I’m a couple years past that 40 year mark now, but it seems appropriate to go ahead and jot down my thoughts on life after turning 40.
As a teenager, I had no direction. I’m not saying my family life was bad, I just didn’t have life goals. My thoughts were typical of misguided teens; have fun at all costs. I did many things I’m not proud of and those things make me all red faced when I’m telling my kids about ’em. However, I do reflect back to those days to help me keep perspective with my own teenage daughters. It even makes me laugh a little when I catch myself thinking the exact way my parents thought. They were right when saying “you’ll understand one day”.
I was lazy when it came to school and knew college wasn’t for me. Way too much work. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my uncle Dennis (God rest his soul) and join the United States Marine Corps. The Few – The Proud.
Becoming A Marine
Boot camp and the remainder of my enlistment changed me almost as much as being a husband and father. I would even say that without it I couldn’t possibly be the husband and father I am today. I learned discipline and responsibility. I also gained self respect and dignity after earning the title of U.S. Marine. It’s an honor that changes your character forever.
It was during my 1st year as a Marine that I met Tracy, my beautiful bride of now 21 years. We had lots of hard times, as all newlyweds do. The most impressionable being financial hardships. She was a college student and I made less than $1000 per month. With a $263.00 car payment, insurance, gas, rent and utilities (no we didn’t have cable), we learned to live on little. Our favorite story to tell about those days is the week we had nothing to eat but pinto beans. Oh yeah – that was fun. We were still happy and we knew we’d survive. Those early times of hardship with no one to lean on but each other built a strong bond between us that is unshakable.
I saw many places around the world during my time in the Corps. I experienced some things that have left big impressions. Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate what was before me. No regrets, just disappointment with missed opportunities for experiencing culture beyond my own.
I also had a very bad temper. Too many fights led to too much trouble and resulted in my commander forcing me to get a psychological evaluation. The results were not good. The shrink determined that I was fit for duty but not suitable because I had an anti-social personality disorder. Needless to say, I was not allowed to reenlist after my first 5 years.
Looking back on that time in my life I now believe it to be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Returning To Civilian Life
Fresh out of the Corps, I was an immature 23 year old with no skills to offer the civilian world outside of the law enforcement community. This is when my juvenile delinquency came back to visit.
After applying to the Sherriff’s Dept., taking and passing the test, I was turned down due to my past criminal record of petty larceny. My state won’t allow anyone with a record of theft, among other specified crimes, to become a law enforcement officer.
I can see that.
If someone has a propensity for taking something that doesn’t belong to them, they certainly shouldn’t be placed in a position that lends itself to bribery and abuse of power for the sake of financial gain.
That has helped me teach my daughter’s to know that every decision they make right now will have some sort of impact on their life later. Some decisions will have negative consequences while the opposite decision can yield great reward.
I know this has served them well and, for that, I’m grateful of my poor decisions at their age.
My mid 20’s brought along my two offspring. I surely wasn’t prepared for that level of responsibility.
Even to this day my wife and I think “how in the world have we managed to keep them alive for this long?” Of course we have a good laugh about it.
I cruised through the rest of my 20’s working at a job that had no meaning for me except a paycheck. It helps to know that you’re making a difference in this world. My difference was limited to my wife and children.
My 30’s brought about a big change in life. I landed a job that would allow my wife to be a stay at home Mom. Which is itself a full-time job that only yields benefits long after the fact. I love her dearly for her willingness to accept that monumentally important task.
As I plodded through the 30’s I somehow gained level of maturity while maintaining a sense of youthful irresponsibility.
How is that possible? I don’t really know. I only know that I was able to act like an adult, do adult things, and carry on adult conversations. All the while my alter ego was telling me that I can’t be this old already and that I’m too young to be doing those sort of things.
Life As I Now Know It
Now, a few seasoned years into my 40’s, and having two daughter’s that will be leaving the nest soon, there are a few things I have come to know about me.
My goals can no longer be open for debate. The proverbial “someday” is upon me. There’s a very cold realization that I’ve only got so many weeks left on this earth.
That’s not to say I plan to just lay down and wait for the reaper to come and harvest my decrepit old bones.
Rather, it’s a call to action. It’s time to take up my sword and shield. Shit or get off the pot!
My wife and I have plans for our future and we can no longer postpone the action steps that turn those plans into reality.
I’m realizing this is my time. The decades that lie ahead are brimming with opportunity. Despite some sobering reflections, the best is yet to come.
I have the power within me to make the rest of my life worth while. Opportunity is abundant, but it’s up to me to seize it.
As I trudge through the years to come, I’ll have to be kinder and gentler to my body. I’m in the best shape of my life (Marine Corps days included), but I’ll have to be more mindful of my dietary lifestyle. I’ll have to train a little differently, always ensuring a proper warm up. And get plenty of rest and recovery.
My finances are under control. And I can see the possibility of funding some of my dreams that were once out of reach. I realize that it’s not a mid-life crisis that causes old men to drive high dollar sports cars. It’s mid-life financial stability that allows them to splurge on the things a younger man can only dream about.
Hopefully by your 40’s you’re in the same position. Plan for it. Life will be a lot more pleasant.
Even though the uncertainty of the 20’s, and concern and worry of the 30’s, is behind me, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered.
I’m excited for the future. I’m excited to continue watching my two girls grow up into young women with purpose. I’m excited for new opportunities and challenges to experience.
Life begins all over again at 40!