Today, I begin my 41st year.
(This was always was a sticking point for me – I actually completed my 40th year and am now 40. We don’t refer to newborn babies as being one. They complete their first year and then become one. Silly, I know.)
So for conformity’s sake, today I am 40.
I am taking this moment to set an aim for the decade before me. That is, if I am so lucky to have the whole decade. That comment does not come from a place of lack. In fact, just the opposite. It comes from a place of gratitude. I literally have every material, social and relational “thing” I could ever want. I am complete, in a way. Though, I stumbled here, fell into it. This “manifesto” is an attempt to exponentiate quality and meaning of the strengths in my life.
When I turned thirty, I thought I would never do my twenties again! And now that I am forty, I am more likely to do my thirties than twenties, but still…no thanks. I want to look back at my forties and think I would love to do all that again. So here we are.
I’ll examine the era’s in my life in an attempt to extract the lessons that I should carry forward.
Early Years – Teenager
When I was young, I had thoughts of grandeur regarding my impact on the world. I dreamed early on about being like Joe Montana (this was during the 49ers championship streak), being a quarterback, the hero.
Then came music.
I truly felt, to a delusional extent, that I was destined to be a rockstar. I’m being serious. I really didn’t have an interest in being a serious musician. I wanted to know the bare minimum necessary to write a song. If there was any grace involved at all, it was that I grasped the idea of how to write a song early. Looking back, I felt this had made me the “chosen one”. I would change lives with my gift.
In hindsight, I was … okay.
This habit of setting myself apart as the hero quarterback or the destined-to-be rockstar has done its work in my life. Once I realized that “hey, maybe I wont be a rockstar?“, I suddenly had to think like everyone else. Now it seems pretty clear that I was using music as a primary way to connect with people. Because of this, I failed to develop the normal ways in which people connect. Talking, touching and initiating the interactions.
For example, I could never just ask a girl out. I had to write a song, a fantasy about what it would be like for us to be together. I never considered how to make it actually come true. I could never come through. The girls paid the price.
Oops. Sorry about that…. I know…a little late, now.
Lesson learned: Work on connection.
This decade, is the decade that I broke others’ hearts. I had my fair share of heartache, yes. Not much you can do about that in any case.
So, I started out this decade pretty good. I wasn’t much of a partier. A lot of my friends who were into drugs and consequently messed up their lives. I had no interest in that. I had a steady girlfriend, she was good to me. But, she couldn’t see the fantasy of who I WANTED to be. I wanted her to believe in that. I needed to believe that I was something better than what I was.
This and other relationships I had in my twenties suffered from the same type of issue. These ladies loved me for who I was, they just couldn’t and didn’t love me for who I wanted them to believe I was.
I didn’t put together these traits with this moniker at the time.
Underneath it all, I didn’t feel good about myself. Expectations were not taken from any realistic baseline in my life. I needed who I thought I should be to be reflected back through my partner(s). It all came from feeling inferior, less-than, weak and like an impending failure. To make it worse, what I really needed was to be loved for what and who I was. Yet, I wouldn’t accept it. I hated myself.
I was trying to get approval from an entity that only existed in my mind. You know, the voices: You’re not sexy, so you’ll never have good sex. You’re not alpha enough, you’ll never be recognized as a leader. You’re not athletic enough, so you’ll always be flabby. You don’t have the money for that, you’re a piece of trash. You can’t raise kids, you’re too selfish.
And on it went.
Lessons Learned: 1. Be authentic. 2. Accept love.
My thirties began with me very painfully exiting a relationship. I exited for much of the reason I name above. I was loved, but wasn’t who I wanted to be. The real me was reflected in those folks and I hated myself. So…I cut them loose.
The subsequent relationship I entered was a situation where I was the adult. I had the resources and the knowledge. Not a lot of input was sought from the other. A big mistake. Again, loved, I was left because I wouldn’t open up and be authentic.
Personally, I went from being an angry workaholic obsessed with work to a vacationing yuppy. I didn’t go on a lot of vacations when I was a kid. We had a large family, it was expensive and a logistics nightmare when we did embark. So when I finally had the money, I went to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico and so on. I drank and wondered why people like vacation! I’m not a vacation person, at least not to a resort or a cruise line.
I wasted a lot of time, trying to be someone I just wasn’t. Though, this time it was in a much different way.
Also, I was very busy. There wasn’t much self care. So I became a walking anxiety and stress machine. I began feeling a lack of time for everything. As a result, this evolved into a general feeling of being overwhelmed, even when I wasn’t.
I thought less. I consider myself a thinker, but I just thought about my feelings. Not why or if my feelings were accurate. Deep thinking, breaking through the layers, is imperative to growth and understanding.
Nonetheless, I did work very hard this past decade. I earned an MBA and a promotion, was transferred three different times for my job. I had a successful open heart surgery to which I emerged better than before. Also, I ran several marathons, half marathons, read many books and learned a lot. At the end of my thirties, I felt happier and healthier than I have in the entirety of my life.
Lessons Learned: 1. Think deeply, emotions aside. 2. Engage in the reality of relationships, roll around in the mud of life.
So… summing it up…life lessons, thus far:
- Work on connection
- Be authentic
- Accept love
- Think deeply
- Engage in relationships
My 40’s Manifesto
Work on Connection.
I will connect with people through music, blogging (obviously) and Podcasting. But, I also want to do it the old fashioned way, person to person. I will call people on the phone, share my thoughts and experiences with them. Historically, I’d feel like I am letting that person down if I don’t act like a motivational speaker or share some great or impressive news. I don’t want to tell them that I am stuck in a rut or stressed out, yet perhaps I should.
Also, I want to connect to the community at large. Volunteer, give back and do more to impact the cause. Fostering a sense of community. I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, but the thirst for this type of connection is there.
I’m going to be me. Through and through. Can’t hide it or try to change it. It’s okay if people don’t like me. It’s okay if I don’t get promoted. Life will be fine as long as I’m authentic. I know what I really want/like. Others don’t have to be into what I’m into. And to the voice that says “Oh, No. What if I’m not…”
My response to this voice: It’s fucking okay. It’s probably a signal that I’m not where I should be!
And it’s not fair to the people I care about. They really want to know me, just like I really want to know them.
Just take it! I’m going to get over myself and accept it. Even those times when I’m not happy with myself. Jesus. I’m lucky enough to have a whole shit load of people love me. Treating them like shit for loving me is as bullshit as it gets. And I’ve done my fair share of that exact thing.
I believe Nietzsche said “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”.
Yeah, monster? No thank you. I won’t become my thoughts.
I’m going to get a hold of my mind.
Human beings have somewhere between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. They are also mostly negative…like 80%. More bad news, they are almost the same thoughts every… single… day1. Considering where they are coming from is the first step to changing them. Mindfulness is the next, but it starts with the initial awareness.
When boss really irritates me, I’m going to think about why I am feeling that way. This, instead of simply emotionally reacting. Most of the time, I can more easily and constructively share my feelings with those around and close to me with this beginning step.
Engage in Relationships
The good, the bad, the difficult…all of it. I don’t want to avoid any of it. It’s okay to go to not believe that every little thing a person (friend or significant other) is a sign that they should not be in my life. Confront the obvious issues, talk about how it feels to be in the relationship. Talk about everything, experience everything. Have a good idea about what the other person is on the inside.
Alright. Let’s break and follow up in ten years!