I can hardly believe that my 30s are rapidly coming to an end and a new decade is upon me. In a few days I will turn 40 years old. Wow. That age once seemed so far away.
Birthdays are a big deal in my family. Always have been, but especially so after my cancer diagnosis and my dad’s death from cancer. I spent my 22nd birthday in the hospital with an IV dripping chemo into my veins (although my entire family filled my hospital room to sing me happy birthday, even if I felt too terrible to eat much cake). I vowed to never complain about my age because it is blessing to be alive to celebrate another day, let alone another year. Of course, I still contemplate life and what I’ve accomplished in my almost 40 years on the planet. Sure, surviving cancer is a major accomplishment (although what choice did I have except to fight like hell?) but, honestly, I want to be known for more than cancer, for being a cancer survivor is just a piece of who I am. Some days I know exactly what I want in life, and other days those goals seem to allude me. Some days I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in almost 40 years. Other days I get frustrated that I haven’t achieved more. And I don’t mean collecting material things. More focus on happiness, contentment, friendship, love and laughter. I want to explore the world, make a difference in the lives of others, and be a good person. I want fulfillment in relationships, family, a career and even with myself.
On the eve of my 40th birthday, I am stepping back to review my life. I’m satisfied with many pieces of it, and restless with others. I’m happy with pieces of who I have become, and will strive harder to change or improve other pieces. Life is a constantly evolving state. I’m thankful to be part of it. In my reflection, these are some of the lessons I’ve learned through (almost) 40 years:
1. Feel grateful for every minute you are alive.
2. Stop judging people. Don’t judge people because they aren’t like you, don’t like the same things or choose a different path in life. You don’t know their lives.
3. Don’t cyber-bully. Think twice before posting that Facebook or Twitter criticism. Hiding behind a computer screen is weak.
4. Accept your past. It happened, it’s over, learn from it, move on.
5. Live in the present, plan for the future.
6. Save money. Achieve a good credit score.
7. Dance like no one is watching, even if someone is. It will make you happy.
8. Have date nights with your significant other. Make sure you take turns planning the date.
9. Show appreciation for someone’s nice gestures to you, even if it’s not quite what you’d do or want. At least they’re trying.
10. Say please and thank you.
11. Pay attention to your finances, even if you’re married. You should always know how much money you have and how much you can save.
12. Don’t ditch your friends because you found a spouse or had a baby. Honor and value the friends who have been there through good and bad, and probably would continue to be there if you made an effort too. I can guarantee you probably still have much in common if you look hard at your friendship.
13. Don’t exert energy on people who don’t care.
14. Laugh. A. LOT.
15. Know your way around a library. Knowledge is power.
16. Ask a child what he/she wants to do for fun, then do it.
17. Have a play date with a child without using technology or buying them a toy. Use your imagination!
18. Explore outside of your city.
19. Explore outside of your state. We have an AMAZING country.
20. Watch a sunset and sunrise.
21. Have friends of the same sex and spend time together. There is nothing like girlfriends to keep you grounded, happy and supported (I imagine men feel the same about their guy friends).
22. Ride a horse at least once in your life. These beautiful creatures are gentle and majestic.
23. Find a job you enjoy and commit to it. Be proud of your work and build relationships by being kind, professional and fair.
24. Treat people how you want to be treated. Learn to apologize when you’re wrong.
25. Send cards for special occasions or just because. Real cards that require an envelope and postage. Yes, these still exist.
26. Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
27. Don’t take love for granted and don’t assume someone knows how you feel. Say it, show it.
28. Call someone – not text, email or Facebook message – and have a conversation about life. Actually use your phone to make a call and hear the voice. It’s so much better than a text conversation.
29. Take care of your health. Don’t skip the doctor. You only get one body.
30. Help someone out each day. A simple gesture, such as holding the door open, is a kind gesture. Kindness builds great societies.
31. Take time to talk to older people. They carry pieces of our history, and often share great stories.
32. Smile more.
33. Count at least five blessings each day.
34. Call your parents at least once per week (my mom would say more!).
35. Have patience with older people – you will hopefully be one someday. They are our foundation.
36. Have patience with young people – you were once that age. They are our future.
37. Sit outside and feel the gentle breeze and appreciate nature.
38. Wear sunscreen. Seriously, don’t be an idiot. Skin cancer kills. Being alive is better than being tan.
39. Read. Fiction, nonfiction, national news, whatever.
40. Learn to love and accept yourself. This is the most important relationship of your life. You need to be happy and accepting of yourself before you can be of others.