So this week, I turn 39. When I was younger, I believed anyone over the age of 30 was old. As a teenager, I hoped to accomplish so much by the time I finished my 20s. Now that I’m nearly 40, I keep trying to tell myself that I’m only as old as I feel and the proof of success is in more than just job titles and material possessions.
Over the last nearly four decades of my life, I’ve learned plenty of lessons – the kind of lessons that stop you in your tracks sometimes, as well as others that tend to grow on you over time to help you understand their importance.
If I could live my life according to songs from Disney movies, I believe this one from Hercules should been my life theme:
“I will find my way, I can go the distance
I’ll be there someday if I can be strong
I know every mile will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere to feel like I belong.”
– Hercules, Disney, 1997
As far as the life lessons I have learned over the past 39 years, here are my top ten, both professionally and personally:
1) The Golden Rule really is exactly that. So no matter what you believe in, treat others as you would have them treat you. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you treat someone with respect, love and compassion, they will return this back to you tenfold.
2) Just breathe. You are going to have good days and bad days. Sometimes life can come at you like a freight train and the only way to get through it is to just take a deep breath.
3) God really doesn’t give us more than we can handle. After losing two people so close to my heart and watching my husband go through the worst pain imaginable, I started to truly understand this saying. Even though I hated this statement the first several times I heard it, the support, love, sheer compassion and unconditional power of the human soul has made me understand the truth of this statement over and over again. I’m a strong woman and it’s me who forgets this every so often. Each of us is as strong as we believe ourselves to be.
4) Good things come to those who wait. Give 110 percent and someone is eventually guaranteed to notice, especially at work. It’s not always the boss’ son who gets that promotion or the CFO’s girlfriend who gets the corner office. Sometimes it really does go to the person who earns it and works the hardest to get it.
5) Don’t always be in a hurry. Stop to smell the roses every now and then; don’t be afraid of the thorns either. So often it is the journey that is more worthwhile than the actual destination. Along the way, there may also be bumps, bruises, cuts and perhaps even a few gashes. In order to get the rainbow, you need a little rain.
6) Everyone started out as the new guy. So be nice and try to always help wherever you can. In most jobs, we don’t start as the head honcho but rather as the low man on the totem pole. So when the next new guy or girl starts, common courtesy should always be afforded because we were all that person at one time… a little scared, nervous, unsure of our surroundings and just hoping to find a friendly face in the room.
7) Don’t just dream big; dream HUGE! They’re your dreams and no one can take those away from you. Whether it’s traveling to Paris to stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower, writing a novel or finishing an Ironman, so make them as big as you want to and then go for it.
8) Remember, your life may not seem perfect to you but to someone else, you may have all the bells and whistles. Those two kids driving me crazy right now – there is someone out wishing they could have just one child to hold, kiss and maybe even drive them crazy. That job running you ragged – there is someone working for minimum wage wishing they could be in your shoes, working for better pay, benefits and running ragged from working a good job. That small house you find everything wrong with – there is someone wishing for a roof of their own over their head.
9) Life is just too short. I’ve lost loved ones. I’ve had my heart broken too many times to count. I’ve been told I wasn’t good enough for a job or two. I’ve even downplayed my intelligence for the sake of impressing someone who was probably never worth my time in the first place. But I’ve also lived through so many other positive things in my life that have made this life worth living every single day.
10) It is what it is. As a very high-strung person, I often find myself getting upset over the smallest things only to come back to this saying every time. Because in all reality, in one hand there is what can be controlled about our lives and in the other are those things that are absolutely uncontrollable. So why cry (kick, scream or pout) over spilled milk when we probably had no control over who knocked it over in the first place. Care about what you can control, take the reins of that destiny and let it ride. Don’t worry about the rest. It is what is.
I may be just another long-winded ordinary working mom who doesn’t spend enough time with her kids, is overweight and loud (because that’s what most people think about Midwesterners) and probably doesn’t dress age appropriately most of the time. But I don’t care because it’s taken me most of 39 years to fully understand most of these life lessons. I can only hope they help at least one person. The past nearly four decades haven’t been a walk in the park, but they haven’t been anything I regret either. I love my life, my husband, my children and my family and, most of the time, I think that’s all that matters.