. It is equally unlikely that I will ever guide a camel caravan over the sands of the Sahara, climb the high mountains of Nepal or sail single-handed to Tahiti. And it has at long last sunk in that I have never been, am not now and never will be the best at anything I have done or will do. There will always be people who are smarter, more diligent and more successful than me. A great many things will remain forever beyond my reach. I know also that I will never have the most money, the biggest house, the fanciest car or the most opulent lifestyle.

But while I have not achieved my highest aspirations, neither have I realized my worst fears. I have not known real sickness, injury, strife, poverty, loneliness or despair. I made it through my years in the military without shooting at anyone or having them shoot at me. I found a wife who loves me, a place to call home and some small measure of professional success. It pleases me to think that I have made a positive contribution to my community and to the lives of the people around me. And while no one would make a TV special about it, I have traveled to some interesting places and have done some memorable things. As far as material possessions, I certainly have more money, a bigger house and nicer cars than the teenaged me would ever have dreamed possible.

All in all, I feel content with the way things have worked out. I do not regret the choices I have made along the way or the path my life has taken as a consequence of those choices. I am happy with the material things I have and cannot think of anything else that I need or want. Indeed, my only real regrets are those times when I hurt other people -- the times I was rude or spoke harshly, the times I did not listen and was not sympathetic, the times I did not help even when I knew it was needed, and the times I was selfish and petty. I am hopeful that in the fullness of time those whom I have harmed will forgive me.

Going forward, I would like to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle for however many years I may have left. I also would like to travel more. One of my fondest childhood memories is reading my great uncle’s National Geographic magazines and dreaming of going to see all the wonders pictured in its pages. Our world, in all its infinite variety, is a stunningly beautiful place, and I want to see and experience as much of that beauty as possible before I go. I would like to spend more time helping my local community. It is a fine place to live, with many fine people in it, and I would like to do my part to ensure it stays that way. Financially, I want to have enough to support my travel habit and to live out my days without burdening anyone.

I find myself thinking about my young nephews, poised at the edge of their adult lives, and wondering if there are any words of wit and wisdom I can offer from my half-century vantage point. I realize that if they are anything like me at that age they will undoubtedly pay me no heed. But it has been a long, tough slog for me to learn even these few lessons, so they are going to hear the valedictory regardless.

First, take your victories where you can. Victories are not only those events in our lives typically considered momentous, such as graduations, weddings or births. Rather, each day brings with it the opportunity to succeed in a difficult task, to make a friend or to learn something new. Take time to savor every one of these accomplishments, even if they are small. Not only will your life be enriched at that moment, but you also will build up a reservoir of confidence and happiness to help you make it through the inevitable hard times. In the same vein, be happy now. You need to seize the joys of life along the way, not wait for that mythical “someday” when you will be happy. Because, if you wait, that day will never arrive.

Second, let your defeats roll off you like water from a duck. To live is to strive and to strive is sometimes to fail. You will undoubtedly fail more than once, but that does not make you a failure as a person. When you do fail, take whatever lessons you can from it and then let it go. Dwelling on it will not change the outcome and will only make the rest of your life harder.

Third, be kind to those you meet. There are so many people in this world struggling under terrible loads, most of which we cannot see. Treat everyone with respect and gentleness, try not to judge them, and help them when you can. A smile and a kind word cost you nothing, but may be the very thing someone needs to make it through the day.

Finally, remember that the things you do and the people you meet are more important than the things you have. When you look back on your life, you will almost never remember the various and sundry material things you have possessed. You will, however, remember the people who have shared your life and the experiences you have had together. Do not be afraid to love and trust someone special. Your life will be infinitely the richer for it.

Gumby
Wow. You've got some great thoughts here. I love how you captured the "ordinaryess" that defines many of our lives and yet how special it is and how much you appreciate that.

Thanks.

omni
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Old 01-14-2009, 09:57 PM   #3
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Thanks, Gumby. That was a good read.

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Old 01-14-2009, 10:01 PM   #4
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Bravo Gumby....

All I thought when I turned 50 was "Damn, I'm 50!"
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:03 PM   #5
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At this point, I must finally admit that some of my childhood dreams are simply not going to happen. I am not going to compete in the Olympics, or become an astronaut or a U.S. Senator. It is equally unlikely that I will ever guide a camel caravan over the sands of the Sahara, climb the high mountains of Nepal or sail single-handed to Tahiti. And it has at long last sunk in that I have never been, am not now and never will be the best at anything I have done or will do. There will always be people who are smarter, more diligent and more successful than me. A great many things will remain forever beyond my reach. I know also that I will never have the most money, the biggest house, the fanciest car or the most opulent lifestyle.
I do not have everything I ever wanted, I do have all I am ever going to get; and that is enough.

Sitting at the computer with a cat in my lap is sufficient.

In the end, we can only be who we are; the rest is commentary.
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by bbbamI View Post
All I thought when I turned 50 was "Damn, I'm 50!"
I had similar thoughts, only mine were "Damn, I'm 50?"

Happy B'day Gumby.
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:33 PM   #7
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Well said Gumby. The people around you probably don't view your life and contributions the same as you. They most likely see you as very accomplished and fulfilled. Also, you would be surprised how you have influenced the people around you. If you let them know some of your dreams they might just help you fulfill them.
50 is just a number so you still have time to make it to Tahiti. And living a life of appreciation does make the journey so much better - something I've learned.



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Old 01-15-2009, 12:30 AM   #8
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Happy Birthday, Gumby. Interesting to ponder what the “teenaged me” would think about now. Thanks for sharing with us.

Damn, I was 50 once.
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Old 01-15-2009, 01:33 AM   #9
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Happy Birthday. Enjoy your Sicilian trip.

And me think sailing to Tahiti is overrated. Qantas will get you there safer and quicker.
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Old 01-15-2009, 05:30 AM   #10
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Wow, what a thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-15-2009, 05:35 AM   #11
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Happy birthday Gumby! Excellent treatise! Wish I could write think as clearly and eloquently as you write!

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Old 01-15-2009, 08:21 AM   #12
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Happy Birthday ! Great post !
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:31 AM   #13
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Happy Birthday Gumby! That post is suitable for framing and hanging on the wall.
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:39 AM   #14
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First, take your victories where you can. Victories are not only those events in our lives typically considered momentous, such as graduations, weddings or births. Rather, each day brings with it the opportunity to succeed in a difficult task, to make a friend or to learn something new. Take time to savor every one of these accomplishments, even if they are small. Not only will your life be enriched at that moment, but you also will build up a reservoir of confidence and happiness to help you make it through the inevitable hard times. In the same vein, be happy now. You need to seize the joys of life along the way, not wait for that mythical “someday” when you will be happy. Because, if you wait, that day will never arrive.

Second, let your defeats roll off you like water from a duck. To live is to strive and to strive is sometimes to fail. You will undoubtedly fail more than once, but that does not make you a failure as a person. When you do fail, take whatever lessons you can from it and then let it go. Dwelling on it will not change the outcome and will only make the rest of your life harder.

Third, be kind to those you meet. There are so many people in this world struggling under terrible loads, most of which we cannot see. Treat everyone with respect and gentleness, try not to judge them, and help them when you can. A smile and a kind word cost you nothing, but may be the very thing someone needs to make it through the day.

Finally, remember that the things you do and the people you meet are more important than the things you have. When you look back on your life, you will almost never remember the various and sundry material things you have possessed. You will, however, remember the people who have shared your life and the experiences you have had together. Do not be afraid to love and trust someone special. Your life will be infinitely the richer for it.

Gumby
Happy Birthday, and many more. Those that know you are certainly blessed.
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:44 AM   #15
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That post is suitable for framing and hanging on the wall.
My thoughts exactly. Very nice.
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:54 AM   #16
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I really didn't start living until I turned 50 back in 1998. My fifties were the best decade of my life, and I can honestly say that I had much more fun in my fifties than in all of my first half century.

I guess the first 50 years I was paying my dues, but anyway after that everything has been coming up roses. I think I have become wiser (though not smarter, if that makes any sense) after turning 50.

As for admitting that some of my childhood dreams are simply not going to happen, I got past that experience when I was ten and realized I was too old to begin a career as the next Shirley Temple. I went to my father in tears and told him, and he laughed. Now, when other goals elude me and I feel blue, I remember that I never became a child actress, either, and so what?
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Old 01-15-2009, 07:49 PM   #17
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Thank you and happy birthday, Semper Gumby!
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Old 01-15-2009, 07:58 PM   #18
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Belated Happy Birthday Gumby!
Beautiful post.
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Old 01-15-2009, 07:59 PM   #19
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Bravo, bravo. Almost at the big 50 myself. I have learned in those years that we are all very very much alike, in many ways. Your post again proves that to me.
nice post.
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:47 PM   #20
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Happy birthday Gumby. I hit 53 a few weeks ago myself. I still have hopes of doing a few of the crazy things on my list. Through hiking the Appalachian Trail. Going into space, although I haven't plunked down my $20K deposit for a Virgin Galactic seat yet.

So don't give up yet. 50 is the new 30. I'm planning to remain healthy and vital into my early 80s, then slowly declining until I pass 100. My most ambitious goal is to get back every penny I ever paid in taxes back from the gov't in the form of SS and Medicare.
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