That’s the only birthday that has ever bothered me. Looking back, it almost seems funny that I thought 35 was really getting old. I could list the string of hardships I was trying to deal with at that time which contributed greatly to me feeling that way.
Here’s the good news. I survived them all! So often in my life I have been like the person being carried in the poem Footprints. God has carried me through some very tough times. I am always mindful of His blessings and His presence in my life these days because upon looking back, His ways that I couldn’t see and couldn’t understand at the time are so very clear to me now.
I don’t think I ever really learned how to be young and enjoy it to the fullest. That was because I was in survival mode. Everything was a struggle. But I did survive.
If I have any regrets in my life they would be that I didn’t have enough money to travel and see more of the world while I was young enough and healthy enough to really embrace every moment and every new place and that I wasn’t brave enough to embrace more of the invitations and opportunities that came my way. I was afraid of failing, so I worked twice as hard to try and make sure that I didn’t.
I have always tried to enjoy the people and places that are around me, but I think I was often stuck in the familiar, the safe, the comfort zone. I would never have dreamed of hopping on a plane and flying off to Europe or even to California by myself.
I am so thankful I don’t have to go back and learn all of life’s lessons over again that I had to learn the hard way the first time around. I’m glad I don’t have to work three part time jobs while going to school to make ends meet. I’m glad that I don’t have to turn my infant over to a complete stranger stepmother for a week or a weekend at a time.
I’m thankful that I can enjoy an evening, a weekend, or a week alone and never get bored. I’m thankful that I’ve learned that boring seasons in our lives are actually blessings. Nothing exciting may be going on, but it also means that nothing catastrophic is taking place either. Boring, in its own peculiar way, means stable.
I’ve learned that it is impossible to please some people, no matter how hard we try. The truth is, some people can’t be pleased with anyone else because they are not pleased with themselves or with their own life. A person who is at war on the inside with who they are will never be at peace with anyone on the outside.
I’ve learned that no matter how good and kind and truthful you try to be in the hopes that other people will like you, there will be somebody that hates the ground you walk on for those very reasons. If other people like you, that’s reason enough that they won’t. I finally came to peace with that when I realized that I really didn’t care if certain people rejected me or thought they were above me.
If you’ve ever had that problem, think of it like this… “If I won a fantastic trip somewhere, and could take the 20 people in the world that mattered most to me, would that person be anywhere on the list?” Here’s another yardstick: “If I died, would I want that person to be at my funeral?”
Here’s another mind set for dealing with things that seem like in the moment that they are too big to handle. “This too shall pass.” Five years from now, those things will be a distant, and hopefully insignificant memory.
I’m glad that I don’t have to go through the years of trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be when I grow up. That season lasted long after I was grown up. Now I am trying to settle on what I want to be in the next phase of my life, but well acquainted with who I am.
I’m glad that I don’t squander time grieving over not being married, having a big home, and lots of kids, grandkids, etc. I wasted a lot of time longing for things that apparently were not meant to be. I would still like to see some of those dreams come true, but if they don’t, I’m going to be fine. I just need to find other dreams that are equally as good. I need to remember how to recognize blessings that sometimes come in the form of unanswered prayers.
I am not nearly as old as I hope to be, and I certainly hope to keep learning and growing through the years ahead. However, I do have some advice that is based on life observations of my own experiences and those around me.
At this age, I can assure anyone who cares to listen that being mean is a waste of everyone’s time. I have seen it come to pass many times that people really do reap what they sew. If someone is mean to you, forgive them and move on. The meanness they tried to force on you will come back to roost on their own shoulder. So — always try to sew goodness, kindness, and mercy. Those things are worth reaping.
Be genuine. If you don’t like something or someone, don’t pretend that you do, only to trash them when they leave the room. It doesn’t make them look bad, after all, but raises a red flag over your head!
Praise sincerely. Telling someone you appreciate them or that they’ve done a good job doesn’t cost you one cent, but it may mean the world to the person on the other end — the waitress who is exhausted and has three children waiting at home, the new teacher, the check-out clerk at the grocery store, the child who struggled to draw a picture for you, the newspaper boy, your doctor or nurse… All of us need a word of praise from time to time. A well placed word of kindness can encourage someone to keep on trying when they were ready to give up.
If you love someone, tell them. Better yet, show them. Love is the only thing in the world that increases on both ends by giving it away.
Believe in miracles. At 61 I still believe that God is not short on miracles. Most of us are simply short on the faith we need to recognize miracles when they do happen. I believe there are still miracles in my future — wonderful surprises designed by God especially for me in the moments I need them most, and in the moments when I expect them least.
Life is a wonderful series of surprises, people, opportunities, misfortunes and triumphs. I hope that at age 90 I am still going strong, causing as much mischief as possible, praising God to the fullest, loving life with all my might and still a child at heart.