Today I turn 39 years old. When I was younger, 40 seemed ancient. As a child, I had my whole life planned out...not in specifics, but in general terms. I was going to be a teacher and principal, marry an amazing man, have perfect children who participated in school activities and earned high grades, live in a beautiful house I designed, and travel during all school breaks. My life would be happy and stress-free because I planned it all out! I honestly believed that with hard work and dedication, I would create an ideal life. As I type these words, I shake my head and silently laugh to myself at how out of touch with reality I was in those early years.
My life is, in many ways right in line with my naive dreams, yet in other ways, my life is nothing like I imagined. Daily life is a tangled web of amazing moments and devastating heartbreak, that has shaped me into the confident, wise, determined, kind 39-year-old woman I am today. My 40th year will be here in 365 days. As a tribute to life, whether messy or organized or everything in between, here are 39 life lessons that I will remember as I spend the next year working on being my best self and embracing the journey that presents itself to me whether I want it or not.
Adversity is part of life. Don’t fight it.
Never stop dreaming. I have a million dreams swirling through my head at one time. I have no idea how many will come true, through hard work, but I am going to keep trying to make them all a reality.
Don’t listen to criticism. I had a high school English teacher tell me that I wasn’t a very good writer. Now, here I am writing a blog that people are reading.
Don’t listen to your own negative self-talk. I consider myself “technologically challenged” yet I have created my blog entirely from asking questions on google or watching youtube videos. Set your mind to something and you will figure it out.
Never be jealous of someone’s life through the eyes of Facebook. Seldom are FB posts about the realities of life. We share our celebrations, as we should, but we do not often share the day to day struggles of life behind closed doors. Personally, our last 18 months of hell are looking pretty darn “amazing” through the eyes of my personal FB posts.
The greatest lessons of my life have been learned during the hardest moments. Without these awful times, I would not be as confident or strong as I am today.
Never give up. There is always more to do, more to say, more to learn, more reasons to wake up each day.
Parenting will be everything you imagined and nothing like you imagined all at the same time
Continue to enjoy each minute. Seconds feel like years but the years feel like seconds.
When your children are hurting, you find your strength to go on when you feel like you have nothing left. Your love and fierceness will allow you to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
When your child says, “sit down, I want to cuddle”, drop what you are doing and sit with your child.
Having a daughter that is the polar opposite of you will give you gray hair and incredible stress but it will also teach you more about yourself than any other lesson. I am a much better person, more patient, more understanding, less judgmental, more spontaneous, and more loving because of my daughter and her outgoing, carefree spirit.
Having a son will melt your heart every time he says “I love you”. There is something profoundly different about raising a son as opposed to a daughter.
It never gets easier or cheaper, no matter how old they get. As they grow and change, so do the challenges and the expenses. Embrace the change. Watching your baby develop into a child then a teenager allows for deep conversation and incredible pride.
Marriage will always be hard work but it should always give you butterflies as well.
The unconditional love of an attentive husband brings strength and confidence to me in ways I never imagined. Having his shoulder to cry on or his voice of reason is all I need to make it through another day.
Similarly, when your husband tells you that you are beautiful, believe him!
Parent as a team at all times in front of your children.
Marry someone who does it all...models hard work and high expectations, attends all of their child’s events, cleans the house, cooks dinner, laughs at you and with you, and makes you feel important and capable of anything.
Teaching is more than a job, it is a passion and drive to make the world a better place one child at a time.
It is possible to be a teacher even without having your own classroom. Daily I miss teaching full-time but I have seen the impact I have had as a room mother, a classroom aide, and a substitute teacher, which are all things I have done so that I can be there for my daughter’s needs on a more regular basis.
Being in an elementary school shows you the joy and kindness that exists in our world. Young kids are naturally inclined to help others. As adults, we must foster this natural beauty that exists in young children.
The smile on a child’s face welcoming you into their school day can erase the tears and sadness that you began your day with.
Special needs children will bring a smile to your face over and over throughout the day. Spend time with these special kids and you will find joy and happiness. Our world is a better place because of unique and special people.
Seek out unique experiences and learn about the world around you.
Your world will be happier and kinder when you experience diversity. Put yourself in situations where you get to know people who are different than you...different cultures, ethnicities, religions, sexuality, parenting styles, etc
Be kind and you will be happier. Your children will see what it means to spread kindness even when kindness is not shared in return.
The more time you spend with people different than yourself, the less you will notice differences. Regardless of looks, backgrounds, disabilities, or way of life, we are all much more alike than we are different.
Planning is important for me to stay sane, yet I know most plans will not work out as intended.
Life never seems to follow your plans. Without fail, make a plan, then immediately something will arise to set you off in a different direction. As soon as I completed my Master’s Degree in Education Administration, with the hopes of becoming a school principal, my daughter became ill and my career fell apart. I have no idea if I will ever use this degree or if it will pay off professionally but I have it in my back pocket just in case. (Wouldn’t it be great if you could “return” an unused college degree...think of the money I would have back!)
Take nothing for granted. I used to think that the basics of life...happiness, health, steady income...were a given. Once I realized that nothing in life is guaranteed, I made sure to take nothing for granted. I appreciate every small moment of ordinary life.
You know the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, you never really grow up. You will constantly be growing, learning, and evolving. I realize at 39 I still have more than enough time to return to school for an additional degree or to start a brand new business.
The dream house with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops will not bring happiness. These material items used to help define me and where I was in life. Now simplicity brings more happiness than anything purchased ever has. We currently live in the smallest home we have ever occupied and we are happier than ever.
You may think you have control over your life, but really you don’t. Live in the moment with a small amount of planning for the future, while realizing that life will throw you hundreds of twists and turns whether you are ready or not! Embrace the craziness and enjoy the ride.
Figure out who you are and be authentic.
People’s negative comments will no longer impact you when you realize that those comments come from a place of their own insecurities rather than anything that you actually did. (See comment about diversity and you realize this.)
Spanx may help you appear more slender but they are definitely not worth the pain and discomfort.
Wear the two-piece bathing suit even if you don’t have a “bikini body”. Show the world you prefer a suit that you can easily go to the bathroom in when it is wet even if you enjoy eating cookies and pasta.
Speak up and be authentic. If you don’t believe in yourself or love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to have those positive thoughts of you?
Take care of yourself. Do things solely for your happiness. It is acceptable to be selfish here and there. You are important.
Own your introvertness! The shirt that reads” I like coffee and 3 people” is fairly accurate! I love connecting with people at work and when I am out and about but I really love sweatpants, a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and the comfort of my couch.
So, no matter where you are in life, find yourself and live. Seek things that make you happy and bring you.