I turn 40 this year. And that’s got me thinking. A lot.

The Expectation

I’m grateful to be alive. I’ve invested a considerable amount of time counting my blessings–and naming them one-by-one. The more I think about me, the more I realize that this thing called life is not about me–and it never was. Contemplating the universe–as well as my place, purpose, and role in it–is harmonious, humbling time well-spent.

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, I believe the human spirit comes to places along its journey where it strongly screams questions like:

  • Am I fulfilling the purpose for which I was created?
  • Have I done enough so far?
  • Am I adding value to my community and the loved ones in my life?
  • Have I provided and given enough to my family?
  • How can I become better physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally?
  • If I were to die tomorrow, what would I change today?

The Past

When I was a kid, 40-years-old seemed so far away. It’s a benchmark date in life to be sure, potentially hyped by grandiose illusions from afar, kind of like when I was told in third grade (1988-1989): “In the year 2000, the average American family will fly to the moon for vacation.”

If you believe that the average life expectancy of a male living in the USA is 76.3-years-old, then phrases like Over the Hill become literal and real for a math and science teacher. In theory, and according to the latest research, that means my life on earth is over halfway finished.

Wow.

But–really? Is this it?

The Present

I’m shocked by the number of family members, friends, and classmates who have already slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God. What gets me the most are the ones who were my age or younger. It doesn’t get any more real than that. In moments like these, I find myself returning to those questions along the journey again, striving to realign my compass with my purpose.

What’s really confusing is that while 40 is a number (and that’s all it is to me), in my mind, I still feel like I can do anything–and just as well as–I did when I was 19. It’s this fourth dimension of time that’s got me reflecting.

As I grow in years, relationships, and experiences, my perspectives continue shifting. What seemed like such a big deal in any given moment in the past is now like a leaf once beautiful, yet descending at just the right time to be recycled into the roots and grains of our very fabric, making stay-cation reservations on our hippocampus.

While past experiences make us who we are, we are not stuck in the mindset of yesterday. While they are a part of us, they do not define us. Every moment is a new opportunity to restart, to become better, to lean forward. Each new breath is a gift. Each present moment leaves us with a choice of living in the past or seeking–and working toward–a better future.

The Future

While I have no plans of slowing down, I’m striving to pause more often, albeit while time speeds up. I’m trying to slow the heartbeat–if only for moments at a time–to love on my family and friends all the more… to celebrate what really matters in life.

I don’t just want to leave a legacy–I want to leave a legacy that matters.