Life holds many mysteries. As a child, we want time and space to hurry along so that we might be allowed the freedom to make our own choices and forge our own path. Yet, as we complete the apex of our mid-life, we proclaim that it is moving too fast. As we approach the finish line, we start to evaluate the choices we’ve made and the journeys not taken. We search for meaning and purpose in our lives. We seek to understand who we are and why we are here.
At midlife, we are not the same person we were in our 20s. Our character has been refined by the circumstances of our life, some chosen, some chosen for us. Free will is always available providing the opportunity to make meaningful choices or damaging ones, with the likelihood that we alternate between the two. As I contemplate the many choices I’ve made in this lifetime, I seek to learn and understand their origins, while forgiving myself when I went astray. From this current vantage point, if I could speak to my 20-year-old self, I would share the following 8 caveats:
Don’t make assumptions: When you make assumptions, you are believing that something that has not happened yet, is inevitable. When in fact, 100% of your assumptions could be false. The real damage occurs when you change your behavior based on a false assumption. It can bring about immense, unnecessary hurt to those that you care about.
Love the body you have been given: Genetics plays a large role regarding our physical features and the weight we carry. We should always seek to lead a healthy lifestyle, but do not compare yourself to others. Their challenges may be different than your own. Accept and nurture yourself and always make time for self-care.
Kindness Matters: Just as dictated in the Disney animation Lion King, there is a circle to life. What you choose to put out into the world, will circle back to you. Choose wisely, yet do not mistake this for being a people pleaser. A people pleaser acts from a place of fear due to a lack of self-love. Make kindness a priority in your life. Bless others as you wish to be blessed.
Choose your friends carefully and distance yourself from those that do not honor you: Friends will enter and exit your life story at different stages and don’t be afraid to show them the door if they show disrespect. You are uniquely special and deserving of great love and abundance. To draw in those that honor and respect you, seek to be, in character, the person you wish to be with. And don’t seek to rescue or change someone else. Let them be them and you be you. Just know when to walk away.
Evaluate negative emotions for root cause: Aristotle once said, “knowing yourself is the key to all wisdom.” We learn a great deal from our parents, including coping skills. When we experience a negative emotion with repetition, such as frustration or disappointment, it may signal a need for healing. it may be helpful to investigate it for a root cause from the past. Did it originate with a childhood experience? Are we simply regurgitating what we’ve learned, even though damaging?
Do not fear the tests: Of one thing you can be sure, as you forge through life experiencing all it has to offer, you will be tested. The size of the test can change, but there is opportunity for growth and learning with each and every one. As you conquer more and more challenges, you will grow in confidence and character. Do not fear that which will make you stronger.
When someone treats you unfairly, do these 2 things: The feeling that someone has betrayed you can be one of the hardest to endure. The first step is to confront them with love. Clear the air. If you do not do this, you risk wallowing in bitterness all the days of your life. It also gives them the opportunity to provide their insight. As much as we value our own personal perceptions, sometimes they are wrong. No matter the outcome of the first step, the second step is that of forgiveness. We all come from different backgrounds and people usually do what they do based upon past experience. The event may actually have nothing to do with you. Forgiveness doesn’t absolve them, it releases you.
Love people more that things: When we leave this journey and take the last breath of this lifetime, we will take nothing with us. No material things that is. What we do take with us are experiences with those we love. Relationships have great potential for cultivating joy, acceptance and love. Those memories and those feelings should be cherished, for it is those jewels that will cross the veil. Love and respect all persons, for we all come from the same source from which we all return.
There is much more yet to learn in this lifetime I am certain. This list will grow longer. There will be more challenges and more tests, but there can be joy in all things. As we learn and grow from each experience, we cultivate a better life for ourselves and those around us.
Are there reasons that our 20-year-old self stumbled about a bit? Certainly there are. If she were to read this list, perhaps she would understand it to represent the journey set before her. As we seek to become a better person tomorrow than we were yesterday, perhaps this list of caveats could be entitled, my life’s lessons to learn, or maybe even, “my life’s purpose.”