It’s my 40th birthday. 40. Crazy. I’ve, apparently, reached that dreaded “midlife” thing, but, it doesn’t feel so bad… I guess. I mean, I’m just getting started, so time will only tell. Looking back, it’s been a pretty eventful life. I can’t complain. I mean, I could complain, there’s plenty of stuff to complain about, but I’m choosing not to complain. What’s the point? I’m here, and 40 is a milestone. I’ve been reminiscing some of the many milestones (i.e. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development) that got me to this point today… the good, bad, and ugly.
I stood up, fell down, and eventually learned to walk, cried, cooed, and one day learned to speak intelligible words, started singing and performing as soon as possible, started distance running at the early age of 4, had my first kiss, full on kiss, at the early age of 5 with Brandy (can’t remember her last name… probably best), we kept kissing (not exactly sure how I knew what I was doing).
From the age of 8 to my early teen’s it’s all a blur… my parents divorced, and, as a kid, it was pretty traumatic, I remember that. I also remember many details regarding the divorce, and the ongoing aftermath, but nothing worth sharing here, but I would say that their divorce was a milestone, as it helped shape me into who I am… there are parts about my personality that I absolutely abhor and wish I didn’t have to deal with, and then there are parts about me that, I think, are wonderful due to the fact that God somehow leveraged the whole ordeal to instill values in me that I hold near and dear to my chest. One of the most significant things that happened in the early stages of that whole divorce thing was when my dad, not knowing how significant this would be to my future, bought me my first guitar. Music was an obvious passion of mine, but the guitar became, to me, like a best friend, my safe haven, where I would lose track of time and escape from my life. Embracing music came from one of the most pure and innocent places inside of me that I can’t even put words to it.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that losing my virginity in high school was a milestone, I guess it could be, but it was more the relationship from which it stemmed. It was an awful relationship; we were horrible together. It made no sense. We were on and off again for 4 years, 4 years, until one day I finally woke up. I take full responsibility, but, ultimately, I think we were both so lost and broken that we just needed something to hold onto, regardless of how dysfunctional it was. I hate that it, more often than not, takes hurting others or damning yourself to eventually enter into another stage of awareness, or enlightenment, but I learned a lot about myself and matured a great deal as a result of that experience.
I performed in two high school talent shows and, for the first time, got a taste of what I imagined being a rock star felt like. I went to a college, that I hated, in my hometown, because my dad talked me into staying home and keeping it cheap instead of pursuing the school that I really wanted to attend, which was further away and more expensive. The lesson here is: playing it cheap and safe has little to no reward… it’s just cheap and safe. The next year, I pulled out of that safe college and single handedly worked out the financial aid to attend another college that I couldn’t afford, but was closer to home, and offered more of an experience that I was looking for. Recognizing that it’s not gonna happen for you unless you decide to physically step into your destiny is one of the greatest lessons any of us can learn, regardless of what the well meaning people say around you. Side note: Well meaning people don’t know what’s best for you. Their perspective is limited. You know what’s in your heart. Do it. I toured in a group for 3 years, based out of that college, increasing my appetite for a career in music. I met my wife in that group. Members weren’t supposed to date… we broke that rule. The lesson? When done wisely, rules are meant to be broken.
I quit college. I was failing, plus I just hated it. I took a job in Cincinnati… I’d never been away on my own. More often than not being a screw up has paid better dividends than playing by the rules. As a result of my moving there, I started touring with a group called Truth, playing lead guitar. It was my first, outside of college, professional touring experience. I was in my flow state, if that makes sense, meaning it was some of the hardest work I’d ever done, but it wasn’t work at all because I loved what I was doing. I went back home, married my wife, went back to college, and with her help, ended up on the Deen’s list several semesters, graduated with two awards, recognizing me for my musicianship and, funny enough, improvement as a student. In light of how awful of a student I was in my first round with college, I think they just made that award up for me.
I wanted to get my graduate degree… instead I did something crazier… I left the comfort of a full time job to start a band while my wife worked full time. I was out of town all the time, but the band finally signed the coveted record deal, toured the country for almost 10 years, won some awards, enjoyed success on radio, had our song played on one of NASA’s shuttle mission’s (seriously), shared the stage with everybody from Switchfoot to Amy Grant, and made friendships that will last a lifetime.
At 35, I quit the band. I’ve never quit working, but in the process of quitting the band, I quit being ambitious, and reading what I’ve written right now, I’m getting a real sense, in real time, of what’s been missing in my life… risks. Taking chances. Betting on myself. Trusting God. Setting a goal, and seeing it through, to be less dramatic. The last 4-5 years leading up to this point have been some of the most self disappointing, depressing, dark years of my adult life simply because I’ve stopped betting the farm, as they say. My best days were the days when I was, in a sense, saying, “To hell with it… if it doesn’t work out, we’ll live. God is faithful.” As I think over the last 40 years of my life, I see that I always felt the most alive, the most in touch with who I was created to be, when I took chances and just trusted it would fall into place, because it always did. I think the older you get, the more aware of your surroundings you get, you see what’s at stake, and you’re capable, due to maturity, I guess, to make more intelligible decisions, but I feel like I’ve been that kid still going to that safe and more inexpensive college again… which leads me to the awareness that, at some point, you can calculate risks all you want, but you eventually have to jump, regardless of the dangers that may be on the other side. We’re never too old to dream, never to old to take a chance, or make a change, we’re just never too old… regardless of the costs or who it may, or may not, affect… which leads me to my last milestone… my children. What can I say? When I feel like my life has no purpose, I just come home. My wife and kids stood in the kitchen and sang “Happy Birthday” to me this morning, and had they stopped at that, never giving me a single thing, then it would’ve been enough. I love my family. When I don’t feel blessed, I look at them, and am thankful.
So that being said… without repeating every lesson, mentioned or unmentioned…
Take chances. Celebrate the failures as much as, if not more than, the successes, because it’s the many failures, in life, business, relationships, etc, that culminate to the inevitable success down the road, as you pursue it with all of your heart. The failures remain failures if they don’t propel us forward, but, if we let them, they can be the most powerful forces in life that fling us into a glorious destiny that we could have never dreamed.
I’m happy to say that I’m starting to wake up again…