So, in 14 days, I will be 40 years old.
I suppose that’s a milestone of sorts. Hell, as a black man…no…as a human being, living in this violent, selfish and widely undisciplined day and age…it’s almost a miracle. If I had followed my game plan, I’d be in my 12th year at the FBI. I’d be undercover of course, so few people would know it…but I’d be wrapping up a long term assignment, heading off to a month long vacation and returning to lead my own UC Unit. I’d also be driving around in a jet black Stingray, teaching part time at Quantico and working with some close friends to open a local sports bar, above which would be a loft in which I’d be living. Did I mention it would have an amazing view as well?
Yeah…widely undisciplined applies to the person describing the world at large too.
As all people do when they reach a milestone, I look back and reflect on what I’ve done, what I’ve learned and think about what’s left to do. We present ourselves with our very own “state of the union” address. Well…more like…a “state of me” address. I’ve taught college classes about this. In developmental psychology we discuss the stages of development and I stop right around here and spend…a little extra time. Most of my students are returning to school, they’re around my age, they’ve had significant life experience…so it’s definitely warranted in the lesson plan. We laugh, we sigh and we frown or make that “awkward face” when we think about something from our past that we regret, or that thing that we are COMPLETELY and ABSOLUTELY embarrassed by. Then we take that moment, dissect it and attempt to learn a lesson from it so that it feels less foolish. I think in the end though, the more you have accomplished after that embarrassing moment, the less you think about it. You have little reason to dwell when all in your world is going well.
When you’re happy…embarrassing moments are just fun anecdotes to share during the half time show at the Super Bowl party.
So we reflect in an effort to determine where we are in life. We reflect to determine whether or not we’ve accomplished enough to turn those moments into funny little stories. We reflect at every milestone to make certain we have not wasted a large block of time as we get closer and closer to our end. And when we reflect, many of us make that one fundamental mistake. Instead of looking within…many of us look outside of ourselves. We compare what we have done against the accomplishments of others and measure whether or not we have been successful. I’ve been doing that for…just under 40 years.
14 days less than 40 to be exact.
Happiness comes from within. If you want to be happy, satisfied and content with your life, your experiences and your accomplishments, you must first be happy with yourself. You must first appreciate, respect and love the person that you are. And in the end, you have to focus on you. It’s not selfish as much as it is necessary. I have said it before in previous blogs, in conversations and implied it when re-posting those “deep” sayings on Facebook. Be good to others, love and respect others, appreciate and learn from others, get excited about learning something new about others…and in the end…remember to love yourself. It enriches your life experience and sets an amazing example for the generations that follow.
So in my “State of Me” address, I am here to tell you, that the state of me is…well…not so strong…but strengthening. I’ve spent my life comparing myself to the perceived success of others. I have found happiness in giving. Giving myself in the service of others so that THEIR “State of Me” addresses are fun, light and happy. I have wallowed in self pity and disconnected from others to avoid the pain of loss, heartbreak and abandonment. And overall, I’ve been largely angry and unhappy about things in general and have done little to change. I’ve done this because I’ve been confused about who I am…and ultimately…because I have not taken the time to appreciate and love…me…unconditionally.
When I look out at others, whether through direct contact or when browsing social media…it’s clear that I am not the only one. We are angry, we are bitter, we are embarrassed and we are defensive about it. We’ll deny that we are and get angry at the person who loves us enough to point it out…and then we’ll “unfriend” them. We validate our lives by how others perceive us, when in the end, we should validate our lives by how we perceive ourselves. Our mistakes and failures are just as important as our successes and the way we react…or rebound from them…will be largely determined by the feelings we have about ourselves.
So, in 14 days, I will be 40 years old. The ride so far has been interesting. It has been painful, sad, hurtful, joyful, confusing, maddening, loving, passionate, hopeless and hopeful. Some may look back and see that I’ve spent it giving to others. Some may look back and say I’ve been selfish. I look back and see a giant ball of organized chaos. I look back and see that one thing is missing. I did not love, appreciate, respect…or even like myself enough and that has unfortunately affected every other aspect of my life.
In 14 days, I will be 40 years old…and today I will start doing something I should have done years ago. Something we all should have begun years ago. Today, I will accept, respect and like…me. And with that, I will enjoy each and every day of the next 40 years.