As I turn 40

I am so back to blogging, I even have guest writers, woop woop!

Post by Richard Balenzi.

As I turn 40

Is 40 the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? I have had many sleepless nights these past few months wondering what the future holds for me as I turn 40.

As I turn 40 today, I look back to the dreams I had as a 19 year old. One afternoon in my final year at St Mary’s College Kisubi, my 8 Literature classmates and I had an impromptu discussion about our dreams. We all had big, big dreams. Amongst other things I shared that day, I said I wanted to be a big shot criminal lawyer. And I planned to switch to becoming a novelist at around 40. A bit like John Grisham, one of my favourite writers. In my mind by 40, I would also be married and have 3 kids.

Looking back, things did not turn out exactly as planned. I became a business lawyer; I am not about to become abandon law to become a novelist and I am married with 1 kid -for now -).

But along the way, there are a few things I am learning;

  1. Your purpose may be hidden in plain sight

What unique thing were you created for on this earth? This is a question many of us have to confront at some point in our lives.  In my 30s I wrestled a lot with this question. In a bid to find answers, I read a lot of self-help books.  Most of them essentially said find your purpose and then everything else in your life will fall in line. The problem was they did not prescribe exactly how to find that very elusive purpose. The books which did prescribe how-to, told you how the writer found their purpose- which might not work for you. For instance, some of them had their purpose revealed in form of a dream or a vision. Good luck having yours revealed in a dream! Others said first find your passion then you will find your purpose. But what if you do not know your passion? Then you have a new problem, find your passion! A bit like those annoying simultaneous mathematical equations we had to study at school which had two unknowns, x and y, which we had to solve.

For the longest time, I was questioning whether being a business lawyer was my purpose. At 40, I have now come to the learn that there is no one-size-fits-all way of discovering your purpose. You may find it out as child (good on you!) or you may find it out in old age accidentally. Finding it out in old age is also okay. In fact, scripture says that, “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. Perhaps you needed all your previous life experiences in order to finally figure things out in old age. Your purpose could be more than one thing. And you could have different purposes for the different seasons in your life. And if you keep searching desperately for lofty ideas to turn into your purpose, it could hold you back from being more intentional in what you are already doing now.

And here is the thing:  many of us are actually staring hard at our purpose as we go about each day but we simply do not know it because we think our purpose is some grand mission which will instantly change the world and will come wrapped in a big envelope marked with our names in red ink and the words “YOUR PURPOSE.”

If many of us knew that some of the seemingly ordinary things we are already doing form the sum of our life’s purpose, maybe we would be more intentional about doing them. Our purpose could include being a great parent, or spouse or friend, being that person who always shows up for others, being that guy who always gives their work their best or it could be a grand idea which keeps you awake at night or all the above.  By being intentional about the things we do whether seemingly big or small, the ordinary would become extra-ordinary and change our families, our workspaces, our cities, our nations and even the world.

2. The gift of interruption

Sometimes we are challenged to take an unlikely path which is very different from the one we curved out for ourselves. Towards the end of 2019, I had a chat with Pastor M, who is a friend and one of my spiritual mentors. He challenged me to share a sermon at Mavuno Church. If we had had the same conversation a year before that, I would have laughed in his face as I had always seen my role in church as that of someone who can give feedback to the preacher as opposed to being the preacher, a critic rather than the man in the arena. This time, I considered it. And the result is, since last year I have shared a few sermons in church. I am not about to leave my legal profession, but I am grateful about how that one conversation interrupted my own plans and gave me an opportunity to grow as Christian and share the word with others. Be open to the gift of interruption. You might be pleasantly surprised!

3. Time is one of the best gifts you can give any one

Life is fleeting.  In a world where everyone is too absorbed with work and the little time left after work is spent trying to get the next high, from the watching the latest series, or flipping through social media, while juggling family duties, time has become a very scarce resource. Anyone with lots of money can easily give money because there is more where that came from. But our time is limited. One of the best gifts you can give any one you love or care about is the gift of your undivided time and attention. Be present for them and show up on the special days of their lives.

4. Forgive yourself for the things that you didn’t know

 Have you ever discovered something that you ended up wishing you had known before and then you start playing back in your mind the many things that you would have done differently had you known before? Happens to me a lot. Light bulb moments which came a bit late in the game. And then instead of rejoicing about this win, you fixate on the even bigger win you imagine you would have had if you had known earlier.  Learn to forgive yourself for the things that you did when you did not know better. Maya Angelou puts it well when she says, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

5. An attitude of gratitude

Life is not always fair. Sometimes some really bad things happen to really good people. And make us question the meaning of life. 2020 and 2021 have brought so much uncertainty and pain in the world. But it has also reminded us to be thankful for the things we take for granted- the oxygen we breathe, good health, friends, family, a place to sleep, a country to call home…

I am especially thankful for the people including friends, family and strangers who were there for me in seasons when I was at my most doubtful, most clueless, most timid, most lost, in a new country, a new school, in a new work place, dealing with new challenges. The ones who drew me in under their wings and looked out for me – brother’s keepers. I have started writing notes to some of them to say how thankful for the role they played at critical moments in my life.

Grateful for my Dad and Mum and my siblings, Paul, Barns and Esther. And especially thankful for my wife Annette and son Caleb who have given me the best years of my life yet. And most importantly I am grateful to God.

I do not know what season of your life you are at or what dreams you have. Whatever they are, I hope you will find the courage to seek them. And may you be all that you were created you to be!

Happy Birthday Richard!

Love, Estar

24 Replies to “As I turn 40”

  1. Thank you very much for these reflections. They have taken me back to similar things that rattle me up, things that I find myself pondering on very often, and it is good to know that I am not an anomaly. Thank you for the candid pieces of advice too.

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  2. Thank you for shairng these lessons, Richard. And a wonderful birthday to you.

    PS
    Yaaay that you’re back to blogging, Esther!

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  3. Oh, the reminder to be thankful! I am especially thankful for the ‘small’ things I used to take for granted; time, oxygen!

    Beautiful read.
    Happy birthday, Richard. And a happy father’s day to you.

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  4. Your Purpose may be hidden in plain sight…..listening to that some voice….

    Thank you for sharing and happy birthday

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  5. Dear Richard
    As you turn 40 may God continue to shower you with blessings of wisdom ,
    This piece you just shared is very powerful and impactful , it opens the horizon and clear the myth that we only have one purpose and its only being famous, rich or popular , our purpose could in our humble cacoons , where we are able to serve others even without being noticed ,
    Continue to age gracefully with God’s guidance and leadership ,

    Be blessed 🙏

    Yours Franko

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  6. As I read through; At certain moments my heart rate goes faster and then slows down. Similarly my respiratory rate. These are big questions that most people have not yet answered or still struggle to answer. The greatest of all is What am I here For? Richard magine what it will look like looking back at 40 years from 80 year perspective. Happy Birthday 😉

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  7. Thank you Richard for sharing at 40. I am learning that I need to look back and count my blessings always. And welcome to the 4th floor and I pray that you continue to appreciate everyday of your life as you expressed it. You are a good man. May the Lord richly bless you and your family!

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