The summer solstice was this week. The longest day of the year. Plenty of sunlight so that we can enjoy the warm summer evenings. In Minnesota this is usually a cause for great celebration. So how come my main thought is that we’ve peaked and are now racing towards cold and darkness?
Don’t know if others do this, but I often catch myself creating significance out of crossing half-way points. In the past five years, I’ve crossed many of these imaginary lines.
Sometimes reaching the milestone feels like a cause for celebration. In recent years I gained a sense of stability when realizing that I had lived in my current city longer than I had in my childhood hometown. Also felt proud when I was married for more than half of my life.
At other times I feel a sense of sadness. When a nephew turned 16, I told him that according to inchworm math, his next big milestone is 32. That reminded me that I’m about halfway between his next milestone and the inchworm’s next number, 64. Doing a few more calculations, I know I’ve probably crossed the mid-life line, unless I somehow manage to live past 96. Actuaries are betting that I will not. They get paid to be right more times than not.
WARNING. WARNING. Crisis approaching…
…or maybe not. Here’s the thing that I know for sure. These milestones are only important because I give them significance. The meaning I give them is up to me. Therefore, how I feel about them is also up to me.
Take for example another half-way line I’ve probably crossed, my career. It started 25 years ago, and most would agree a 50 year total span is a good long time to be working. What meaning should I give to this milestone? Here are a few that I know won’t be helpful:
- If I haven’t made it yet, I’ll never make it.
- I’m already slowing down. I’ll never be able to keep up with those coming behind me.
- Well I’ve been doing this so long, I can’t possibly change midstream and do something else. I’m stuck.
- Time to start the countdown to retirement.
The challenge for me and those of us who tend to live in the future is to create thoughts and interpretations that inspire and energize. Try these on to see how they feel:
- I can’t believe how much I’ve learned over the years and how much I can still learn.
- Man, do I feel competent. It’s great knowing how to get things done and solve challenging problems.
- I’ve been doing this work for a long time. I wonder what else I could try.
- How can I change things up so that I stay engaged in what I do?
Half-way points. Are they good or bad? They are neither. Since most of us don’t know the end points, they are in all likelihood not even accurate. What those milestones mean is completely up to you and me. So what advice should we give to those who want to continue noting them? Interpret wisely.
Photo by Glen Edelson