Reflecting back on the last 30 years (I’m 30)

30 years ago today, aside from the first ever episode of the most popular British soap Eastenders airing, I was born.

I absolutely couldn’t care less that I’m 30. I haven’t been dreading this day, nor do I attribute any sort of aging to it, any more so than any other day. However, a “n0” birthday is a milestone that only comes along once a decade so it seems like a perfect time for some reflection.

The last 10 years

Since February 2010 (the last 5 years), quite a number of things have changed in my life. I became a professional engineer, I became a father, I have another child on the way, I started my own business which is now thriving and I moved house 3 times.

In the last 10 years, even more has changed. In February 2005, I was in my second year at university, was single, living with my Mum in the UK and I was working for the NHS. Over the next 5 years, I would meet and fall in love with Marti, graduate from university, become a Christian, move to the States to be with her, get married 60 days later, battle 8 months of being unable to work before getting my green card, a job, my driver’s license, a car and our first apartment in the space of about 4 weeks.

Reflection on who I am

Me in December 2005 - the first time I ever visited Marti
Me in a decidedly emo pose in December 2005 – the first time I ever visited Marti

As I think about the man I am today, where I’ve come from and the boy I used to be, I’ve noticed quite a few specific observations about how I’ve changed in particular and more general observations about how we as humans mature (or don’t).

The first thing is that nothing is given. Not only is nothing guaranteed but you’ll change in ways and do things that you would have never believed, conceived or thought possible.

Respecting others’ opinions

The world has never been smaller and we’ve never been closer to people of different backgrounds than we are today. We are immersed in a world where Christians, Muslims, atheists, Brits, Mongolians, Communists and those under dictator rule are but a click away.

With so many different belief systems – political, religious, cultural, social and moral to name but a few – now part of a global, inter-weaving conversation, we’re surrounded by people who have very different views on a wide range of issues.

We have to acknowledge that, while in some disagreements there is clearly a wrong position and a right one, (many) others have two (or more) very good solutions.

The state of Christianity illustrated by the treatment of Rob Bell

I’ve never much understood the vilification of Rob Bell. One of Christianity’s “superstars” of the new millennium, he was quickly tossed aside after questioning the idea of Hell and whether what we’ve come to be taught is actually true.

The sad truth is that, most ironically, the bulk of this vilification is from those who call themselves Christians; you know, the religion that models itself on the life and teachings of Christ, namely love.

Don’t break your children

This article was making the rounds on Facebook late last year and I just thought it was an excellent read from a regular Joe dad.

Dan starts off by describing a situation that he witnessed which is probably more common than any of us dare to consider. In this situation, a father screamed at his child until he cowered in his presence. What kind of parents wants their child to fear them, that they might lash out at any minute?

Parenting daughters and parenting sons

ellie-smiling-at-daveI am the very happy and very proud father of an amazing girl called Ellie. Parenting her has felt like I’ve found my calling. I was meant to father a daughter, which is weird given how set Martina & I were on having a boy to begin with.

Once we had a girl though, we fell in love and wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t even imagine having a boy!

But now, here we are, and we are having a boy, which has forced the reality upon me and got me thinking: how am I going to father a son?

Stop this culture of image obsession, for our children’s sake

As the father of a young daughter, this talk by Meaghan Ramsey spoke to me at a deep level. It is one of my biggest goals to make sure that Ellie finds her identity in God, and not in the world. I hope that she is a confident, amazing woman when she grows up and that she throws off the shackles of our image-obsessed society.

I am so disheartened by how so many women have bought into this practice and grade themselves for their appearance and find their value in that. There’s so much more to it. It’s so cliché to say so, and it’s very hard to hear when you’ve staunchly convinced yourself otherwise, but beauty really is on the inside. Looks fade and bodies sag, but intelligence, humour, personality, verve and perspective only get better with age, and I can say with confidence, that as each year passes, my wife only gets more and more attractive to me.

So, let’s make sure that our children acknowledge that they’re all unique and all have something valuable to offer the world, instead of allowing them to start seeking the approval of others for their appearance.

Is your country the goodest?

No that’s not a lexical faux pas. It’s the intentional introduction of a new term being coined by Simon Anholt, a veteran political advisor to nations around the world.

After many years of research, and evaluating how the world’s population perceives other nations, he came up with the Good Country index, which ranks countries according to the good they do for the world, importantly not for themselves.

How to suck

After a bit of a break on Twitter lately, I happened to just jump on one morning and saw that @norcross had posted a link to an article entitled “How to Suck“, which intrigued me. I didn’t know if it was WordPress related, or personal, but I started to read.

Within the first few paragraphs, I was hooked, and despite it being a long article (10-15 minutes), I read the whole thing (usually, it’d be “tl;dr”).

The article really awakened me to how “sucky” I’ve become. It made me take a good hard look in the mirror and realised that if I met me, I probably wouldn’t like me.

I got a lot of conviction when I read the article. While I’ve improved in some of these areas (not intentionally, but as part of maturing), I’ve got worse in some others too.

It’s made me draw a line in the sand, and make a concerted effort to be a less-sucky person. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and I think it’s making a real difference. It’s not just one of those empty pie-in-the-sky ideas, but a commitment to be better.

So here’s to being a better human. Feel free to call me out if I’m ever being a dick. You won’t offend me.