I remember my Mom saying that ‘youth is wasted on the young’. I didn’t understand it then—but I do now.
We don’t notice how much value is given to this notion of “youth”. We’re unconsciously trained to value it over age and wisdom. So we pour all of our energy into how we stack up in comparison; we don’t spend as much time learning the value of personal growth or what our values are and why they matter out there in the world. We take lessons from others, which are largely fear-based and centered around keeping us under control, and measure ourselves against society. But what we’re missing is that everybody is largely participating in this act; this facade. We move into adulthood with little clue on who we are and no clue what is waiting for us there; we spent a whole lot of time obsessing about things that largely ended up not mattering at all.
I’m all about self-discovery, making mistakes, and redefining yourself over and over, if need be. But there’s something else that we don’t talk about as much, and that’s that we can find ourselves repeating patterns that do not serve us (or others) because we haven’t been taught how to really live. We learned not to trust our own decisions. If we’re socially trained to defer to someone else’s interpretation of what is right and wrong or what would make us happy, I believe that frequently leads to unhappiness or a dulling of our senses. And for those of us who were brave enough to change our situation instead of staying where we were supposed to, that was such a risk! Because we knew that striking out into the great unknown could full-well lead to another “mistake”, which would inevitably cause shame and self-doubt; exposing us to all the people who would say “I told you so”. There’s a whole lot of pressure to do-what’s-right and to be-uniquely-yourself, which, coincidentally are often are at odds with one another and often not supported by others. Isn’t that so funny? And how come nobody talks about that?
As I welcome my 41st birthday, I’m spending a little time looking back on how far I’ve come. Not judging myself for my tons of mistakes, but more-so, recognizing that somehow, I evolved into a calm-hearted and much more comfortable woman—even in spite of all my opposing social conditioning. I’m fascinated by these little paradoxical experiences considering I feel I was conditioned not to appreciate aging. Here’s a few I was contemplating today:
- Realizing the need for a good skin-care routine, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. This is vitally important. But I also realize that I don’t lament the addition of some new wrinkles.
- Accepting that you’re eventually going to give up the battle with your multiplying grey hairs which seem to have sprouted overnight. One day, I’m going to tire of the dying ritual and cost, and will simply let that go. Ironically, I do recall saying “I’ll never stop dying my hair”—haha, and that wasn’t all that long ago, either!
- Suddenly realizing I no longer feel a strong draw to going out for a late night with friends—instead, I love to stay home with a good book, tea, and my feet on my husband’s lap.
- Simultaneously realizing that you love your cherished time with your girlfriends. But that time looks a lot different than it used to. Picture a cabin in the woods, hot tub heart-to-hearts, long walks, the Golden Girls marathons, games, good food, and jokes about how much everyone snores at night.
- I stopped chasing the corporate career, high salary, and fancy title for personal validation after having tasted it for a little while and learned that I didn’t like it at all; I would prefer to build others up rather than make someone else rich. Even if it meant cutting my salary in half, literally.
- I remember the day I realized that I no longer cared about keeping up with the newest trends in fashion, and instead, found that I felt sexiest in my converse and rolled up jeans, and naturally curly hair. I gave up nearly everything to live a largely minimal life and I’ve never felt more fulfilled or rich.
It was an awakening of sorts—a freedom I’ve never known. Simultaneously, it makes me excited about how I can live even more richly in the future with this simplicity; this coming home to myself.
The best part—and perhaps the most surprising—is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I don’t feel like I gave anything up. It’s not an exchange of this-for-that at all. Rather, it’s as if I’ve woken up from a dream; as though I’m seeing things as they actually are instead of how I was told to see them. Do you feel this, too?
If you bring attention to it, you can see all the little (and big) evolutions that your heart, mind, and soul have seen over the years. The ones you barely noticed are still stacked up with all the others, equalling an exquisite human being. All those little evolutions created what you are now. And the neat thing is: that doesn’t end. Interestingly, once you bring your awareness into that experience, it seems to amplify. I encourage you to take a moment to notice that slowing down equates to more intention in your thinking, reactions, and soul, as well. Almost as if you’re really seeing and feeling for the first time. Mindfulness is a good trade for the frenetic, compulsive, chaos of my youth.
Tomorrow I am driving to Boston to spend a couple days—I haven’t been there in 15 years—so this is, in a way, a bit of a homecoming. I moved there—completely across the country and away from everyone I knew—at a time in my life when I was about to make my first very brave decision. And I wanted to do it for me, without any outside influence (which is to say, any pressure to change my mind). It resulted in the first big change of my life—but would catapult me onto a journey of trusting myself and going with what felt right for me and never looking back.
Mmm, Boston…the trees will be bare and so will my heart. I will walk the streets as this woman; gently remembering all the things I struggled with back then as a girl. I’ll spend time in deep gratitude for the fact that I got here even in spite of all the fear and unanswered questions I had struggled with. I’ve made many mistakes, but they got me here, and here is pretty damn good.
Happy Birthday to me. ❤