Today is my birthday and I am SO excited! I love everything about birthdays–cake, presents, candles to blow out (LOTS of candles to blow out–oh well) and fun messages from friends and family.
I think another reason that I so love celebrating birthdays is because I am finally at a place in my life where I am comfortable in my own skin, confident in my various roles and at ease with the way in which my life is unfolding. Sure–I still have things that I struggle with (hello swimming suits and caffeine addiction) and there are still occasional moments when I want to punch a hole in the wall. On the whole though–life is good and I feel truly blessed to have a life that I love and a future that excites me.
As I look back on my life, I am astounded at how much different life feels to me now at 45 than it did at 35. So many things have changed in the last decade that as I look back, I hardly recognize the person that I once was. Ten years ago, I was on the precipice of what would be the biggest battle of my life thus far. I was struggling in a downward spiral of a marriage and facing an uphill battle with an eating disorder. I was scared, desperate and lost. I’ll tell you this though–as messed up as that girl was, I’m proud of her. She went through some hard things, fell apart, put herself back together, worked her butt off and somehow managed to piece together a good life for herself and her sons.
I wish I could have lunch with that sweet, crazy, scared younger version of myself. I’d put my arms around her, give her a big hug, look her straight in the eyes and tell her that she was going to have to fight like hell for the life that she deserved, but that if she did fight, she would get it. I’d also pass on to her a few other pieces of wisdom that I’ve gained over the last decade…
Eight Pieces of Advice for my Younger Self…or Any Other Young Woman Struggling to Embrace Her FabYOUlousness
1.) You do you. Stop listening to what everyone else (friends, parents, partners…society) wants you to do. They may love you but they do not know what is best for you. Sure…maybe they did–when you were four–but you are a grown woman now. You know what makes your heart sing and whether you fully realize it or not, you know deep down inside what is right for you. Listen to your heart, consult with your brain and follow your gut. Most importantly, trust your ability to make good choices for your life. If your choices don’t work out (because not all of them will), trust yourself enough to know that you have the power and ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and make a new and better choice.
2.) Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a new washing machine, car, water heater etc. By now, you are old enough to know that sh*t happens. Household appliances break, cars don’t start and kids need braces. None of these things ever happen at a convenient time and if you have no financial reserves on hand, they can wreak havoc with your budget, credit score and sanity. Take steps now to put away a little money every week to pay for these unexpected expenditures. I know that it can be hard to save when you already feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck (trust me–I was a single mom raising two young boys with absolutely no help from their father, I know how hard it can be) but having the discipline to put a little money away now will allow for a much easier later.
3.) No is a complete sentence. Stop feeling like you always have to say yes to things that you don’t want to say yes to. As a reformed “people pleaser” I know that this can be tough. You want people to like you and to think that you’re a nice person. Of course you do–we all do. Unfortunately, constantly agreeing to things that you don’t really agree with or want to do won’t make you a better person–it’ll make you a bitter person. You absolutely have the right to say no to things that don’t feel right to you. You don’t need to justify or defend yourself. You don’t need to offer explanations or apologies. You can just say no and have that be enough.
4.) Live with gusto. A life without passion is a pretty bleak existence. Don’t let anyone or anything rob you of your enthusiasm for life. When you love something, really love it. Don’t be afraid to look silly. Wear your favorite team’s (the NY Yankees of course) jersey on opening day, crank your favorite song and sing along as you do yard work (even if the neighbors look at you funny), go to the opera and cry your eyes out, smother your baby–or your husband with head to toe kisses. Revel in the delight of being alive and savor every moment. Passion is a key ingredient to living a FabYOUlous life so be sure that your life allows for passionate pursuits and expressions of unbridled joy.
5.) Get help when you need it. We all stumble from time to time and that’s when we need the help of others to get us back on our feet. I’ve had to rely upon the support of my family and friends more times than I care to count but that is absolutely okay. Yes, as an adult you need to be able to take care of yourself. However; there are going to be times when you will need your tribe to surround you, protect you and help you. When those times come, allow them to do so. We are not meant to weather the storms of life alone. We need our community and the strength that it brings. For a greater understanding of the value of community click here.
6.) Compromise…a little. A little compromise can go a long way to mend a rift in a relationship or settle a minor disagreement. Too much compromise however can result in a diminished sense of self and a boatload of resentment. NEVER EVER EVER compromise on the things that are important to you and that make you who you are. No one can determine these non-negotiables for you except you, but that’s the way it should be. Don’t ever apologize for your values, your passions, your beliefs or your ambitions–don’t ever compromise on them either. If someone can’t accept these aspects of your life, you are better off without that person in your life.
7.) Forgive…but don’t forget. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful self-help tools available to each one of us. Holding on to resentment and anger does nothing but poison you and make your life a bitter and painful tragedy. Offering forgiveness is something that you do for yourself; not for the person who wronged you. Offering forgiveness means that the offending individual no longer has any hold over you. Offering forgiveness means that you have the power to focus your time and energy on more positive and important issues. Offering forgiveness does not however mean that you haven’t learned your lesson. When people wrong you, forgive them–but don’t give them the power to wrong you again…and again…and again.
8.) Find a meaningful way to give back. You are blessed to be alive and the more you recognize how blessed you are, the more you will want to give back. Find a worthy cause to get behind and do your part to make a difference. Help a stranger out just because it is the right thing to do. Share your time, talents and treasure with those who can benefit from them the most. Do your part to make the world a better, more FabYOUlous place to live because in ten years…you’ll be glad that you did.
Yes, birthdays are great for both celebration and contemplation. I wonder what advice I’ll have for myself in another ten years?
I can’t wait to find out.