A Half-Century of Life

On March 21, I will celebrate my 50th birthday, and wow, what a ride it’s been so far. I can only imagine, as I continue along the “back nine” of my life, what exciting changes still lie ahead.

Where did the time go? So many events of the past seem so recent. I vividly remember my first day of kindergarten, the season I led my little league team in home runs, dates with my first serious girlfriend, and so many other character building and personality forming chapters in the story of my life. But these events took place a long time ago. On March 21, I will celebrate my 50th birthday, and wow, what a ride it’s been so far. I can only imagine, as I continue along the “back nine” of my life, what exciting changes still lie ahead.

I’m really not dreading this birthday. I remember thinking I was turning “old” on my 30th, so since then I’ve grown to appreciate my years of experience and look forward to the good times that are yet to come. I try to forget the fact that I’m getting older and, instead, think about my accomplishments—the goals I’ve set and attained—as well as the goals I can look forward to reaching down the road.

I do contemplate my past a lot. I like to think of such reflection as an exercise to help keep my mind sharp while holding on to as many of those memories as I can before they slip away forever. I know this reminiscing often shows up in my columns. My dad is a writer, and he does the same thing. Maybe it’s a Felix trait or a writer’s trait. Maybe it’s just something that old people do. But without those memories and the lessons I’ve learned from them, I wouldn’t be able to share my wisdom with others.

I also think about the passing of my mother a few years ago after her long struggle with Alzheimer’s. In her earlier days, she was so full of life and wisdom. Given the genetic nature of the disease, I wonder if it might someday catch up to me. I feel a need to share what I’ve learned while I can.

When my kids graduated from high school a few years ago, I gave them each a wallet-sized list of 10 important lessons I’ve learned in life. It’s my hope that they carry it with them and occasionally see it as a reminder of points that I believe are truly important.

Rather than spend the rest of this space this month reliving experiences of my first 50 years, I’m going to share a modified version of that “Top 10” list (swapping out a couple of the more personal, parent/child related items). Young readers, take these to heart. Those roughly my age, compare with your own wisdom. Old Guard, feel free to shake your heads and let me know just how much more I have yet to learn. This list is in no particular order and clearly is not all-inclusive.

  • Be friendly with everyone. Be friends with good people who energize you.
  • Live each day like it’s your last, but plan each day knowing it’s probably not.
  • It’s never too early to start saving. The more time that money has to grow, the more it will become.
  • Most people are blessed with five senses. Appreciate each that you have to its fullest potential. They will fade in time.
  • Be fair to yourself, because you can’t expect anything else in life to be so.
  • Even in the worst times, find something to laugh about. A sense of humor is the key to life.
  • Too many opportunities are missed because the desire goes unknown. It never hurts to ask.
  • Being late is being inconsiderate to others. It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.
  • Never compromise who you are or what you believe in for anyone.
  • Fully appreciate the time you have with the people you love. You never know when it’ll be your last opportunity.
  • Be an overachiever. Always give 110 percent. (See what I did here? I actually listed 11 items.)