Birthday Celebration

Birthday Celebration

Another year, another birthday. I am at the point in life where I must do the math to remember how old I am. At 42, things are what I hoped they’d be at this stage in life. I am married with two great kids and a career I enjoy. I have plenty to interest me and keep me busy. I am relatively healthy and financially stable. I have a great community around me that supports me. Things are good.

What is notable about the flipping of this birthday calendar year is it ends a ten year run up that started at 31 and progressed solidly up until this point. Back then I was not happy with anything in my life. I pretty much took my relationship at the time, career path, and general situation and said “enough.” From there I dumped everything and started over. In quick succession I met a a wonderful woman, got married, went back to school, changed careers, had kids, and found myself at this point where I am today. It’s been awesome.

Western Lowland Gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo
Western Lowland Gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo

The best part about middle agedom are the lessons that finally crystallize for you and the sense you start making of the world. It makes up for the aches you get in the morning and the changes you start seeing in your face. You try to take your life lessons and apply them going forward, while at the same time realizing you might be making new mistakes that in ten years you’ll look back on and try to suss out. But life is not about looking behind you the entire time. It is instead about finding ways to enjoy the present. The future will come as surely as the sun travels across the sky, and it probably goes to say if you’re taking care of your present your future will too. Of course, I do not recommend blithely stumbling about life and hoping for the best, because in my experience the best only comes if you plan and work for it. And even then, sometimes it does not work out.

If I could boil down my life advice, the first would be to develop a vision for your life and where you want it to go. This vision should deeply resonate with you and in a way that you can feel it. It shouldn’t be something that your parents thing are best for you, or what society values, because unless your one with this vision it won’t come true. You simply won’t have the energy to make it happen. For example, I wanted to work in technology because I like the problem solving and making things. I did not get that in my previous role. I also like the culture that surrounds it too. It all just feels like such a great fit. I also, from my an early age, knew I wanted a family and to be a dad. That is not something that men in our society admit to freely. In fact, it is seen as a “tie down” that only women want. If that were really true, the human race’s extinction would have passed already.

My second piece of advice is to “know thyself.” I would encourage anyone to journal everyday because it adds a level of reflection that adds immense value to your life. Sometimes you do not have someone to talk to about things, but using a journal lets you get a first pass at your thoughts and feelings and allows you to converse with yourself. It is the cheapest form of therapy available. In our society writing is not see as something stereotypical of men, but I encourage everyone to try it. It is the one thing I really wish I would have picked up earlier in life.

From writing I get a sense of what my strengths and weaknesses are and how to leverage and overcome them. For example, I know my greatest strength is my resiliency. I just never quit. I get knocked down a lot, trust me, but I always get back up again. I can’t explain where it comes from, it is just an energy in my chest that won’t allow me to be defeated even when things go completely awry. I often say this is a necessity of being a Rust, that someone back on the Green Isle cursed us for some reason. Oftentimes we make mistakes but sometimes sheer cosmic forces seem to be working against us. You can choose to give up and find something easier, or you can choose to adapt and overcome. I choose the latter every time.

I also know that my greatest weakness is thinking on my feet. Unfortunately this can be a death knell in terms of your career. If my mind if focused on a particular problem, and something presents itself it can immediately make me forget everything. It is because I know that this is a weakness that allows me to overcome it. I work incredibly hard to prepare myself for the day and constantly learn. For example, I get complemented on my public speaking and presentations I’ve given in the past. It is because I am prepared for them. They do not realize I probably rehearsed that speech a dozen times, each time visualizing what could go wrong so I could be prepared for it, and working and reworking until I got it down pat. Some people are natural speakers. One of our divisional presidents for a company I worked for was like this for sure. He could get up in a moment’s notice and say something that just fit the moment, almost completely on the fly. I really admired that about him and wish I could be that way.

 

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