Well, it’s finally here. I’ve finally reached the top of the hill. The view from here is fabulous! The horizon looks bright and full of promise. It’s a good day to be 40. Of course, there have been many bad days climbing the hill, but they seem to be overshadowed by the many many good days. Whether it’s a good day or bad day, I always try and learn something new about myself and others, and find something to be thankful for. There’s lots to be thankful for and there’s still lots to learn. They say the journey down the hill is much faster than up the hill. Well, if that’s the case, I’m gonna hold on tight because I plan on making the journey down just as rewarding as it has been traveling up. For now, though, I’ll leave you with 20 More Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years… Everything is still going to be okay.
- Respect your parents.
It’s easy for kids to find fault in their parents, particularly as those kids become adults. Parents are human, and they make mistakes. Some parents may even get it completely wrong, but there was one very important thing that your parents did right – you. Respect the gift of life your parents gave you. Respect the sacrifices they made to raise you in this world. You may never know the struggles and triumphs they privately faced before you existed, so cut them some slack. They have secrets and fears that you may not know. They are human, just like you and they fuck up. That’s okay. Respect them by learning from their successes and failures, no matter how big or small, and become a better person through them.
- Learn to live with less, but more fully.
Ever look around your house and ask yourself how you accumulated so much crap? Why do you hold onto all those trinkets and collectibles? I’m totally guilty of being a pack-rat. It’s resulted in years of holding onto stuff that has no intrinsic value to me and completely cluttering my house and life. It’s true that I attach sentiments to objects. I can tell you when and who gave me all the little knick-knacks littering my house. Now, I’m not on the level of needing an intervention from Hoarders, but I discovered something a couple years ago that made me re-evaluate my need for all those trinket-filled memories. A long-distance move resulted in half our belongings being packed up and stored for almost a year (you know, gotta declutter the house when you’re staging your home to sell). I didn’t miss them. In fact, I forgot about the objects, but not the people, or the memories. It’s okay to let go of things, it’s the memories you want to hold onto.
- You know that thing you’ve really wanted to do? Go do it.
Waiting for the perfect moment to do something you’ve always wanted to do might mean you’ll be waiting a very long time. That thing you’ve really wanted to do might also not happen if you don’t make efforts to actually go and do it. Of course, it’s okay to prioritize – clearly quitting your job and traveling the world without any sort of plan in place just isn’t a good idea. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make it priority to include the things that you want to do, rather than have to do.
- Be kind to your elders – with any luck, you’ll be one someday, too.
Nothing ruffles my feathers more than seeing a young person being disrespectful to the elderly. Yes, I know, some of our aged citizens can be a bit crotchety and short-tempered and that’s okay. Think about it for a second. How would you feel not being able to do the things you once could with the ease and quickness that youth affords? As you are slowing down, life around you is speeding up. It’s gotta be one hell of a scary ride at times – a ride that far too often is taken alone. Thank your elders for their sacrifices and building the foundations for what you have now by always being kind.
- Uplift those around you.
It’s simple really: when you start encouraging others to see the very best in themselves, you start to find the very best in yourself. Every interaction you have with another sets the stage for the relationship. You can choose to point out the poorest parts of another, but why would you want to? It doesn’t take a genius to realize the kind of reactions that results from negative interactions. Rather, doesn’t it make more sense to interact in a positive way such that you focus on the very best? Positive interactions are generally met with positive reactions. That then lays the stage for a positive relationship. Look, it’s perfectly okay to not always feel like doling out compliments or enthusiasm, but silence will be far beneficial to you in those instances than negative interactions.
- Spend more time outdoors.
When I was young, my mother refused to let us stay indoors all day. My most precious memories have all been outdoors. These days, screens invade our lives at every turn. It becomes even more important to spent time outdoors. Turn off the cell phone, put away the tablet, and just look around you. See the world and hear it in all its glory. It’s truly magnificent, this planet of ours. We can learn so much about ourselves just from watching the behaviour of nature. It’s okay if you’re not an outdoorsy person, but make sure to stop and smell the roses (in your garden, not on your dining room table) once in a while.
- Children are far wiser than you believe.
Even though I don’t have children of my own (and that’s okay), it doesn’t take a parent to realize the value of a child’s point of view. They are reflections of their environment and nurturing. They know a lot, even if they don’t know that they know a lot. Want to be a better parent, or person overall? Hear and really see the children in your life. They’ll tell you way more about yourself and the world than you ever knew. Their perspective, if truly pondered, will shake your reality.
- Be an awesome human being.
What does this mean? It means being human each and every moment. Sure, there are real jerky humans out there. The good news is that you don’t have to be an asshole. Most of us have a choice in how we interact with people. It’s okay if you’re having a bad day. We all get them. That’s part of being human. You can choose to allow that bad day to overshadow all your interactions, or you can choose to suck it up and be awesome despite the shitty day you’re having. There’s a good chance that by being awesome all the time, you won’t have quite so many bad days – and that life will be, well, pretty awesome because awesome human beings tend to live awesome lives.
- There is nothing wrong with you. You are a result of your environment and genetics.
The genetic lottery isn’t a joke. Genes play a crucial role in determining personality and behaviours. Environment also has an important role. You cannot control your genes, and often environment is out of your control, too… particularly when you are very young. Some get a dealt an easier hand in life than others. That’s okay. It’s all in how you live that life that you’re given that will make for either a happy life or one full of strife.
- Be authentic.
Stop telling everyone what they want to hear, and start telling them what you want them to hear. Be authentically true to yourself. It’s okay if you’re still figuring things out. We all are. Just be sure to be authentic to you while you’re trying to discover you – otherwise, you may find yourself wearing a very uncomfortable mask. Be true to you.
- Be a student of life, for life.
You’ve got one life to live. Why would you ever stop learning more about yourself and the people around you? Being a student of life means being open to new people, ideas, and experiences. It’s okay to be nervous about the unknown, but you’ll be much better person – and far wiser – if you open your heart and mind to life.
- Look in the mirror when you start casting judgments on others.
It’s so easy for people to look at others and find their flaws, but do we know why that is? Maybe, it’s because we see our own flaws in others – their flaws are glaringly obvious to us because there’s something vaguely familiar about it. The trouble is that some people don’t want to recognize their own flaws and so they will continually and constantly point out the woes and problems of others and the world. Just stop for a moment. Look in a mirror. It’s okay if you don’t like the reflection glaring back at you. You can change, but it begins by seeing yourself reflected in what you don’t like about others. Stop wasting time judging others, and start spending time being a more awesome human being. Gandhi had it right when he said: Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
- Blood isn’t always thicker than water.
The closest relationships I have with people in my life are not with people who I share a bloodline – and that’s okay. For various reasons, most of my biological family were near strangers to me for most of my life. I have a step-father, and an extended step-family. I have family friends that are like second parents to me, and I have friends that I consider part of my extended family. When I hear people say that blood is thicker than water, it just doesn’t ring true to me. The coolest thing about people in your water clan, are that they are people you’ve typically chosen, rather than those from the blood clan that are mandated. Sure, some very deep biological connections can and do occur, but let’s not forget the importance of family that isn’t necessarily blood.
- Clean the skeletons out of your closet.
It’s okay – we all have skeletons in our closet. Some of us have much scarier skeletons than most. We keep them in the closet because we don’t want to be confronted by them. There, they accumulate and gather dust. They become baggage that weigh us down and leave a film of ick on us each and every day. Cleaning those skeletons out doesn’t mean that you have to show others those skeletons. It means that you have to find a way to move on and let them go. Sometimes, it’s as simple as forgiving yourself.
- Ask for help.
Everybody needs help from time to time. It’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak. It means you have enough strength to recognize that you can’t do everything yourself. Asking for help allows you to learn from others and to become a better person through them. Everybody has something to offer, and most people are willing to help. You just need to ask. They aren’t psychic (well, they might be… I don’t know you’re friends), so don’t sit and struggle while waiting for someone to realize that you need help. Simply ask.
- Love yourself more than you love any other.
It is so important that you love yourself first – before your spouse, your kids, your parents, and your friends. While it might seem selfish, its purpose is selfless. If you cannot extend unconditional love to yourself, then how can you expect to do that for another? By taking care of your needs and desires, you are not only loving yourself, but loving others. Paradoxical, indeed. Stay with me. Nurturing and loving yourself allows you to become the very best you – and isn’t that what you want for those you love? Don’t we all want to give those we love the very best of ourselves? Then what the heck is the problem?! It’s not only okay to love yourself before others, it’s essential to becoming an awesome human being.
- Everything in moderation.
Go ahead. It’s okay to have that cookie. Have the salad too. Feeling a bit lazy? Yeah, that’s okay, too. Kick back and binge watch some Netflix, and then take an extra-long walk tomorrow. Far too often we stress our minds and bodies by putting them through extreme, and entirely unnecessary, conditions. Learn to listen to your body and mind (yes, I know they can play tricks on you), and learn to balance the things you need with the things you desire.
- Change your mind; change your reality.
The way you view the world shapes your experience of it. If you generally have a negative view of the world around you, then your reality must really suck. I mean seriously, it might be your viewpoint that needs to be checked. Take a look at some of the happiest people you know. What do they all have in common? They view the world through rose-coloured glasses, and you know what? Their reality is pretty awesome. Now I’m not saying that reality doesn’t suck sometimes, even for those chirpy birds among us. Reality doesn’t have to suck all the time though. Life is pretty awesome most of the time. It’s okay to remove the shades darkening your vision and replace it with rosey-hued positivity. You’ll still be cool, trust me.
- You are important to someone. You are loved.
I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes, we all feel incredibly alone. It’s okay to feel loneliness and unloved. That happens from time to time. It doesn’t mean it’s actually true. You are important by virtue of the very fact that you are here, today. Your presence has an impact on someone. And here’s a secret, as soon as you start loving yourself, you’ll always be loved and feel loved.
- Everything is going to be okay.
I’m not going to lie. The journey up the hill hasn’t been easy. There were times that I thought I’d go tumbling back down, but I didn’t. Somehow, through all the screw-up, missed opportunities, and failures, I made it. I found a better me along the way, too. How cool is that? It’s didn’t just happen though. I had to consciously work on finding a better way of living and being human. I’m still doing that, and I don’t plan on ever stopping. I know there will be tough times ahead, probably some of the toughest, but I’m prepared to breathe and remind myself that everything is going to be okay.
P.S. Check out 20 other Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years… here.