40. In some ways, it’s just another day, and 40 is simply a number. On the other hand, it’s a milepost that offers a moment for reflection. Life is likely halfway over. Perhaps the “fun half” is already passed (though I hope not). The youthful half is certainly gone. But that’s alright. The last 40 years have been full of adventure, beauty, and growth. My path has crossed with many, many extraordinary people with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to share some days and years and hikes and classes and campfires. The first 40 years haven’t been perfect, and it doesn’t take much reflection to create a long list of ways I could have been a better friend, brother, son, spouse, father, or teacher. And yet, in recent years, I’ve found the words to elucidate my purpose. That purpose is nothing brilliant or profound. It is simply this: When my time comes, I want to leave the world a little better place than I found it. I hope I’ve achieved that. Certainly, there are a few more apple trees growing in Alaska than there once were. Hopefully, there are a few young people who have become better readers, writers, or thinkers. It’s been a good run, and I’m leaving this first half of life with many, many sweet memories.
One of my favorite poems of all time is by William Wordsworth entitled “Lines Composed a Few Lines from Tintern Abbey.” He’s returned to his favorite “nature spot” five years after having discovered it. This time, he’s brought his little sister with him, and he’s reflecting on how he’s changed. Some of my favorite lines are these:
“That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Do I hike up mountains as fast as I once did? Certainly not. Do I get enthralled with the “aching joys and dizzying raptures” of youth? Rarely. Will I confront much more grief during the second half of my life? Undoubtedly. And yet, I trust this second half of life will be full of “other gifts.” Wisdom. Contentment. More opportunities to make this world a little better. “Abundant recompense.”
I’m looking forward to the next 40.