We go through decades in our lives. If you are reading this, you’ve gone through at least one. In that first decade we learn a lot, some would argue most, of what we will need to survive our remaining decades. We learn that hot things can hurt. That counting will help us figure out how far we still need to go, though asking the question “are we there yet” holds a lot of pleasure for the questioner. We figure out that food comes in an incredible variety of forms and delivery systems and that we are often forced to eat some of the foods even though we don’t like them. We hopefully learn to play nice and to vow to practice that in the decades to come every chance we get and with everyone we meet even when they haven’t learned this lesson as well.
In our second decade, we anxiously await our teens and when we finally achieve them, we have no idea what to do with them, especially the hormones. We hopefully learn to drive, though it is becoming questionable whether future generations will ever need to drive the car at all. In the last part of the decade, we get to vote which is all too often filled with disappointment, sometimes even when our candidate wins. Make no mistake here, you still need to vote. No vote means you are only allowed to be disappointed. And as that second decade comes to an end, you are given the keys to adulthood and the admonition “go get a job kid cause you’re on your own”. Ah the sweet smell of freedom and the lure of the wild.
Decade three starts the trip of wonder. We wonder about everything as we wander through our twenties. We try out our wild side, three hours of sleep and a recovery plan seem perfectly natural. We figure out our tolerance for risk, and generally amass the mistakes we will refer to in our later decades as lessons learned. This is the decade where we will explore our sexuality (god I miss that, but maybe not), decide to decide what we might be, and as we approach the end of the decade, come to the realization that this was the decade when we actually grew up.
Thirties, these are the years we re-find and re-define ourselves, not that it is the final time we will do that. We either find our soul mate or decide that we would rather fly solo. We settle down, maybe even buy a house and, if we are up to it, make it a home. It is during our thirties that we will likely start our families. It is the decade where we will claim we left our wild days behind, no matter how wild we still remain.
Our fifth decade is the decade we will look back on and want a mulligan. Not because we messed up, but because it was the decade we played young people’s games and held grown up jobs. We were in our prime and still full of energy, energy we likely needed to deal with our children. We make actual grown up decisions and start building our bucket lists.
Then comes our sixth decade. We come to the realization that like it or not, our wealth determines both our success and status all the while learning that it still can’t really buy happiness. We learn that money can buy us time and maybe offer more choices, but happiness comes from the people around us and our connection to family and friends. We start to spend a little too much time with the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. We start counting our gray hairs and spending time trying to look once more like we did a decade earlier. If we are lucky, as we approach the end of this decade, we start to appreciate who we are and the person we have become. We may even accept who we are as the better version of who we were.
Decade number seven brings you the respect of age and the realization that your journey through the first six decades have left you tagged as “experienced”. Experience somehow equates to wisdom and wisdom redefines you as a commodity. Your children refer to other people your age as “old” but not you, and all it took to earn that dignity was paying for a college education or two or three and being there through every crisis they faced on their journey through the earlier decades. This is the decade you will likely experiment with retirement as a title. And, if all has worked out, you will travel and start checking off some of the more possible things on your very long bucket list.
And that brings me to tonight at midnight. It is upon that momentous tick of the minute hand that I will enter my next decade. I cannot tell you what it will hold or how it will define me but I enter it knowing certain truths. I am a better version of the me I have sometimes been. I have in fact learned from the mistakes I have made and have applied them to my decisions that followed. I feel good, even valued for the help I have given to those I have met along the way. I have raised, with the help of their mother, two beautiful successful daughters. I have been blessed to be part of the lives of two equally impressive, uniquely inquisitive, challengingly energetic grandchildren of whom I am so incredibly fond. Do I wish I could be forty something again, of course, but then all these things that I am so grateful for would not have happened yet and possibly wouldn’t. I will not trade what I have for a what if. I am possibly and finally content.
By the time you read this I will have crossed the milepost and will be beginning my 70th trip around the sun. Send me no gifts for all I ask is that you take the time to think about the decades YOU have crossed and vow to make the next one just a little better than the last. Promise to do one more good deed than the last time. Help one more person than before and look for the good in the people around you so they may see the good in you.