Musings on Turning 50

A Man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.
—Muhammad Ali

I turn 50 today. Humans make meaning out of randomness, and since we use base 10 math, birthdays ending in zero can be a big deal. I find that 50 is an opportunity for reflection on my life. I always had goals for age 50, some spoken and some just more understood. Part of the wonder I have is how I have changed in ways that Bryan of 30 years ago cannot even imagine.

As far as goals, I have checked off the big ones. I married my college sweetheart, whom I started dating in May of 1990. We were not married until we were both out of college 4 years later, but 2020 will mark 30 years as a couple. I don’t know how to live as an adult without Linda.

Linda and I have two wonderful kids, our 17-year-old son, Gil, and our (next month) 15-year-old daughter, Ann Marie. They are our greatest treasures in this world. Since I held Gil in my arms, I wanted him to participate in Scouts, earn his Eagle and go with him to Philmont. All that has come to pass, including the odd fate that we both earned our Eagle Scout award 5701 days after the day we were born. Clearly it was meant to be. Ann Marie is a passionate, alive young lady who is just exactly the daughter I imagined. Not having a sister growing up, I always wanted a daughter, and God gave that to us. Both children love each other, fight less than their parents do, and are as close as I dared hoped siblings could be. And, for the moment, everyone is basically healthy.

Work has not gone as planned at age 20. Then I was fresh into Psychology and not sure what I was going to do. I wanted to get a PhD in Environmental Psychology, but that was not in the cards. I ended up a House Parent, and later getting a master’s in psychology. That led my day job to being a therapist in a big organization where I planned to get my license and get out. Then I worked on developing a computer game with friends. Ace of Angels was going to be the first game we published. That did not work out as planned. Then I was going to take the Executive MBA and find a new job. That did not happen either, and I wound up CEO for two and half years. Maybe that was the ticket? Nope. In the past 2 years, I have had 10 months unemployed. Today I am as happy as I have ever been at work. Not where I expected at all, in fact, this job came looking for me! So, I am nowhere on the path for career I thought I would be on at 20, or 30, or 47, for that matter. I had certainly hoped to have a higher income at this point and not be worried about paying for college. I had hoped for more vacations, and maybe even be looking towards a cabin in the woods at this point. But what I really wanted was a sports car. I have never had one, and my father bought one at age 50. That has been for me the symbol of having “made it” that I could buy an impractical car, just for me, just for fun. Well that is not happening this year, either.

Thoughts and beliefs-wise, Bryan at 20 would be appalled by Bryan at 50. Hypocrisy is no longer a big sin for me, but the lubricant that keeps social interactions smooth. Bryan at 50 likes a nice whisky on a Friday night, unlike the 20-year-old who could not stand the taste. My son has long hair, which the Democrat young adult I was would never have tolerated, while the Conservative man I am today just shrugs. I just don’t get winded up about the same, or as many things. What I do get excited about has more depth than it used too. I have a much greater sense of what is important. It is easier to focus on what I can control. More peaceful too. Bryan at 20 was in the process of abandoning his faith; Bryan today fights and wrestles for every bit of it he can get, even if the prices is ending up lame.

So, I ask myself, what turning 50 means to me. It clearly means I am more comfortable in my own skin. I am well satisfied with who I have been and who I am becoming. I have no idea what is in store for me. I am certain than my personal race is more than half over. It might be a lot more than half over. A very recent thing is that have moments, not all the time, but moments, where I reflect and think “It has been a good race to today. I could depart this world and feel my impact has been made.” Don’t get me wrong, even when I have those moments, I still have much I would like to do. And. And, I am good with things so far. I would not trade a moment, even the valleys, with my darling bride, Linda. It is been worth it to get to here. I would not trade a moment with our children. Even my pitfalls have helped to make me, Bryan G. Stephens.

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Author: Bryan G. Stephens

Bryan G. Stephens is a former executive on a mission to transform the workplace. He is the founder and CEO of TalkForward, a consulting and training company, utilizing Bryan’s clinical and management expertise to develop managers and teams in a corporate environment. As a licensed therapist with strong understanding of developing human potential, he is dedicated to the development of Human Capital to meet the needs of leaders, managers, and employees in the 21st Century workplace. Bryan has an Executive MBA from Kennesaw State University, Coles School of Business, and both a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

16 thoughts on “Musings on Turning 50”

  1. Happy Birthday Young Man!

    I’m 10 years (and a couple of months) further down the road than you, but  I too would not trade a day of the past 36 years (almost 34 of them married) with Linda.  Ben will turn 30 in May and recently earned his Masters of Divinity – he intends on eventually securing a PhD and becoming a Theology Professor.  If you had suggested that as a possibility to 20 yr old GA, that his son would follow that path… I wouldn’t have laughed, I would have looked at you like you were insane.  I had no faith at that point and didn’t really know anyone who (openly) did either.  Sam (Samantha) hits 26 this weekend and is the apple of Daddy’s eye.  Always has been, always will be.  Even once she marries Kody it will be understood that she will have to be folded into Daddy’s arms for a gigantic hug every time he sees her.

    I was really amused at your comment  “I am certain than my personal race is more than half over. It might be a lot more than half over.”  When I hit 50 I had a friend comment “Well, you’re half way there!”  I asked “Half way where?”  He said “Half way to 100!”  My response was “If I’m past the half way mark of my life I’m perfectly fine with that.”  I have no interest in living to 100.  At 60 it is sobering to think that statistically I probably have less than 20 years left, but I wouldn’t say it’s frightening either.  My father died at 72.  Mom is still around at 85, but she has very limited mobility and her mind is slipping a little faster each week.  I don’t know if I want to be around for that phase of life either.  I’ve already been blessed with so much – Linda, Ben, Sam, and above all Christ – that I would be comfortable moving on to eternity.

    But thank you very much for your reflections – as you can see, it’s given me an incentive to do a little as well.  And I’m oh so grateful for all of it!

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  2. Happy birthday!

    I surely did not foresee at 20 that my children would be my life’s work and greatest joy, and that I would be blessed with a husband whom I adore more every day after 36 years together. I did think I would do things I haven’t done, but I am content on that front.

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  3. I’m glad you used a quote from Ali. I miss him. After watching the infamous Foreman fight in Africa and his brilliant “rope-a-dope” strategy, it’s nice to hear somebody comment on his smarts.

    Happy Birthday.

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  4. Hypatia:
    Happy birthday, and thank you for sharing with us!
    I just read that happiness peaks after 70, so: Excelsior! 🍰

    Grandma remarried at 81 and said the twenty years of her second marriage were the happiest of her life 😀

    I think that’s because cranky people die off sooner. Uh oh.

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  5. Brother Bryan,  the struggles of the past couple of years will yield great spiritual benefits, especially to those for whom you modeled a good attitude under adversity.  Those painful experiences will strengthen your kids and their pals.

    As our resident Methodist, I was sort of hoping you would put up a post about the UMC.   There is no lack of spiritual struggle there, which is really unfortunate that, just when you want to go to church to avoid the spiritual struggles of life, there are more contentious struggles going on inside than outside.

    May God bless you and your family.   And may God bless you as you participate in helping your congregation make the difficult choice ahead.

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  6. MJBubba:
    Brother Bryan,  the struggles of the past couple of years will yield great spiritual benefits, especially to those for whom you modeled a good attitude under adversity.  Those painful experiences will strengthen your kids and their pals.

    As our resident Methodist, I was sort of hoping you would put up a post about the UMC.   There is no lack of spiritual struggle there, which is really unfortunate that, just when you want to go to church to avoid the spiritual struggles of life, there are more contentious struggles going on inside than outside.

    May God bless you and your family.   And may God bless you as you participate in helping your congregation make the difficult choice ahead.

    Have to see what they do.

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