Last August 12th I turned 36, and celebrated in Nashville, Tennessee. This year, like many others, I celebrated my birthday in the comfort of my own home/hometown. I golfed, had great food, and drank a few beers. I find it fascinating how different life looks just twelve months after taking my seven-week road trip last summer.
I walk into any local store and everyone is wearing masks. Would’ve been hard to imagine what was on the horizon in 2020 as I navigated 25 states and explored multiple cities last summer. Recently I was walking into HomeGoods and was greeted by an older gal, as she sanitized carts and counted entrants, per safety protocols. We kindly said hello to one another. She seemed sweet and had the demeanor of a grandmother toward a grandchild – full of kindness. I looked at her and said “you know I’m smiling under here.” Her reply– “I can tell, I see it in your eyes.”
Everyone is talking about how much this pandemic is accelerating technology. I don’t hear many talking about how it’s also increasing the divide of our human spirit, and lessoning true connections. One really must work diligently to keep bonds strong right now. We are supposed to forgo handshakes, hugs and embraces. We cannot simply smile to show appreciation, or admiration for one another, as faces hide behind masks. We express our feelings via technology more than we do in person, a trend that was also prevalent pre-pandemic, and has now accelerated. This saddens me, as I feel we’re already entirely too reliant on stimuli received from phones, computers and televisions. We must now overcome months of accelerated dependency of seeking “happiness” or “contentment” via a screen. Perhaps this time of separation will serve as a lesson to take each other less for granted. Perhaps we’ll start looking one another in the eyes more often. Perhaps we’ll show vulnerability, care and compassion more often, once we are finally able to embrace again. Perhaps we’ll be more intentional with our visits, and be more present while in the company of loved ones. I certainly hope so.
I don’t think any of us will forget 2020. I never imagined such a year happening in my lifetime. Sure, I’ve seen the occasional zombie apocalypse or world-crippling virus movies, yet this hasn’t been as entertaining in the real world. I typically find time to reflect on my birthday. Naturally, I think about how time flies. I think about those “seems like just yesterday moments” from decades prior. I think about those precious memories that always seem to stand out. I think through decisions made and the overall path traveled. Funny how I can still remember being a 10-year-old, a high school graduate, a college student, and a young entrepreneur. I remember thinking how much I felt I used to know, and now realizing that wisdom only grows via experience, awareness and wonder. Bottom line- I didn’t know much throughout my teenage years, or my twenties. As I look forward, I pray I will also acknowledge that I didn’t know as much now as I’ll know then. Getting older has its perks. I really start to appreciate the lessons learned and the road traveled. The more life I experience, the more God I experience, the more I can resonate with the saying: “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Also, the more I realize the truth behind God not wanting our performance or perfection….He simply wants our hearts, and to be our number one relationship.
I tell you as a thirty-seven-year-old man writing this today, to embrace the curve balls. “Embrace the suck,” as I’ve heard it mentioned. Focus on the lessons. Don’t try to solve all of the answers, as this is the opposite of truly SURRENDERING. God knew 2020 was going to be what it is, how we react to it is up to us. Whether it’s COVID-19, a relationship failure, a health issue, anxiety/depression, loss, financial challenges, or other forms of “suck,” we all have the ability to learn and grow from anything life throws our direction. I feel like the majority of my MAJOR struggles with anxiety came from trying to control, trying to solve, and trying to rationalize. As my dad once told me- “son, one day you’re going to figure out that life isn’t black and white, it’s just a whole lot of grey.” I’m starting to see what he meant.
I’m grateful for another year. I am finally starting to realize why I was always more excited for my parents’ birthdays than they were throughout my adolescence. I still recall hearing: “it’s just another day son.” I would argue more than ever that each day is worth celebrating. Birthdays for me are mostly about reflection and gratitude. I guess we get to an age, or maturity, that we’re simply grateful for another year. Grateful for growth. Grateful for real relationships. Grateful for faith. Grateful for lessons. Just grateful.
Here’s a happy birthday to my fellow Leos this month. May God bless you, your reflections, your celebrations, and your overall journies.
And PLEASS KEEP SMILING, we can still see it in your eyes!