I am turning 50 today (October 16). I don’t feel young anymore. Luckily, most days I don’t feel old either. However, I have slowly started to realize that more than likely I am passing the halfway point of my time in this world and I discovered a sort of humble mortality reflecting on my first 50 years with a certain amount of pride, regret, and gratefulness. No longer is most of life in front of me. None of us have guarantees of the number of days we have on Earth so the idea that one can predict any given day to be at the midpoint would be ridiculous. However, 50 is a nice round number and fits very easily into the equation of young vs. old so I am using it today as a kickoff to the next chapter of my life and I am very grateful to be doing so!
The year 2020 will be remembered forever by all of us, but beyond the pandemic and the racial tension in our country, I will look back on it as the year I discovered what gratitude really means. Somehow in midst of all the chaos, I discovered an inner peace. There have been a lot of significant changes in my life this year. They have been exciting, difficult, humbling, but most of all they have lead me to a realization that I have been damn lucky to this point. Where does that luck come from? God? I would like to think so. I have always had this somewhat romanticized idea that God has lead me through any messes or bad times I have had because quite simply, he was not finished with me yet and I still had some purpose left here on Earth. I do not know if that is true or not, but I’d like to think I am here for a reason and if so, I sure hope its a good one.
What does all this have to do with me turning 50? I am not sure I have the words or the time (maybe not even the desire) to explore all of those thoughts, but one thing has changed for me and I do want to share it. I have decided to live each day with an abundance of gratitude. A gratitude that quite frankly I did not have as a younger man. It actually started changing for me with prayer. I went from my conversations with God starting something like this, “Lord, if you will just get me out of such and such I will do so much better next time” to just thanking him for the blessings I have and being grateful for the goodness in my life. That perspective has changed my outlook tremendously.
A couple of months ago, I got to thinking just how lucky I really am. There is a Texas musician named Max Stalling that wrote the lyrics, “I got friends for there to here, a pay of of all these rambling years…” and I have always liked that line. There is something romantic about it for me…The truth is I have had a lot of good friends and people that have impacted my life during my first 50 years and I wanted to find a way to thank them. I decided I wanted to write people that had meant alot to me in my life a letter and just say thank you.
Here is what I set out to do. I was going to write the 50 most important/impactful people in my life a letter and mail them all on my 50th birthday…today! So how do you start a list like that? I picked up my journal one day and started making a list. I would say the first 20–25 were pretty easy. My wife, my kids, my parents, some close friends, but then it got a little tougher. I mean think about it, your top 50 out of everyone you have ever known. How does a third grade teacher compare to a fraternity brother? Who shaped me to who I am? Who do I owe my largest thank you? Honestly, I can’t say I am completely satisfied with my list. I mean I know the people on the list deserve my gratitude, but I also know there are others I missed. I changed the list a few times over the last month or so and if you happen to somehow read this and don’t receive a letter from me in the next few days, please don’t take offense. I stuck to the original number of 50 and I am proud of what I did, but believe me, my thanks goes beyond that. If I have regrets in my life, and I do, one is not appreciating people enough. In my next 50 years, I plan to do a whole lot better.
I enjoyed this project very much. It was difficult but very satisfying. I am no saint, that is for sure, but I am more appreciate of things these days. I am a little less ambitious than I once was, but maybe a little more grateful. So, that is it. The story of my 50 letters of gratitude representing the first 50 years of my life. Thanks to everyone for helping me and for being part of my life. I wouldn’t be the same without you.
Previously published on medium
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