Today, I am 36 years old, AKA four years from 40, which means I’ve got approximately half my life left. I love growing older, even though my white skin wrinkles and betrays me. Okay, okay, it’s totally not my skin. It’s all the years of slathering myself in baby oil, laying out for eight hours, trying to get tanner than all my friends. Because in high school, and the first half of our twenties, everything is a competition. Now, I am unbothered. Pasty white is how I’m living. Anyway, besides that I should have worn SPF 70, I wanted to share 10 other valuable lessons I’ve learned over my young life, with you. First a freebie, in the form of a GIF.
Sweetheart, most days life is just like this cake. Sweet, messy, kind of confusing and potentially on fire. Do your best.
Lesson #1: Most people are doing the best they can, so use your words, and your life, to encourage and lift others. We all have issues and problems and pain – no one’s exempt from that. Love well, and be kind.
Lesson #2: Do less. Be more. Work harder on your character and integrity and your relationships, than you do on your achievements and your to-do list and your career. I promise you, that when stuff hits the fan, the latter will not comfort you, hold you close, or pull you out of the pit. But people will, especially when you’ve bravely invested into authentic, reciprocal relationships.
Lesson #3: Say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong”. Forgiveness is the key to thriving in friendship, family and marriage. You know why? Because people are annoying, but guess what? So are you, and so am I. We’re all fallible humans, and we can’t help but disappoint each other. Do your best, and when you can’t, or you don’t, or you won’t, say you’re sorry. And when someone else apologizes, forgive them too.
Lesson #4: Don’t waste your time on people who will not, and do not want to, change. Oh friend, the years I wasted, trusting that some folks I loved genuinely, wanted to change. Safe people grow, and change, and are comfortable with their own brokenness. They don’t blame and shame their way out of change; they take personal responsibility. These are the folks to spend your life with.
Lesson #5: In the words of Kenny Rogers, in one of the worst songs ever written, there lies a gold nugget of wisdom: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em; Know when to walk away; And know when to run.” Sometimes you’ve got to walk away. Sometimes you’ve got to run away. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. And sometimes you’ve got to stay. Let God, and your good friends, help you see which one, and once you know, don’t wait. Act. Do what needs to be done. We don’t have time to waste dear friend.
Lesson #6: Justice is not a trend; it is the heart of the Father. I break this down (the short version), starting with the 10 Commandments in my YouVersion Devotional, on one of the final days. Immersing myself in the mess and chaos and margins of people, culture and cities has changed me for good. I’m less judgy. I speak out when I would otherwise be silent. I advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I receive and give more grace. My entire faith shifted, and I will never stop thanking God for giving me the help and the privilege of loving Him, myself and others.
Lesson #7: Marriage is my favorite. Oh gosh, the punk fools I’ve dated. Good Lord, y’all… Let’s go for wine (I’ll have a soda, since preggo), and I will tell you all the lessons I’ve learned here, but the short version is: You are not helpless. You can change. It’s not too late. There’s nothing wrong with you. And wonderful men actually exist, who are healthy, and rooted in incredible male friendships, and they are capable of love. I would literally die without my husband, I am pretty sure. He’s loved me so well, and in our friendship and lovership (not a word), I am continually set free to be the woman I was created to be.
Lesson #8: GRACE SISTER, GRACE. Lean into grace. You’re doing better than you think you are.
Lesson #9: You’re beautiful. You’re worth it. You have a brilliant mind, an incredible capacity to love and be loved. You are an agent of change. If it’s a hard day, I promise, it won’t last forever. There’s life on the other side of your pain, and people on the other side of your obedience. You can do it. Don’t give up now. Your future is secure, complete freedom is possible, and you are not alone.
Lesson #10: Our end goal is not perfection; it is wholeness. I’ve been a perfectionist most of my life, but my life keeps growing, and I can’t hold it all together anymore. A few years back, I stopped caring. Oh well, I dropped a ball. No one died, and I learned what was most significant to me, and now, I have been swallowed up by grace. My relationships are richer and sweeter. I enjoy myself and others more. I’m less critical and judgmental. I no longer think I am better, can do better, or should be better than others. And I no longer want to be perfect. I want to be whole.