What I've Learned as a 38-year-old

As I begin the 38th year of my life today, I want to take a moment to share some of my key take-aways so far as a human being. 

1- My external circumstances may change, but my internal reality is constant. My happiness and well-being may be momentarily affected by whatever change is happening in my life, but my internal world is relatively stable. I am lucky that my disposition set-point is pretty high on the positivity scale. Even though old fears continue to surface, I am getting much better at recognizing when they take hold of me and finding effective ways to shake them off. 

2- The most difficult years of my life are already behind me. My father was pretty abusive growing up. My mother was absent from my life from the age of 6 to 18. I got cancer when I was 27. All of these things shaped who I am today - a survivor who can take on any of life’s challenges to come. 

3- I can achieve any of my dreams if I focus and commit to them. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Growing up in a working class home, I realized that if I wanted to make my way in the world I was going to have to do it on my own. It became my singular focus in high school to get a full-ride scholarship to college. I succeeded, and went on to get full scholarships for my M.A. and Ph.D. Moving forward, I have more dreams I want to bring to fruition. Sometimes I let doubt seep in…but I’m reminded today that I really do have the power to ask for what I want so that I can serve in the highest way possible. 

4- I am lucky. We are fortunate that we live in a country and in a time in history where anything is possible for us as a generation. I’ve lived in exotic countries, danced on beautiful beaches, savored sumptuous meals, and experienced epic moments of awareness, joy, and freedom. Life is good and it keeps getting better. 

5- I (finally!) have a solid understanding of my talents and gifts. Before this past year, I didn’t have a solid sense of my deep inner talents. I mean, I knew I was skilled as a social scientist, university professor, and startup marketer. I knew my strengths in a vocational sense. But I wasn’t aware of my character strengths and how they helped me become who I am today. My love of learning, my capacity for hope, my emotional intelligence, my zest for life, my curiosity, and my ability to provide perspective (for myself and others) are all central to who I am. I am grateful for the ways that these strengths have carried me through to today and I am intentional now in using them to get to where I want to go in the future. Most importantly, I am willing to live in my zone of genius. I allow my strengths to shine and guide me towards my maximum potential as a human being.   

6- My relationships - with my partner, family, and friends - really are the most fulfilling aspects of my life. When we die, it’s said that our relationships are the things that people remember and value most. My relationships are my greatest teachers. In relationship, I discover greater depths of my being than I ever could reach on my own. Sometimes they cause the greatest pain I’ve ever known, but they also lead to the highest experience of love and transcendence. Over the past year, I’ve learned that there is an art and science to relating. It is now my primary goal to continuously learn how to be the best wife, sister, daughter, and friend I can be. I’ve also learned that there is no substitute for quality time. Connection time with the people I love is the most valuable currency in my life.   

7-Authenticity in all I do is the only way forward. I’ve lived with a fear that has held me back for a long time - the fear of not being loved. I’ve let that fear inhibit how I show up in many ways, including in social situations. All of a sudden, I think “Will this person like me?” or “Will this person think I’m ____ (smart, pretty, etc)?” And then I start to feel a false personality emerge to mask the fear. It’s still me talking, but it’s a strained version of myself. I even feel physical tension in my body when this scared self takes over. Today I forego this false personality for my true essence. I am willing to take a leap of faith and let my authenticity pour forth. Life is too short and I’m done hiding. 

8- Prayer and gratitude are superpowers. When I just want to give up, there is nothing more powerful in shifting my perspective than a good prayer. Taking the time to give thanks and ask for help has a miraculous effect on me. The more prayers and gratitudes I offer up, the more grounded I feel. Even more powerful is praying and giving thanks with the people I love. 

9-  My body is the boss of me. I’ve recently learned that my body really does know what’s best for me. Much more so than my mind. The more I listen to my body, the better I feel. My body has the best advice when it comes to when to rest, when to go outside, when to dance, when to meditate, and what to eat. When in doubt, I listen to my body. 

 

These are the big life lessons for me so far. I am beyond excited to learn more in the next year of my life. Bring it!