• Bill Petrie

An Attitudinal Look at 52

What defines me as the calendar marks another year?

As I write this, my birthday on Sunday is hurtling towards me like the giant asteroid in the classic film Armageddon. Fine, perhaps it’s not a “classic film” like Jaws, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, or The Shawshank Redemption, but it is on par with “so bad they’re good” movies like Roadhouse, so let’s not get all upset with my definition of classic. Now, let’s get back to that asteroid of a birthday, shall we?

Because my birthday has always fallen between one and six days before – never on – Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated when extended family was in town for the traditional Thanksgiving Ham. We never had turkey due to my mother’s allergy to the uncommon yardbird, but that’s another blog. Delaying the opening of presents never bothered me because celebrating with a bigger group just made common sense. However, it did make my actual date of birth just another day. Again, not a big deal – just an is.

This birthday, however, feels different, and I’ve struggled to put my finger on it.

I don’t get carried away with my numerical age because it truly is a number, so I know that’s not it. While I’ve certainly aged (thank you, thinning hair), I don’t think I look 52 when I see the man in the mirror – and especially when compared to what 52-year-old men looked like when I was a kid – so that’s not what’s eating at me either.

After quietly listening to a thunderstorm for about an hour to give my brain the space to breathe and roam, it finally hit me: I’m struggling to define who I am. I always felt when I was about 50, I would have it all figured out – relationships, career, finances, parenting, and about 100 other things that adults seemed to have a complete understanding of when I was a kid. As a child, adults appeared so put together and squared away that I just assumed I would finally experience the same when I reached adulthood. However, here I am, feeling like I have nothing figured out, and I’m mostly just making it up as I go along.

I continued to think about this until I realized that I was wrong all along. The people who were adults when I had a full head of hair were just as confused about who they were as well. In many ways – and even though they didn’t coin the phrase – they were the originators of “fake it until you make it.” Honestly, I’m guessing each of you reading this has felt the same way, that you’re just stumbling through life hoping no one notices that you don’t know it all. I know I’ve felt that many, many times.

However, here is what I realized sitting on that couch, petting my dog, and listening to that glorious thunderstorm: life isn’t about defining who you are because, frankly, definition means finality. All of us are continually learning, evolving, and on a journey THROUGH life and not TO a specific point of being. Sometimes that means we stumble, make mistakes, and have to take another road. However, that also means we grow, learn, and determine what is – and is not – important through a different lens.

It’s not necessary to define who I am. However, what is essential is the realization that my journey makes me the person I am – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I’m not “faking it until I make it,” and neither are you. We are all constantly gaining knowledge, expanding our expertise, and developing as people, and none of that is phony.

No matter your age, the definition of who you are hasn’t been written yet and won’t be until your journey is complete. Even more, the ultimate explanation of who you are will be written by others based on the journey you take, how you treat others, and the impact you have on people.

After really searching my feelings and contemplating all of this, I no longer dread the asteroid of November 21 charging towards me. As I begin my trek to 53, my journey has been as bumpy as anyone’s – and I’ve got the physical, mental, and emotional scars to prove it. Even so, I wouldn’t change a damned thing because my life’s odyssey is what will ultimately define me.

Here’s to more bumps – good and bad – along the way!

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