Last fall, I made a regular practice of posting on Sundays about the 12 most important lessons Tony Schwartz felt he had learned in the first 60 years of his life. Turning the corner into 2013, I decided to stop posting on weekends, preferring instead to clear my head and maybe reorganize the tools in the garage.
A birthday inspired Schwartz to post his lessons. Today, I turn 56 (or, because I have an inexplicable habit of factoring birthdays, 2 x 2 x 2 x 7), so I am making a weekend exception. While I don't have a list of lessons to offer, I do have three observations on my 56th year on the planet.
The first: travel can be liberating, but too much travel is its own straightjacket. The world is all around us; we need not fly thousands of miles to see or live it.
In Walden, Henry David Thoreau, a fellow native of Massachusetts who lived and died (at age 44) in Concord, Massachusetts, somewhat famously noted that "I have travelled a good deal in Concord". Most of us are raised and live in small towns, and it is possible to fully live a life there. We just have to observe and engage.
The second: I've become a writer. In one sense, I have always been one, but it was the other thing I did. In this past year, I've become comfortable describing myself as a writer who consults, ahead of being a consultant who writes.
And the last: the older I get, the more I seem to be looking backward. As with travel, this can be useful in moderation and debilitating in its extremes. In fact, the second half of Thoreau’s observation about Concord is as revealing as the first:
I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.
Growing up in New England, you’re pre-conditioned to understand the value, even the primacy of penance. But it "ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive". Maybe I can work on that in my 3 x 19th year.