January 19, 2021

What I Wish I Knew My First 50 Years

Turning 51 is really nothing special. Last year was a milestone–5-0. Last year was a party in the backyard, friends coming from all over to celebrate, gifts and cakes and all-day fun.

This year is cutting grass, cleaning the garage and working on iMonk site stuff that is overdue. Hey, it has to be done sometime.

Just as there is a big difference between birthday numbers 50 and 51, there is a big difference between the first half and the second half of life. There are things I know now I wish I knew then. How would my life have been if I had…

  • realized that reading great books is a much better use of my time than reading good books?
  • not wasted time watching sitcoms other than the Cosby Show and Frasier?
  • learned the value of “measure twice, cut once”?
  • remembered to open the garage door before backing the car out that one time? (Sorry, Dad.)
  • listened to what my English teacher said about writing essays? (What did she say? I don’t know. I wasn’t listening.)
  • remembered how good it feels to dig my hands into cool, rich soil in the early spring?
  • remembered the fun of raking leaves in the fall, and then jumping into the pile just because?
  • known early on that just because you believe you can do something doesn’t mean you can actually do it? There is a reason there are only 18 men playing baseball and 40,000 in the stands watching. It’s called hard work.
  • realized that people who went to churches other than mine might possibly be saved after all?
  • realized that Catholics were my brothers and sisters in the Lord, and not a cult?
  • learned how to read and write poetry?
  • stayed with guitar lessons and practiced the amount of time each day I promised my parents I would practice to get them to buy me that Yamaha guitar I wanted so badly?
  • continued to ride my 10-speed bike 15 or more miles a day even after I got my driver’s license?
  • pursued a different course of study than broadcasting? Say, English. Or theology. Or medicine.
  • found more opportunities to give of myself to those who could never give back?
  • learned to live on less so I could give more?
  • asked more questions instead of making people think I know all of the answers?
  • got the double dip of peach ice cream and not worried about calories?
  • listened to more of Dylan and less of the Dead? More Joni Mitchell, less Joan Jett?
  • savored the Big Red Machine’s back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and ’76 instead of assuming they would win the Series every year?
  • spent more time with my true friends instead of people who I thought made me look good?
  • another 50 years to grow in the grace of God? I pray that I will find that out.

Happy birthday to me. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to work.

Cupcake, anyone?


  1. “savored the Big Red Machine’s back-to-back World Series championships in 1975 and ‘76 instead of assuming they would win the Series every year?”

    Those were great days!

    • same thoughts here about the Royals in the 80’s…… that was THIS century, wasn’t it ???

      • Just think how sweet a Cubs championship will be after, oh I don’t know, what do you think, about 300 years? Just one before I die, please! Oh the shame. This has got to be good for me spiritually, right?

        • make sure you theology is set for “full on self-abasement and gloominess” and then, yeah, sure, you can consider the Cubs to be your best bet for sanctification….

  2. That Other Jean says

    Happy Birthday, Jeff! Welcome to the downhill slide. I’ll agree with most of your words of wisdom, except for that bit about “less of the Dead.” Listening to more Dylan is a Good Thing, but less of the Dead? That’s heresy!

  3. I am 21 and I really, really appreciate this. Thanks.

  4. “got the double dip of peach ice cream and not worried about calories? ”

    *regards waistline ruefully*

    That one you’re probably better off not having done, trust me.

    Many happy returns!

  5. Happy Birthday! I’m 18 and will remember each one of these…well, at least their principles haha.

  6. Happy birthday

  7. “learned to live on less so I could give more?”

    Ain’t that the story of our nation? Americans in general will try to live above their means at all costs and our country is in way over it’s head in debt to the world.
    As followers of Jesus, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves how little we could afford to live on and then devote the rest for God’s purposes (read, helping people, not giving to the building fund).

    I wish more of my protestant brothers would agree with you about our relationship to Catholics. I have gotten to know some of the neatest people on the other side of the Tiber. It’s a shame how much we throw away emphasizing what divides us when what unites us is so much more infinitely great.

    Hey it’s not too late for that peach ice cream. You’re not dead yet. But hey, what’s wrong with a little Joan Jett? Something’s gotta make the world go round you know 😛

    Happy B-day, thanks for the wisdom. ‘Tis better to attend a funeral than a wedding. And I suppose ’tis better to celebrate a high-numbered birthday than a high-school graduation.

    • Miguel wrote, ” ‘Tis better to attend a funeral than a wedding.”


      • I think it’s a reference to Ecclesiastes 7:2

        “It is better to go to the house of mourning
        than to go to the house of feasting,
        for this is the end of all mankind,
        and the living will lay it to heart.”

  8. The great thing about being over the hill is that the view is MUCH better on the way down…

  9. 51!!! Jeez you’re old.

    Happy Birthday anyway…

  10. Great list. A couple from my “things I wish I’d figured out before 40”:

    – Being loving is more importan that being right.

    – I’m not right as often as I think I am.

    – X is not worth getting worked up, worried, or bent out of shape over. (Where x is pretty much anything)

  11. Denise Spencer says

    You’re still learning, and that’s the main thing. Keep that teachable spirit for the next 51!

  12. Turning 51 is really nothing special.

    Nothing special? Any time your age is the product of two primes it’s special.

Speak Your Mind