Today is my 50th birthday. Also, today I had the honor and privilege of speaking to the senior high school girls at a tea hosted by the local Lion's Club. It is a fun thing they do every year. The girls dress up, eat finger sandwiches, and drink tea from real china cups. Many of the girls have never had that opportunity before.
When I was first asked to speak, I noticed it was on my birthday, and that was part of what prompted my reflections for this post. These girls are 18, give or take. I was in their place 32 years ago. There have been some major changes since 1983. When I was a senior in high school, only a few took computer classes. Now, it is part of the regular classes and elementary children know more than I did then. The computing power they carry in their pocket is greater than the first computer which weighed 27 tons and took up a whole room.
I reflected on what has happened in their lifetime, the events that to me were a brief period of time ago, and to them is history. They were never really aware of a pre-9/11 U.S., and for them wars have always had ambiguous borders.
Women have always been allowed at the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel. There has always been WNBA and female referees have always been in the NBA. While there has been great advancement in the way of women's rights, there is still a long way to go.
In the past fifty years the U.S. population has increased from 194 million to almost 319 million. Life expectancy rose from 70 to 78. The median family income has increased from $6,450 to around $52,000. In 1965 a new house cost around $21,000, a loaf of bread was $.21, and a new car was around $2,650.
I have learned a few things in a half-century.
1. Everyone needs a role model and a best friend. You need a role model that is an example of what you are working toward. This does not mean you are trying to copy someone else, or not be yourself, it just means that someone who is further down the road is giving you an example of the possibilities and how to get there.
It seems that the reason to have a best friend would be self-explanatory, but it isn't just for companionship, and it shouldn't just be anyone. It should be someone that accepts you for who you are, where you are, but doesn't leave you there. Someone that being around makes you a better person, and your presence in their lives encourages them to be better people as well. Sometimes friends are lifetime friends, sometimes it is the season of life you are in that determines your friendship.
2. Everyone needs to know themselves very well, and to look at themselves honestly. Looking at yourself honestly means you recognize your strengths and your weaknesses. You do not make excuses for mistakes, but learn from them. You examine your goals and work toward them without apology. You also need to remember that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and you continue to grow as a person.
3. You need to know how to say, "I'm sorry." You will make mistakes (see #2), and sometimes those mistakes will hurt another. It is important to say, "I'm sorry." But you should never apologize for being who you truly are, as long as you are truly trying to grow as a person.
4. Speaking kindly to everyone will serve you well. Treat others - all others - with respect. Regardless of their or your station in life, regardless of whether or not you think they deserve your respect, always speak to others with respect.
5. Don't be so focused on the present, that you forget that decisions you make now will affect the future. Don't be so focused on the future, that you forget to live in the present. Don't be so focused on the past that you never move forward. Your life is not a series of disconnected moments, but part of a continuum. Things that happen today will have an impact on the life you have in the future. Make the most of your whole life, not just concentrating on short term happiness, but learning to be patient that there are great things to come.
These are just the top five musings for the half-century mark.