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As I approached the cashier of a mom & pop candy shop the other day a young girl behind the counter declared, “Sir, can I help you with something?” My response was a simple reply, but her mention of the word “sir” did not fall on deaf ears. Although it only registered for a second, I knew what this would ultimately mean. I continued my search for the perfect chocolate covered pecans and then asked her for a specific item. She responded again with a few kind words, again tagging her answer with the word “sir”.
Many will say my discovery could be chalked up to living in the south, but this time I knew it was different. I have always taken pride in the fact that even as recent as last year I was carded when going to hear a local band or visiting a massive buffet at a gulf coast casino. I’ve always done a good job of hiding the grey in my hair. Recently, however, my wife removed all doubt when she mentioned the option of coloring my hair because of the recent crop of grey appearing on my well groomed mane that has been my source of confidence since middle school.
Was this the dreaded season of life that I had been warned about? Could this be the end of my youth and all that it represents? I don’t want to give up that easily. I can deal with the hair color and no longer being mistaken for a “young looking” adult, but the sudden weight gain? That may be the end of the rope and give way to accepting the term “middle aged” as mainstream and a part of my life, no longer belonging to those who are obviously more mature in years.
I’ve been skinny all of my life. Being given the name “chicken man” often had more to do with my size than my affinity for the almighty feathered bird. Sitting on the sofa at a recent gathering with other middle aged folks I was told by a good friend, “man, that gut looks good on you”. As my world came crashing down around me, I came to realize that I had begun a new chapter in life that was not waiting for my approval. It was moving forward whether I liked it or not.
I used to play drums in a band and commonly dressed like a high-schooler with no responsibilities. This was always reaffirmed while visiting my wife’s school as other teachers on occasion referred to me as her high school boyfriend. This was in comparison to most of the other husbands who dressed like the traditional man over forty with a mortgage and a “real” job. After leaving the band last year and sitting behind a desk for the greater part of the day, I too have joined the ranks of the traditional man. I finally broke 150 lbs for the first time in my life and find myself having to unbutton my pants at the table. (That last part may be more about denial than anything. New pants are in my not so distant future.)
From the outside looking in, it may seem a bit sad knowing the realization I’ve had. However, I’ve decided to use it as a launching pad of sorts. For me, turning 40 represented a coming of age. It represented a new era filled with adventure and excitement. After all, life begins at 40, right?
When I turned 40, I realized one very important thing. My excuses were gone. I could no longer blame my parents for who I had become. I could no longer use my environment as an excuse or justification for failure. I was FORTY YEARS OLD!!! I can’t blame anyone but myself. The buck stops with me.
Realizing this fact actually simplified my life. It also gave me a huge confidence boost. I stopped caring what most people thought about me and started becoming who I was created to be. After all, I was forty, right?
I had always heard this was the big one. The big birthday that changes everything. I just didn’t know what kind of impact it would have on my life until after I crossed over. The change was almost immediate. It seems like it happened overnight.
I created a new declaration for my life and where I was headed.
Here’s what I wrote:
I am responsible for my actions. I am the one who chooses where I’m headed. I can’t blame anyone else for the outcome. I no longer focus on the past. I will keep my eyes on the future and what is to come.
What about you? Are you living in the past? Do you hold on to excuses?
Like the movie Frozen says, “Let it Go.”
Start living the life you were created to live and don’t apologize. You only get one shot, you’re a grown up now!