This year I will be “celebrating” my 39th birthday. In truth, I won’t be celebrating it - it’s just going to happen. There probably won’t be much of a celebration either. What will probably happen is that my wife will make me a cake and I’ll choose what kind of meal I want to eat. Regardless, as I’m nearing the end of my thirties, I’ve been looking back on my life a bit more. While my worldview hasn’t changed much, my outlook on life has gone through several transformations. I think you could divide each of these transformations according to the decade of my life.
(Birth-10 Years of Age) - Carefree Years
You looked forward to vacations, visiting cousins, weekends, etc… Generally, all the good things in life. During these years, you didn’t spend time thinking about how things were - they just were. The world was the way the world was.
It snowed in the winter, rained in the spring, shined in the summer, and fell in the fall.
(11-19 Years of Age) - Idealistic Years
(20-29 Years of Age) - Hopeful Years
That, however, didn’t matter. I was hopeful. I had the belief that talent and education would get you what you needed.
(30-39 Years of Age) - Cynical Years
Well, as my twenties slipped by, and I woke up into my thirties, I finally understood something about myself and the world. The first thirty years of my life were filled with many lies, half-truths, and misunderstandings. The realization of how life really was left me jaded and cynical. Trust? Who was I to trust? Everyone was out for themselves. Despite John Donne’s assertion that “no man is an island,” and how badly I wanted to believe that, I had come to the belief that, for the most part, you are an island (at least in the practical things of life). You are “alone.” That is just the way it is. You have your spouse (hopefully) and maybe your extended family - sometimes you don’t. Perhaps you have a few friends. But let’s face it, they have their own family.
So, what other person can you rely on?
Now, I know some of you reading this may think it sounds depressing. Well, I will remind you that these are my cynical years, so I can understand that sentiment. It is during these years, you finally realize that life isn’t the way you had hoped or thought it would be. Some people discover this earlier, some people later. Some people may never go through cynicism because their life may have turned out exactly the way they wanted it to. I don’t know. That is up to them to express.
Perhaps as I enter my forties this will change. A new outlook on life will take over, and the cynical years will be a blip. Perhaps, not. Who’s to say?
Right now, my main focus is acceptance and contentment. As a Christian, I must be content with wherever I am. And if you’re not a Christian, contentment is still a good thing to strive for. I must also accept where I am and not let my cynical years turn into bitter years. How can one do this?
Be thankful for what you have and don’t concentrate on what you don’t have. Therein, however, lies the true struggle. Hopefully, as I close out on one decade and embark on another, it will become known to me as the Grateful Years.
Scott Keen grew up in New York, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn't want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing--he became a writer.