Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bangladesh's Big Brother

No, this isn't a reference to Orwellian surveillance or a local reality TV show. It's me. I'm Bangladesh's big brother. I realized last night at the welcoming party for new volunteers that I'm older than the country that is hosting me. How's that for a revelation on the eve of one's 40th birthday? Does it stand as a testament to my advanced years or as a comment on the relative youth of this nation? Probably both. But this is my blog, so let's focus on me and my mid-life crisis.

Actually, there is no crisis, only a time for reflection. When I look at where I was in 1999, celebrating my 30th birthday at a surprise party with friends in Vancouver, I realize that the real surprises were yet to come. At that time, the most exotic location I had visited was a Club Med in Mexico, and I thought that would be about as wild a place as I would ever experience or want to experience. Even though I celebrated my 30th at a rather turbulent time economically, which is a grand euphemism for being unemployed, the thought that I would ever leave Canada never entered my mind. In fact, even leaving Vancouver was not a thought I wanted to entertain, especially when the alternative might be, shudder, that cold metropolis of Toronto. 

So, of course, the next ten years consisted of stops in Toronto, Nigeria and now Bangladesh. A textbook example of solid planning for the future! And I guess I wouldn't want it any other way. Getting lost in the mountains of Ecuador or jumping out of a plane over the Namibian desert were never things I would have considered ten years ago, but I'm glad I had those adventures and I hope for more. Life is meant to be experienced, after all - it's just a question of how a person chooses to do it.

Some heavy thoughts for such a lightweight blog! But as I celebrate the milestone next week, I'll do it with thanks to everyone who has been a part of my 40 years, family and longtime friends half a world away and those who are with me now. Here's hoping for a future for all of us that is just as rich as the past! 


Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Glenn. You moved to deepest, darkest Toronto so you could be Calli's fabulous Uncle Glenn! [That she is nearing her 10th birthday should give equal cause for pause.]
Joking aside, Glenn, I wholeheartedly second your thinking on this one! Life is meant to be experienced and enhanced through new challenges, new lands, and new people.
Here's to taking advantage of the opportunities and blessings life offers us, even if we are getting old as hell!

Happy 40th on the 25th [hope your card makes it],
Love from Daphne & the Girls

Anonymous said...

PS Guess who else is turning 40? Today, in fact...

Anonymous said...

Ah, to be 40 again! NOT. I love being where I am and wouldn't want to be anywhere else -- age wise, that is. But I can feel the weight of the moment when we reach a milestone.

When a whole bunch of us [like grapes or bananas] turned 50 around the same time [several+ years ago], we all came to the same conclusion: I've finally arrived and I no longer feel I need to explain myself to anyone.

Basically, it was the momentousness of the moment that give us the sense that we no longer gave a crap about what anyone thought or did or said. We were [and continue to be] beyond caring what someone else felt about us or how we acted.

It was a great sigh of relief, actually a eureka, because we no longer had to be concerned about whether we were wearing the right duds or acting the right way or saying the right things.

In other words, we no longer felt the need to convince others that we were worthy of their consideration (a) because we didn't care about what they thought, and (b) having gotten that far, we didn't really think what they thought was worthy of our consideration.

Call this arrogant or call this a sense of having arrived [or survived], or even a sense of accomplishment [just getting there]...we don't really care.

It's no longer about explaining or justifying or reasoning or convincing -- it's all about being and living and enjoying and laughing. And if the world doesn't appreciate that, who cares!

We live in a culture rife with the desire to keep up with or exceed the Joneses. He who has the most toys when he dies wins....NOT. To believe that, you first have to consider life a game of winning and losing. Once you reject that idiotic notion, then life becomes just grand.

However, we are driven by cultural norms to compare our self-worth and value to someone, everyone else. When you get to the point when the paunch overrides the belt buckle, and you hair underestimates the square footage of your head, and the gas build-up in your inner workings exceeds your ability to be embarrassed by unexpected noises emitting from the nether reaches of your body...that's when you can truly celebrate the joys of being alive. And age counts as the milestone that indicates "we are here; we have almost reached our destination".

Not that you would intentionally be offensive. The irony is that you have to care enough about what others think to intend to be offensive. So if you don't really care, you don't have a need or desire to offend.

So we celebrate milestones, as we must. Not to mark time past, but to identify time now and time ahead. Not to determine what is gone, or even how little is left [who knows what that might be], but to sluff [slough] off the bonds of despond, and dance the dance of today.

To twist the topic into a bit of a pretzel: how many of us reading this blog have ended up in our lives and careers exactly where we intended when we started this journey in an intentional, planned and conscious way [not just at birth]?

The great human adventure is stuggling with the gap between desire and reality, intention and actuality -- not so much out of regret for what did not happen as out of a sense of honest and genuine appreciation for our own abilities, capacities to be creative, flexible, and motivated.

The journey is the fun part. Restlessness is endemic to being who we are. To marvel that Bangladesh is not as old as you are is indeed a marvelous thing. Just think if you were in China, not Bangladesh, and had the same feeling. That would make you over 5000 years old.

I have a rubber stamp in my office [which all CEOs should have] that says: Much was decided before your were born. What a great line to live by.

Enjoy. Celebrate. Have a great one, and when that ends, have another. Happy Birthday.


Anonymous said...

Oh the lies we had to tell to get Glenn to his surprise 30th birthday party. His emergency appendectomy changed our plans for the first one!

Time has definitely flown and life has changed.

Congratulations on this milestone. I hope for you more excitement in your next decade.

Can you imagine where that might lead?

Neysa and Gord

Anonymous said...

Hey Glenn, Happy 40th, I hope all is well and from the sound of you are exactly where you are supposed to be and where you need to be.

They lie that age is just a number, age is relief, Gosh I wouldn't go back in my 20ies...I'm glad time passes and with it we get to become more of ourselves and less of what influences want us to be.

I wish you all the happiness in the world, the fun part is that you can always go back to Vancouver or Toronto or club Med but you will have experienced Namibia, Nigeria, and all the other adventures in between.

Have a great one!
Yvonne Sesonga

Anonymous said...

Glenn - Kate, Maya, Portia and Dave all wish you a very happy birthday. We're going to play a game of bowling bunnies in your honour.

Hope you and Kristel celebrated somewhere fun.


The Weed Man

KareninTO said...

Glenn, I had my belated birthday wishes to you. I love your blog and frankly I hope you don't cut back on the frequency. Keep on doing what you've been doing - I love living vicariously through your experiences.


KareninTO said...

eh hem... that would be 'add' I add my belated birthday wishes. Now you know why I don't blog.