Today is my 50th birthday.

That is, since leaving my mother’s womb, I have orbited our local star approximatly 50 times.

That’s not a record or even particularly spectacular, but we are facinated with mulitples of 5 and 10, so 50 is a natural milestone at which time to reflect back on the past. Since 100 is still an unlikley age to attain before shuffling off this mortal coal, 50 is likely the biggest milestone I’ll reach.

So, I’m looking back, reflecting, taking this stuff in. Take this photograph for example. When it came across my Facebook transom the a few weeks back (I only check Facebook every few weeks) bringing me back to a person I was something like forty-two years ago.

Jason Circa 1975: GDS Lower School 2nd Grade. I'm the doofus standing on the right.
Jason Circa 1975: GDS Lower School 2nd Grade. I’m the doofus standing on the right.

That’s me at the hight of the Star Trek TV excitement—when the show was huge in synidacation—but a year or two before Star Wars would reinvent geekdom entirely. I’m not sure what path I would have followed had Star Wars not happened. I remember that I was not a particularly happy child. I didn’t like myself a lot. If I was 8 today, I would probably be on mdication for ADD, ADHD, and a few other things.

But now I’m 50. I like myself a lot better than I did back then. I like myself a lot better than I did just a few years ago. But I’m still working on liking myself better every day. This is part accepting who I am and part improving who I am.

At 50, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can survive. I can survive setbacks, failures, disappointment, rejection, brain tumors, and heartbreak. This is not to say that I have had to suffer the worst the universe has to throw at me, but what I have been through hasen’t killed me. That’s because of the other important lesson I’ve learned is to be kind. Kindness is a strength. It means looking for the positives. It keeps self-destructive anger and rage at bay.

And I still have so much more to learn!

The discovery I came to this week is that I need to listen to my own feelings on how people are treating me. There are people who just don’t think much of me, and I can generally sense that. They don’t think much of my ability or talent. They are pleasant enough, but put me off. Delay correspondence. Criticize without clarity. I used to think I just need to redouble my efforts; be more persistent; try to accomodate them; Listen more carefully to their feedback.

What I’ve come to realize just this week is that it’s not all about me. Often people just don’t want to work with me, and there is no point in trying to change that. Some people may not “get” me or what I’m trying to do, but that doesn’t make it my job to change everything for them. The upshot is that, if you are not excited about what I’m working on, I don’t have room for you in my projects. That’s just a waste of both of our time.

Instead, it’s the people whose ideas I find exciting and who find my ideas exciting who I will cultivate.

This may seem obvious to many, but is hard won knowledge for me. At 50, I’m ready to put it to good use. Now onto the next 50.