Friday, December 10, 2021

Turning 50 isn't all Sunshine...or is it?

Begrudgingly, I turned 50 this week.  It’s been a while since I’ve written for my blog, in large part because of my upcoming birthday.  My wife put together a very special birthday for me, frankly, a little out of my tax bracket but suffice it to say, I entered the back half of my particular century in paradise. 

I didn’t mind turning thirty.  I loved turning forty and found myself shocked that I was so apprehensive about hitting the big 5-0.  Maybe it’s that mid-life crisis you hear about.  Maybe it's that my sense of accomplishment is going the opposite direction of my waistline.  Any way you slice it, I wasn’t ready and father time didn’t care.

I traveled to Mexico on an extremely early morning flight and started my fiftieth a little under rested and a lot down.  I didn’t stay that way for too long.

A funny thing happens every time I go to paradise.  It isn’t the sun or the cheap beverages.  While I love being with my wife and family, it isn’t them either.  It’s the people you bump into.  They seem to smile easier than I do.  When problems arise, they handle it with a better sense of calm than I do.  When day turns into night and night turns into early morning, they seem to just laugh off whatever comes their way. 

I was having dinner with my dive master a few years ago and in a less than candid moment, he told me about dock fees, and license fees and the cost of gasoline for his boat.  It was an unguarded moment where he described that, despite owning his own company, that times could get tighter than he liked.

I asked, probably clumsily, if he was okay.

“Mister Chris,” he told me, “Look around.  I dive for a living.  Look where I live. The ocean is my office!”  We were eating tacos at the time.  In a restaurant with plastic tables and loud music.  He leaned in and was more impassioned than usual. “It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

I went on a snorkeling tour yesterday and was lingering on turning 50 and my station in life.  The young men who took us out had the same easy smile that I’ve seen so often in paradise.  I worked in the hospitality industry for years and I’m pretty good at spotting who is working happily and who is wearing the work smile mask.  These weren’t fake.  They were happy to be doing what they were doing.  The boat ride and the snorkeling.  These were guys that probably live with less than my dive master did.

They understand something that I forget too often.

 “It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

Here’s the thing, girls.  Victor, my dive master, wasn’t on a soap box when he talked about happiness.  He was in a taco bar with a beer in his hand and cabbage in his beard.  It wasn’t a scripted moment and, honestly, I would have liked to massage his words into a more beautiful statement.  But it says what it says. 

“It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

The way I took it then and the way I think about it now is that we all need to stop chasing a bit.  Money and happiness do not exist in a one-to-one ratio. Does your car get you from “A” to “B”? Then it's fine.  No need to envy the car in the next driveway.  The way I thought about it on my fiftieth is that I need to live a little slower and a little more simply. I spent my fiftieth surrounded by people I love, my feet in the sand and a boat drink in hand.  It was a really good day. I need to remember to stop for a minute and appreciate that.

I’d like to go on about corporate greed and the “keeping up with the Jonses” mentality that we all seem to have these days, but from where I’m sitting, there is literally a hammock in the ocean and it has my name on it. 

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