For years whenever comedian Jack Benny was asked his age, his reply was always “39.” It became a running gag on his show and became one of the many things associated with his “persona”. It always got a laugh. As someone who likes to make people laugh, I have chosen to be like Jack, and also remain 39.
Today is my birthday, and I celebrate the 9th anniversary of my 39th birthday.
As a kid, you can’t wait for your birthday. You make lists of things you would like for presents. You anticipate the family gathering. You look forward to blowing out the candles. You get embarrassed when everyone starts singing to you. You mark each “landmark” – double digits, 13 – first year as a teen, 18 – cause that’s a biggie, 21 – even bigger, 25 – 1/4 century, etc…
As you get older, you begin to realize that birthdays become a lot less fun. With each passing year, you look back and wonder where the time went. You begin to wish that you had used your time a bit more wisely. As you age, those around you age as well. You face the realization that as time moves forward, some of those family and friends won’t be with you in the future. You find yourself wishing you had done things differently, you look back regretting decisions and wishing you could change things. You wake up and realize statistically you have more years behind you, than you may have in front of you.
Here are some observations and thoughts as I begin the next year of life:
***There is a lot of truth to the saying “You’ve got to weather the storm to get to the rainbows and sunshine.” The past year and a half has been proof of this.
***Your true friends will ALWAYS stick by you. They will be there with understanding, guidance, love, and kindness. They will not judge you. They will support you through everything. They are there to laugh with you and cry with you. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of friends. Some of them are friends and some are acquaintances. I have made friends through the neighborhood, through school, through my radio career, through church, through conferences, through other friends, and through college. Like many of you, you know who the true friends are. Over the past few years, I have discovered that not all “friends” are friends at all. The lesson in this is that sometimes, your circle of friends decreases, but the value of those that remain increases. Someone who reached out to me after hearing about the changes in my life recently said, “Good friends are like stars: You don’t always see them, but you know they are there.” I plan on being a better friend.
***Family is family. No matter what. There will always be disagreements, arguments, and differences of opinion, however, they will always be your family. Despite being Italian, I do not have the extremely large family that seems to be stereotypical of the Italian families you see in movies and TV. I am extremely blessed to still have my dad and brother in my life. I plan on a whole lot more family time!
***Forgiveness is difficult, but necessary. As a Christian, I believe that forgiveness matters. The Bible says in Colossians 3:13 “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Again in Ephesians 4:32 says: “And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”
Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. They say to forgive and forget, that is truly where the difficulty lies. Some people say they forgive you and then remind you constantly of the thing they forgave you for…..is that true forgiveness? I don’t think so. Holding on to transgressions or wrongs that have been done to you, only hinders true forgiveness. I have just as much difficulty with this as anyone, but I promise myself to continue to work on this. It can only lead to more happiness. I plan on being more forgiving.
***You only have control of yourself. People are going to do things and say things that you cannot do anything about. You can’t make every one happy, so stop trying to do that! Surround yourself with people who love you and care about you. Apologize when you wrong someone. They have the choice to accept or reject your apology, again, you have no control over what they choose to do. Do not focus on the things that are out of your control. I plan on letting go of the stuff I have no control over.
***Spend less time being angry. While anger is a natural emotion, it hinders happiness. It is perfectly ok to be angry. My issue was I spent way too much time there. Dealing with anger is something that I will continue to work through in the years ahead. I plan on getting to a point where when I am faced with anger, I can do it in a way that is healthy.
***Listen more. The world needs more good listeners. I plan on being one of those. With cell phones, text messages, and e-mail, we have become a society where true communication is a lost art. Communication is not just talking – it’s listening. Communication is key in every aspect of life. I plan on being a better listener!
***Never stop learning. Over the past two years, I have ventured into things that I would not normally do. With help, I laid ceramic tile! I totally would have hired out that job. I am by far no Mr. Fix It, but I listened and learned. Someone once said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts!” There are always new things to learn and those things help keep the brain healthy. One thing I have learned is that life never stops teaching! I plan on finishing up the bachelor’s degree that I started. It may be in a different field of study than I originally planned, but I am going to finish it. I do not ever want to stop learning new things!
***Smile. I spent a very long time in a funk. It was almost easier to frown than it was to smile. I was able to put on a fake smile for quite awhile, but a real smile is so much easier to do and it feels better!! Smile at a stranger! My friend always says “Smile – it’s contagious.” That’s true! Don Alcorn used to close his radio show by saying, “If you see a man on the street who has no smile, give him yours and tell him Don says ‘hello’.” Tell you what, if you see me and I am not smiling, give me yours, ok?!
We spend a lot of time looking back, but we must also look ahead. As another year begins to tick away, I look forward to the new adventures that life has in store for me. I look forward to the surprises that are ahead. I look forward to the things that God will bless me with. I look forward to meeting new people and making new friends. I look forward to further happiness with those close to me. I look forward to reading this one year from now and hoping that I was able to stay true to the goals I have challenged myself to.