Five days before my 27th birthday, my son was born. He just turned 18 the other day, so today it’s my turn to experience my 45th year. One of the great ways to have people ignore your birthday is to have a child’s birthday only a couple days earlier. Once my son was born, my birthday was an afterthought. As I’m getting older, that’s OK.
I think years that end in 5 or 0 are special milestones, as is 18. With my daughter hitting 21 a few months back and my wife turning 50 in July, it’s lined up so all of our birthdays mean something. Mine means I’m halfway to 90. This would bother me, but tomorrow, my great aunt turns 99. I look at my life and think, “You mean this may not even be half over? Will I have to do this again, plus another 10 years?”
I know that I’m not “old”, and I wrote about aging with my last entry, but I thought that I’d share 6 things I’ve learned and changed my mind about, because I was wrong at 18, but know the truth at 45:
1. Pets are important for mental health
If you don’t have a cat or dog, your ability to love and be loved is not as honed as it could be. I shunned animals in my house for the first 10 years of my marriage and denied my kids everything other than a single cat. Today, I have three dogs and four cats. A couple days ago, on Friday, I dog-sat two of my daughter’s dogs in addiction to mine. If you would have told me 8 or 9 years ago there would be 5 dogs in my house at one time, I would have wondered who bought the house and how much we got for it.
2. Ask for permission, not forgiveness
Yeah, I messed up on this one and when you mess up big enough, you pay the price. I always thought that it was better to just do what I wanted and say sorry afterward. It’s amazing how many people I hurt and dangerous situations I put myself in during my years as an addict with that attitude. I look back now at stories I used to laugh at when I told them. Now, in getting older, I just see a sick person who pushed boundaries for no other reason than to see what happened.
3. If you’re a man, your wife is more important than your kids
This doesn’t work the other way around, but as a man, your first obligation is to make sure your wife is healthy, happy and fulfilled. She is your life partner and will be with you long after the kids are gone if everything goes right. I thought that your kids are supposed to be your entire world, and I think for the mother, there is an extra instinct that men don’t have. For men, you’ve got to work on the relationship with the wife as your top priority. I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to advise in different marriage set-ups. I’ve only done this one.
4. Nobody wins when everything is 50-50
In the end, it’s better if all the credits and debits end up being 50-50. But when it comes to the individual moments, decisions and yes, battles, in your life, striving for 50-50 just leaves everybody unhappy. That’s because in an individual’s eyes, unless it can be scientifically measured, things are never 50-50. There is no personal relationship, business relationship, etc., where 50-50 really exists except when it comes to collecting checks and/or paying bills. If you can accept that there are times you’ll get your way and times you won’t, times that you’ll worker harder than the other person and times you won’t, times when you are invisible and times where you are in the spotlight, it’s easier to accept this. You’re looking for 50-50 to be the final score, not the score for everything along the way.
5. Somebody else’s opinion shouldn’t matter if they don’t matter
Yes, all lives matter and every other disclaimer I’m supposed to put here. My point is that too many of us are wrapped up in what others think of us, especially younger people. If somebody blasts me on social media and I don’t know them, how can I possibly care what they think? I don’t know them, I don’t know their story and I don’t know how they reached a conclusion that is false. I could try to figure all this out and change their opinion, or I could just accept they aren’t working from the same set of logic, facts and reality as I am and move on. Now, I disengage and block them. You can’t respect somebody’s opinion if you don’t respect them.
6. It’s better to be seen as a hypocrite than make the same mistakes
The anti-COVID crowd says, “The experts first said we didn’t need masks, now they say we do!” Well, they said we didn’t for about 4 weeks. The last 50 weeks, they’ve pushed it. We’re allowed to change our minds based on new data. And we should. You don’t hold the same beliefs at 5 years old that you do at 18. Why should you have the same beliefs at 45 that you do at 18? It’s not being a traitor, it’s not being a hypocrite. It’s called being wiser. Many people still can’t pull it off no matter their age.
I wonder if I’ll disagree with any of these as I continue getting older. I know most people become more conservative as they get older, and when it comes to my own behavior and the way I handle money, I think that is true. But, I also feel like my worldview has changed as many who call themselves “proud conservatives” behave in a way that seems evil and illegal. I think I’m actually becoming more liberal in my beliefs toward the world and other people. I wonder what else that I can add to this list as I age. What will 70-year-old Josh know that 45-year-old Josh doesn’t have the first clue about? Learning and keeping things interesting are what will propel me as I keep on getting older. I hope it propels you, too.