The First Steps
Family legend has it that the first steps my siblings and I ever took were in the shallow waters of Compass Lake. The water helped steady us and made it easier to take the first step or two without parental assistance.
We take a lot of first steps in our lives. Some of them were exciting and some were a bit intimidating. Asking someone out on your first date. That first kiss. Receiving the keys to your first car, which in my case was a blue Plymouth Fury One with an AM radio and a noticeable dent in the trunk. It was beautiful.
Time moves along and you ask someone to share your life with you. That was a big step for sure. Together you decide to start a family and you have no idea of what a big step that will be until it happens. Changing dirty diapers, late night feedings, boo-boos, and crying fits. Just the first step to the metamorphic change of your children into wonderful adults as you watch them take their own first steps in life’s journey.
Heading off for college or getting that first job are certainly big steps for all of us. We often are not aware of how those early decisions impact our lives for years to come. After all, life is moving pretty fast by then and we are young. The horizon stretches forever.
Deciding to sell the peanut company was a major step for my brother and me. It led to one of the best decisions of our lives in starting to build Hardee’s Restaurants. We kept growing and zeroes kept getting added to the end of the numbers. The number of restaurants, employees and debt.
That last item, debt, is something you think about as you get older. My grandfather told me when he retired 60 years ago that when you become afraid to borrow money, it is time to get out. Borrowing money never bothered me as I accumulated debt far exceeding anything my grandfather ever worried about. It did not bother me, until it did.
This led to the latest first step of my life, the decision to retire. Not as easy as it sounds. You divest yourself of things that you have spent a lifetime accumulating. Businesses. Property. Furniture. Stuff, lots of stuff. These are all first steps for Mary Lou and me as we enter our second year of retirement.
The first year was spent getting rid of stuff. The second year will hopefully lead to even more first steps as we both turned 65 and began to embrace the next phase of our lives. Just like those first steps a lifetime ago, it is exciting and intimidating at the same time.
As we begin 2020, a new year and new decade, I decided that I will not make any resolutions. Rather, I am going to just continue taking first steps, whenever they come and wherever they lead me.
Everything is not always new in life’s journey. Some things I already know, I just want to do them better. These include loving life, reducing stress, living healthier, staying current on the affairs of the day, meeting new friends, finding new hobbies, talking less and listening more, forgiving and forgetting.
The young man of my youth no longer wants to change the world. I want to enjoy it, thrive in it, help others along the way, and savor the joys of my life as it exists today. Perhaps that will be an example to someone along the way.
May your new year be full of first steps that make your own life more fulfilling and rewarding.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org