By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Now that I survived to the milestone age of 50, the question is begged as what will I do for the next fifty years. The last fifty haven’t been that stupendous albeit they were a life lived. Every decision I made, right or wrong and regardless of the blowback, seemed to be the right one at the time. I am now at a stage in life where I feel I am in control of my world and have the opportunity to do whatever and be whatever I choose.
The late Michael Jackson in one of his songs says, “if you want to change the world, start with the man in the mirror.” So I ask, who is the man in the mirror? The man I know and see is one who has travelled a hard road, stumbled often, and tread upon too many toes. Looking back at me, the man in the mirror shows the scars of a thousand battles. I ask him frequently ‘what can I do to change him’?
If the last fifty years were spent chasing a dream, the next fifty years should be spent living the life I have. Can I be a better man? Of course. But I question how can I change the world no matter how much better of a person I become. At first glance, I am awash in list after list of things I want, things I need, and issues that involve me. But this isn’t about me anymore for I have accomplished what I set out to be.
The man in the mirror doesn’t make life easy. He shows me how I have failed and where were my missteps. I am made privy to the errors in my thinking, the wrongheaded decisions, and how I have treated a body that I did not expect would survive to fifty. Six hundred months came and went in the blink of an eye. One moment I was 18 carrying an M-16 and the next, I am a half century old grandfather. Seeing this mirror image raises more questions than it answers.
I have always wanted to change the world. My ego has always let me believe that I had the power and capacity to bring out the best in things. I believed that and always drove myself as though my every breath and action was going to bring about widespread change. The man in the mirror thought he had all the answers and behaved as though the world was going to line up behind his every achievement.
Fifty years has gone by and I have about fifty left to go. In the mirror I see a man still wanting for himself and his own selfish desires. At the same time, I want nothing but happiness and peace for those I love and continue my work toward that goal. Even my enemies, assuming I have any, I would wish nothing but contentment and success. The man in the mirror has no enemies; at least as far as he is concerned. Others may self identify as his enemy but that is their issue and life burden they have to shoulder. I don’t have enemies. They take up too much time and energy.
So what does a man do in the second half of his century? Give more to charity? Volunteer more hours to help others? Does any of that bring about change in the world?
My dear friend Christ defines a man’s life as such: Put your hand in a bucket of water. Swish it around real hard and notice the tumult created by the action. Then, stop and remove your hand. Notice how quickly the waters return to their previous calm state. This, according to Christ, is how a man’s life impacts the world. In life, we splish and splash about, making waves and creating tumult. Upon our death, the world and life continue forward as though we never existed.
So what do I change about the man in the mirror? This question dogs me and bites at my psyche. I have always tried to be the best I can. I have been a good father and a good husband. My life as a lawyer has been predicated on giving the best service I can. Yet I also have a closet full of skeletons with whom I have to dance by the pale moonlight. I have made mistakes that have hurt people I love. Being human, I have experienced most human frailties and succumbed to human weakness. Obviously I cannot change history nor can I erase the computational errors that led to bad decision making.
Over the years as a lawyer, I have touched hundreds of lives. In nearly every situation, I have helped someone through a difficult time and hopefully left them better off than before we met. The man in the mirror has tried to change the world one person at a time; one battle at a time. I know that my work has caused social change and the noise and splashing about have brought about change in my community. I can see it in the mirror and read it in the news.
I am not complaining about the aging process as many people do not have the luxury of growing old. Michael Jackson and Billy Mays are but two recent examples. Both were fifty and both died and were denied a full life to enjoy the riches they reaped. Too many wonderful beautiful people never get to enjoy the next fifty. Over the years I have said goodbye to too many. Also it doesn’t take any special talent to grow old; all you have to do is live long enough.
So I ask the man in the mirror, ‘what next’? What is there that I can change to make the world a better place. If the adage about wines growing finer with age is true, I would add that such is only the case if the original grapes were good. Despite my failures and shortcomings, the man who looks back at me from the mirror has a solid and honorable foundation.
Let it be said that as I enter this second half of my life, I do so with zeal and vigor. By merely living, the man in the mirror will show more wrinkles and fat as time passes. Yet I have changed him because I have lived. The man in the mirror can never change no matter what age he achieves. At any age, we are the person that we are. I don’t want to change the man in the mirror. Instead, I want him to keep on working and striving and doing what he has done for so long. Work for a better world and try and make people’s lives just a little bit better than they were before.
When comes the day that the man in the mirror is no more, let it be said that he lived a life.