Today I celebrate the completion of my fortieth trip around the sun.
At forty, a white American male can be reasonably confident that he’s at, or even a touch beyond, the statistical midpoint of his life, that in some raw actuarial sense there are now more yesterdays than there are tomorrows. The relevant clichés suggest that this is a moment for taking stock, for putting things in perspective, and they are absolutely on point.
I suspect I’m like a great many of us, though, in that the culture’s usual metrics of success don’t really signify; so many of the things we are told a man is supposed to want for himself are simply not things I aspire to. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about just what such an accounting might mean for me. And what I keep circling back to is that wisest and most beautiful of Nietzsche’s injunctions: “Become who you are.”
That’s the only metric or goalpost that makes any sense at all to me. Of course, in accepting it, I’m immediately thrown back on the problem of trying to figure out just who that person is.
I can sure tell you who I’d like for him to be: someone more trusting, more forgiving, more generous, more gracious and more present. Someone continually engaged in the repair of the world, continually alive to the profound love and friendship that surrounds him. Someone who spends more time on bicycles and less on airplanes. Someone who plays the game a little more lightly, as my friend George would say. (He’d be referring to Go, but I think it’s pretty wise counsel in general.)
All of this is aspirational, admittedly and surely. But you know what? There’s not a damn thing in that laundry list that isn’t achievable with patience, some discipline, and a little help from my friends. In fact, I find the prospect of trying to become that guy entirely agreeable. So here’s to everything we’ve shared up until now, here’s to the beloved that didn’t make it…and here’s to the road ahead.
I can’t wait to see how this story ends.