Bryan at 51

 

This is part of the Group Writing for January

So, another trip around the sun, and I am 51. There is no “well I was just in my 40’s” arguments. That is now over a year ago. Nope, I am into my sixth decade of life. I lived through a near-crippling lower back problem that left me lame and needing physical therapy to learn to walk again at the end of my 40’s. I can wake up after a poor night’s sleep and feel almost as lousy as if I did not sleep at all. I take off my glasses to read. I have been on a statin for 11 years now. And, one knuckle in my right hand is starting to hurt for no reason about once every three days. We won’t talk about fighting the pounds. But, if I am honest, the sense of time passage has not really been based on physical age.

The world has changed from when I was a kid. The march of the left has continued in its steady, unending form of course, and maybe that drives a lot of it. In my life family and church have receded. Entertainment has become more course and cynical. Love of America, love of our past and Founders has fallen. None of our institutions seem able to function well at all. I certainly have no faith in government, and I wonder if my children will get to see a Tricentennial like I saw a Bicentennial in 1976. Watching a rerun of Wonder Woman for kicks, they mentioned fighting the Nazis “35 years ago”. I was born closer to the start of WWII than we are now to when I was born. Children born in 2000 will all turn 21 this year. My own son turned 18 a few days ago. Wow. Still, that is not what is driving my sense of time passing.

So, what is driving my sense of time passing you ask? Well, it is the changes in Bryan. I look at who I am now, and I am not sure Bryan at age 21 would be totally thrilled with Bryan at age 51. That Bryan was both less confident and more arrogant. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are both smart asses, that has not changed. Bryan today is more seasoned and able to be less blunt and more biting when needed. Bryan at 21 had ideas about how the world worked that in retrospect were pretty naïve. He though better of his fellow man, that people were more fundamentally decent and that stereotypes were always part of a false narrative. He thought people, on the whole, were rational. He thought he had far more control over his future than was real. Bryan at 51 has a darker view of humanity. Today, that Bryan believes that being good is a mindful struggle, one that the majority of people give at best half-hearted attempts. He believes that people are ruled by their limbic system and often driven to self-destructive patterns. It is rare the child who is raised by two functional parents. Selfish behavior and actions, disloyalty and dishonor are the norm. And, I hasten too add, this is how it always has been. Bryan at 21 wanted to fix the world from its broken form, as is normal for the young. Bryan in middle age understands better, that the world is fallen, and always will be.

The passage of time in the developing Man is accompanied by an increase in depth. If one does the work of middle age, one cannot help but reach into the greater depths of being. Jung wrote, “What is great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.” I have to put away some of who Bryan was at 21, else I would be living a lie.

So, am I now old? Bryan at 21 would look at Bryan at 51 and think “That guy is getting old.” Bryan at 51 would smile and nod and say “I understand how you see it that way. However, today I feel brand new.”

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 40 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Happy Birthday!

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #2
  3. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    Good reflections, Bryan.

    • #3
  4. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Much of what you wrote (and eloquently as usual) sounds very familiar to me at 64.

    Thinking back to me at 21, I was much more like Woodhouse’s Psmith when regarding my fellow man: “He liked his humanity as eccentric as possible”.

    Today my fellow man generally drives me crazy. But I live in Ithaca, home to aging hippies and everything progressive and woke. The people who defend their political choices with “Because . . . Science!” while also believing in the power of crystals, astrology, etc.

    I, too, always believed in the power of he Constitution, and that we lived in “a free country”. That that was not just a figure of speech. That tolerance and respect for one another was enough. That no matter how wacky my neighbor might get, I could always say “That’s great, Rainbow. You go over there and continue believing that, and accept the consequences of that life, and I’ll stay over here and believe what I believe, and I’ll enjoy whatever benefits come from my choices. It’s “a free country”. And no whining when things go bad.” I thought we always had the Constiution, that was one thing we all agreed on.

    But watching what happened this year, I realize that is totally not an idea that can be depended upon any more. Tolerance is not even close to enough. It must now be acceptance, and increasingly agreement. Soon it will have to be “enthusiastic support”, or you will be unpersoned.

    Anyway, we all know all this. Sigh.

    By the way. Thosw strange aches and pains? Get used to them. :-) 

    • #4
  5. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Great post Bryan. Happy Birthday!

    (Oh to be 51, again…)

    • #5
  6. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for the post; it’s a good one for my Ricochet ‘keeper’ file.

    • #6
  7. Joan of Ark La Tex Member
    Joan of Ark La Tex
    @JoALT

    Happy birthday!

    • #7
  8. Jack Shepherd Coolidge
    Jack Shepherd
    @dnewlander

    Happy birthday, Bryan!

    • #8
  9. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Happy birthday, Bryan.

    Bryan51 is a bit more cynical and discouraged than he needs to be, much as Bryan21 was naive and optimistic. May I suggest that a middle course is closer to the mark? While I’m not making the definitive case for people being fundamentally decent, you can surround yourself with such people and make your experience of life be as if it were true. You are right to observe that people are generally irrational but that also means they can be irrationally good.

    The unfortunate developments of the last year have drawn me closer to friends, neighbors, and family. In the midst of social turmoil and erosion of social trust, I’ve found people around me to be more kind, more generous, and – dare I say – more loving than ever. One of the Left’s most pernicious effects has been to destroy social trust. Nevertheless, on a local level their efforts, paradoxically, have brought people together. 

    You quote Jung; I’ll quote Frankl:

    Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.

    A guy who survived concentration camps has an idea or two about how to get through tough times. You have your life’s purpose; look to it to find your peace and happiness. I predict Bryan61 will have done so.

    • #9
  10. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Happy Birthday. Talk to your doctor about those satins. They can be very problematic. Of course not taking them can as well. I had lots of problems with them. My solution was to cut them way back and change the type. Going on 76 so I can relate. 51 was a wonderful time in my life relatively.

    • #10
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Happy Birthday. Talk to your doctor about those satins. They can be very problematic. Of course not taking them can as well. I had lots of problems with them. My solution was to cut them way back and change the type. Going on 76 so I can relate. 51 was a wonderful time in my life relatively.

    Tragically, I have bad genes. My numbers went through the roof. I have zero side effects and good numbers on them.

    • #11
  12. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Happy birthday, Bryan.

    Bryan51 is a bit more cynical and discouraged than he needs to be, much as Bryan21 was naive and optimistic. May I suggest that a middle course is closer to the mark? While I’m not making the definitive case for people being fundamentally decent, you can surround yourself with such people and make your experience of life be as if it were true. You are right to observe that people are generally irrational but that also means they can be irrationally good.

    The unfortunate developments of the last year have drawn me closer to friends, neighbors, and family. In the midst of social turmoil and erosion of social trust, I’ve found people around me to be more kind, more generous, and – dare I say – more loving than ever. One of the Left’s most pernicious effects has been to destroy social trust. Nevertheless, on a local level their efforts, paradoxically, have brought people together.

    You quote Jung; I’ll quote Frankl:

    Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.

    A guy who survived concentration camps has an idea or two about how to get through tough times. You have your life’s purpose; look to it to find your peace and happiness. I predict Bryan61 will have done so.

    My experience over the past few years has been such that most people work on greed. I choose my friends, but we cannot always choose who we interact with.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    What a sweet and thoughtful post, Bryan. Thank you. And Happy Birthday!

    • #13
  14. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Happy Birthday!

    ( We’ll have to do a mini-meetup soon, where I can toast you properly. )

    • #14
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Happy Birthday!

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the January 2021 Group Writing Theme: “Old and New.” We have lots of open dates awaiting your participation. New here, or haven’t posted in months/years? You are especially encouraged to join in the conversation. Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #15
  16. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Happy Birthday Bryan!

    • #16
  17. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Great post Bryan. Happy Birthday!

    (Oh to be 51, again…)

    Me too. Oh to be 51 again!

    • #17
  18. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    The Lance Kerwin of Ricochet! Nice post.

    • #18
  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Happy Birthday!

    ( We’ll have to do a mini-meetup soon, where I can toast you properly. )

    Yes we do! 

    Let me know when you are in town

    • #19
  20. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Happy Birthday Bryan, keep on trucking. My next birthday will be soon and I will be 83. I have no intention of giving up. Want to live long enough to see our country put back together. Oh, and I still get unexplained pains. Fortunately they don’t last very long.

    • #20
  21. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    My experience over the past few years has been such that most people work on greed. I choose my friends, but we cannot always choose who we interact with.

    True but we can choose how we respond to these individuals. More Frankl:

    Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

    Might I also recommend Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. I’ve found it to be of great value and you can download it for free.

    • #21
  22. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Fifty one? I think half of my underwear is older than that. You aren’t even in view of the edge of “old” yet. You still have a flood of realizations of past stupidities ahead so don’t be in a rush to go doing reflections.

    Cheers. 

    .

    • #22
  23. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Happy Birthday, Bryan, and many Happy more.

    • #23
  24. Weeping Member
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    ***********************

    Bryan G. Stephens: I am not sure Bryan at age 21 would be totally thrilled with Bryan at age 51.

    I know 21-year old Weeping would not be impressed with 52-year-old Weeping. I’m not even sure the two of us would really like each other if we could meet face-to-face.

    • #24
  25. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Happy Birthday! We share a January 17 birthday, along with Ben Franklin, Muhammad Ali, and Howie Carr.

    • #25
  26. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    I’m now 58. Back when I turned 51, I took stock of myself and made some decisions.

    At the time I did not have any major health issues, nor had I suffered a really debilitating problem like Bryan had. But I had had 3 operations on my knees (meniscal tears), during which I was told I had arthritis lurking in there. I also had a variety of other, minor issues, including some lower back pain, various joint pain and other things. What I noticed was that all the little issues were getting steadily worse and I was spending increasing time managing them. I was also 30 to 40 lbs overweight.

    It occurred to me that unless something changed, managing all these issues would be the primary focus of the rest of my life. In other words, I would be old. I wasn’t ready for that yet.

    One healthy habit I had was running (despite my 40 extra lbs.) Usually no more than 10-12 miles/week, but I had been doing it steadily for more than 30 years. The longest race I had ever run was a 10k. I knew enough about myself that just resolving to be healthier wouldn’t work; I needed a specific goal I could work toward that would have health as a side benefit. So in January 2014, I resolved to run the Disney Marathon in Orlando the following January.

    That gave me the impetus to get healthier. I started eating healthier, laid out a training plan, increased my mileage, and eventually successfully completed the marathon. Since then I’ve run six more marathons and numerous half-marathons and other races. 

    But the real point is that I don’t feel as old at 58 as I did at 51. Getting healthier made many of the minor issues go away. I’ve thought for years now that the 50’s are a great age. The kids are now out of college so, for the first time since my 20’s, I don’t have major family responsibilities. And, unlike my 20’s, I now have the wisdom to not waste this time. Furthermore, in your 50’s you can still do most of the things you might do in your 20s, like running a marathon, just not as fast or as intense. That won’t be true in a few more years, so use these years while you have them.

    I view the 50’s as a “swing decade.” You can feel like you are 70 if you don’t take care of yourself, but you can also feel like you are in your 30’s if you do.

    • #26
  27. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I was this cynical in my twenties, but I actually got more optimistic with age. I know that seems strange, but I understood early on that the world is fallen. Yet here I am within it.

    I cannot control other people. I cannot even control my husband, and I love him! My *reactions* to the world are what I can control, and that is enough.

    I hope you have had a happy birthday with that “little platoon” of yours that is the foundation for everything else.

    You are on this planet for a reason. I suspect they are a big part of that purpose. ;)

    • #27
  28. Dave L Member
    Dave L
    @DaveL

    Happy birthday Bryan!. When I turned 65 a friend of my dads who was still with us and going strong in his 90’s at the time told me 65 is the new 40. Sounded good to me.

    • #28
  29. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Bryan, I really enjoyed reading this. Let me repeat, I really enjoyed reading this. My next birthday will make me sixty. The big 6-0. I will have to write up something similar. Like Lois, I’m actually less cynical with age, and between now and my 60th birthday I will have to try to understand why. 

    By the way, I particularly agree with the trends to the left that you pointed out over these last thirty years. A few Ricochetti were surprised last week when I claimed we were a center-left country. Contrary to popular opinion, I am convinced we are a center-left country, and I still intend to write up a post delineating all the reasons. 

    • #29
  30. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Pretty d*** depressing; reading all the comments from you young whippersnappers…

    Think I’ll go back to bed.

    • #30