The Two Halves of Life

by | Apr 8, 2021


I turned 51 a few days ago and a friend texted me “you are now officially in the second half of life.” If he’s suggesting that I’ll live to 102, I’ll take it. But, if you step back and look at your life, you can break it into multiple halves. Here’s how I break down various halves in my own life in no particular order (I bet you have similar ones and I’ve love it if you’d share what your halves are):

1. Before and After Becoming a Parent

Having a child is a watershed event. The immense responsibility of caring for and raising another human is stunning. I had a panic attack not long each of my children being born — full fledged thinking I was having a heart attack ER visit level panic attack. The responsibility was (and is) dizzying.

2. Entering the Work Force

When you are a child, adults ask you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You spend two plus decades going to school preparing to do something. Then, you are done with school and you do it. Going to work most days and earning a living is a major life milestone. It’s interesting to observe my daughters in the half where they are still preparing. I hope they aren’t sacrificing too much of their present for their future.

3. Before and After Seeing the Movie The Matrix

Maybe I’m the only one who divides my life this way, but how I think about the world shifted when I watched The Matrix. If you haven’t seen the movie (don’t bother with the sequels), the premise of it is that everything experienced by humans was actually inside a computer program (“the matrix”) — so life occurred inside a simulation. The main character, Neo, is given a choice between taking a red pill and seeing the world for what it is, or swallowing a blue pill and continuing to live his life inside the matrix.

There is so much to unpack in this movie. Entire books have been written on its philosophical underpinnings and there are university philosophy courses about the movie. The concept of the red pill vs. blue pill is something I think about a lot: will I choose the hard path of seeing the world as it really is or will I ignore it all and live in la la land? Far too often I choose the blue pill. I won’t make this post just about The Matrix — maybe a future IFOD will be about the philosophy of The Matrix.

4. Becoming Vegan

I used to eat meat. Then, nearly 19 years ago, I stopped. I hardly remember what it was like to eat meat, but giving it up was a major life shift. It’s changed my identity and how I think about myself as well as the world around me. It’s been a huge, positive impact on my life and health. Here’s a related IFOD on Why I am (still) vegan and another on Mostly dumb questions vegans get asked.

5. Marriage

Maybe the best thing about being human is finding another human to be your partner and to travel with you down life’s path. I am lucky that I found a phenomenal travel companion. One of my biggest desires for my kids is that they find a great partner also.

I think reflecting on life halves is instructive. We think of ourselves as the same person, but as we move between various life halves we experience a ton of change. Who we are shifts. I like to think about whether I like the version of me in the second half as compared to the first, or whether the 18 year old version of me would like how the 51 year old version turned out.


  1. I would miss grass fed beef sticks if I were a vegan. I’d maybe have to transition to Bruce banner sticks in order to stay strong throughout the day.

    • Omg. Good point KG. And you k is it was you who texted me that I’m in second half of life? Right.

  2. Happy birthday John. A bit off topic but I was having a discussion on parenting with Sadie, my 14 year old, last week. This too can be broken down into halves/segments. Parents focus the first half, really about 6-9 years, on their child and keeping them safe from things that they may do to themselves i.e. run with scissors, sit too close to the TV, don’t cross your eyes, wait that was my childhood. We try to give them good foundational skills that they will need to be happy and successful. We, at least I, then shift our focus to the dangers and pitfalls that they will encounter out in the world, hoping that they are prepared for such. Our concern becomes less about the child as an individual but more on the outside forces that could affect them, distracted drivers, peer pressure, any number of other bad influences. Unfortunately I am in the latter half with all three of my children.

    • Great thoughts. Thanks. Agreed.

  3. A division that is for me, not a perfect half, but a division nonetheless is the reflections and self-assessment which the pandemic has caused.
    I have learned to focus even more on what is important to me. That is not tangible goods or services, but rather the wealth and enjoyment of friends and family.
    The byproduct is a greater vision of (as another commenter stated) “The Giving” part of my life.
    It has channeled my philanthropic contributions into other paths and has allowed me to take the time to enjoy and appreciate not only myself but those that I love.
    This will be not the “last” half of my life, but surely the best half.

  4. This will sound way more noble than it should, but I’ve looked at the halves as Getting & Giving. I spent the first half of my life focused on Getting, looking at life through a “what’s in it for me” lens. Then (via many of the institutions you mention such as parenting, marriage and work) I seemed to switch to much more of a Giving focus. For sure I’m frequently still a selfish bastard, but since age 25 or so I much more routinely became occupied with thoughts about how I can help others or make the world a tiny bit better. I have found this transformation in literature also, in such characters as Jean Valjean and Siddhartha.

    • That’s brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

    • Beautiful!

  5. Good one and happy birthday too. What was the actual day ?

    • Tuesday


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