Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Live Deliberately

So I got five cards in the mail for Christmas, but have already gotten eight for my impending birthday, and another seven via e-mail. I can only assume that means my birthday is more important than Jesus's. Right? Yeah, yeah, just kidding.

I told one of my friends here that, technically, my birthday doesn't occur until February 25th at 12:04 p.m. Central Standard Time, which is February 26th at 2:04 a.m. here in KL. I'm going to wring every last second I can out of my 30s.

Interestingly, the only time in my life so far that I have fibbed about my age was in the months after I turned 30. I definitely didn't handle that one with much aplomb or grace. It was so well-known, in fact, that I got three cards the following year wishing me a happy second anniversary of my 29th birthday or something. Not this time... I will wear "40" like a badge of honor, especially since I'm lucky enough to not look my age. I've said many times that getting older definitely beats the only other alternative.

In what is surely a curious coincidence, the change to each new decade of my adult life has been marked by something relatively significant. When I was 20, I moved to Denver from Montgomery, Alabama... a major, major turning point in my life. When I turned 30, I had just moved into my first actual house, and now that I'm turning 40, I find myself living in Malaysia, of all places.

It's a fascinating truism about people—we really can't imagine ourselves at much different points in our lives than where we're at currently, give or take a few years. On the cusp of 40, I can barely remember what I was like as a 19-year-old. And most 19-year-olds figure they'll be long dead before reaching the preposterously old age of 50. Seriously, ask any teenager, "What do you think you'll be like when you're 50 years old?" They can't imagine it. Even at 39.945, I can't really picture myself as a 50-year-old. In our minds, "old" is always at least 15-20 years older than WE currently are, isn't it?

I can't deny, however, that on a couple of occasions in the past week or so, it hasn't escaped my attention that, in all statistical likelihood, even if I live out a fully normal lifespan with no unexpectedly early demise, that my life is half over. I don't, however, mourn this or find it depressing at all. I've been fortunate in this life—not as much so as some, but infinitely more so than many, many others—and I must admit that as I've gotten older, in almost all respects, the tapestry of my life has grown richer and deeper, and my life has largely been better for it. I was pretty happy and things were quite good when I was 23, but in almost every meaningful way, my life is better now. The inexorable accumulation of ups and downs, experiences and feelings, and high points and low points all just serve to enrich the human condition. This gives me hope that the second half of my life will be even better than the first half!

I suppose it's only natural for such milestones to be a time for reflection on one's life. As I was making the decision to move to Malaysia, I was repeatedly asked, "Why?" And the reason was twofold. Primarily it was the desire to live in and experience life in a different country and culture that prompted the move. But beyond that, it was wanting not to get to the end of my life, only to look back with questions and regret, wondering what may have been. To this day, I name as two of the most influential writers in my life the 19th century American transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Two of their essays, "Life Without Principle" (Thoreau) and "Self-Reliance" (Emerson) were incredibly impactful. However, one of Thoreau's most-quoted passages, in abbreviated form, is from his seminal work, Walden, written while he was spending a year in relative isolation on Walden Pond. It aptly and eloquently sums up the underlying reason for why I do many of the things I do, even if I'm not living a Spartan-like existence alone in the forest.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."


Steve K. said...

Happy Birthday, Chad! Some people live more in 40 years than others do in 90. You have definitely taken advantage of every moment of your life, drinking it in like a fine wine. I'm glad you're related to me.

gmfitzg2 said...

Happy Birthday Mr. Man.
I'm keeping it clean, I know Moms an avid fan of your site! :)~

And check your email for god sakes, unless you're purposely ignoring me! lol

Barb said...

That was just so eloquent! I, like Steve, am glad you are related to me! And to your friend gmftizg2...thank you for keeping it clean!! Mom appreciates that!


ps I found 50 to be a remarkable birthday to celebrate and know you will as well--when the time comes!

barbmerchant said...

BTW you know your birth made me miss lunch!! haha

Pkr said...

" I've been fortunate in this life—not as much so as some, but infinitely more so than many, many others "

I must quote this. This is just inspiring. Happiness lies in contentment.

I shall remind myself of this everyday.