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  • annehope19

Life's Lessons

There are some things in life that you just can’t understand until you experience them. There are other moments of life where you may think you have it figured out and you know how life works. I’m still waiting for that moment. In fact, for those of you reading this, if you get there first, please let me know!

A friend of mine lost her mother a couple of weeks ago. I lost both my parents at an unsuitably young age. Where is the sense in anyone having to lose their parents when they are still young? It’s like losing a child. There is never a good age to lose a child. It seemingly goes against all that is good in this world for a parent to have to bury a child.

It might seem like it’s easier to lose a parent when they are aged, but watching my friend go through this, I have come to the conclusion that there is NO age when you lose your parents where you don’t feel like an orphan. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how old they are. It’s just one of those things about life that you can’t know until you go through it.

There was a time in early adulthood when I expected there would be a point, after much experience and decision making, that I would just know what to do when faced with difficult circumstances. Decisions would become easy, and doubts would be fewer. Let me save you a moment of shock: that is not the case at all. What is painfully clear is that every single decision is yours to make, and there are consequences to every decision. Even making no decision, or allowing someone else to make the decision, is making a decision.

You don’t just grow up on a certain birthday. It’s not like anxiously anticipating age 16 so you can drive, or age 21 so you can be a real adult. You don’t just wake up one day and realize you have life figured out, and going on spring break no longer seems like a great vacation.

The changes are gradual. The changes are slow, and then all of a sudden you look back and realize you are not the same person anymore. And the changes amaze you…for good or for bad.

Time may seem to speed up. For most of our days we seem to spend our time in anticipation of events to come: graduation, a career, marriage, children, success. But as we spend more days experiencing this thing called “life,” we seem to anticipate less and look backward more. I’m not so sure that is healthy.

So how do we get back to anticipating? How do we return to the excitement of what new days can bring? There is still so much to learn…if we let ourselves. I have learned that I am not expected to grow out of crying. Big girls DO cry. Some days, tears may be necessary.

I have learned that love hurts as much as it exhilarates. Sometimes the people you love the most turn out to be the people you can trust the least. But that doesn’t mean I stop loving because love can change me in amazing ways. It’s hard to understand it until you experience it. Just as I am certain even during the darkest night that the sun still exists, I know, even though I don’t see it or experience it right then and there, that love’s warmth and brilliance is certain to return. I’ve learned that love doesn’t mean finding the right person. It’s about becoming the right person.

I have learned that I am going to mess up…a lot! That's one of the first lessons you learn as a parent! For some reason, I always thought I’d make fewer mistakes as I grew older. But the experience of life has taught me I just make different mistakes as I navigate new relationships, new finances, new jobs, and new phases of life. I will fail sometimes, no matter how good I think I am at something. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I never want to let failure keep me from trying new things. And I realize the chances of failure before I succeed are extremely high. But that’s just part of the road ahead. As I learn to reframe failure, I try to learn not to take myself so seriously.

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is that people drift apart, and that’s okay, even normal. Sometimes you wish they would stay, and sometimes you mutter “Good riddance.” There are some friends you thought would be there for a lifetime. But people change. People withdraw. And sometimes it hurts. But it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. It just means that your lives are changing. It may just be time to let go. Life has taught me I can’t control someone’s loyalty…no matter how good and kind I am to them. I cannot make someone value me in the way I wish.

Another difficult lesson I’ve learned is forgiveness doesn’t always mean things will be the way they were. Sometimes you can forgive, but a boundary has to be set. It seems so easy to forgive as a child. But as relationships get more complicated, so it is with forgiveness. Sometimes it’s just necessary to forgive in order to reach closure…even if the person you are forgiving doesn’t really ask for that forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is just for your own peace of mind.

Life isn’t easy and people will reject you. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok. I’ve learned that “no” is indeed an answer. It’s now an impetus to move on. You only have a limited time. Why waste it by looking back? Good friends and good relationships are hard to find. And they are even harder to find as you grow older. Cherish the ones you have. The grass is NOT greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

I’ve learned that feeling pain is a part of life. In fact, growth usually feels a lot like pain. I can’t escape fear. It will always creep up on me at some of the least expected times. But I’ve learned to acknowledge it rather than let it paralyze me.

Faith is one of those things that seems to be incomprehensible until you experience it. To those who have not experienced it, faith can look stupid. And to a person who has faith, stupid often looks like faith. I have learned that faith is like exercise…the more I use it, the more I absolutely know its worth.

Faith is surely an exercise in trust, and some of us don’t trust all that readily. I’ve learned if you put your trust in an unreliable person or an undependable object, it will make very little difference how much you believe. You will still be disappointed in the end. But the more I have exercised faith in God, the more He has proven He is who He says He is. And His promises are true. It’s like stepping off a ledge and believing…no, correction…KNOWING that God is there to catch you. But you must first step off the ledge. Or as in the case of Peter who walked on water…you must first get out of the boat. Difficult to take that first step? Absolutely, but God freely gives faith to all who ask (Luke 11:9-12).

A life of faith has been the greatest lesson in life for me. I know that I know beyond doubt that He loves me. I know He will not reject my love. He won’t drift away. I don’t have to be perfect, and my failures do not define me. He stands ready to forgive. He wants the best for me.

And if there are painful times, He goes through them with me, never leaving, helping me grow to become a better person. He is there to push fear away, allowing me to take that step off the ledge and trust. He has never let me down, and He always has my back as I navigate the murky waters of life. There is great comfort and peace in realizing that even though I don’t have this thing called life figured out, He does. Faith is one of those things that once you experience it, you humbly begin to understand it, and you’ll never want to let it go. The challenge is to get out of the boat!

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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative.

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