As we grow older, we can look in the rearview window and see that many of our fears and worries were unnecessary illusions. As we move further down the road, it is easier to look back at life’s bumpy highway with a clearer view.
If I was to write a letter to my younger self, this is some of the advice I would give myself. Perhaps it is a little late. But realizing that life’s passages can often be lonely, confusing, and fast moving, hopefully some of these words will make the journey feel a little less solitary. The thoughts may seem random, and perhaps they are. But there is a rhyme and reason to each as I look backwards in order to see more clearly as I move forward. So, let’s begin.
We are all in this thing called “life” together. So be kind, be considerate, be humble. Don’t educate yourself or your children to be rich. Educate yourself and those on whom you have an influence to be happy. True inner happiness is not based on things or even on happenings. It’s based on loving relationships. It’s okay to teach the value of things but leave the price out of it. A wallet may be worth $5 or $500, but it still carries the same amount of cash. A watch may be $50 or $5000 dollars, but each tells the same time. A house may be 800 square feet or 8000 square feet, but the loneliness in it is still the same. Whether you’re flying economy or first class, if the plane crashes, you crash with it. When you’re lying in bed with terminal cancer, you will recognize with clarity that wealth and things are meaningless in the face of imminent death. You can’t rent someone to carry cancer for you.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died a billionaire at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer. Here are some of his last words: “In others’ eyes…my life is the essence of success…but aside from work…I have little joy. And in the end…wealth is just a fact of life to which I am accustomed.” True joy comes from having great love. Great love is unpredictable, emotional, surprising, touching, and worth sacrificing for. I would not hesitate to tell my younger self to learn to love greatly as you learn to be beautifully unpredictable, emotional, surprising, and willing to sacrifice for others.
The ladder of success does not always go straight to the top. There will be missteps and failures along the way. Embrace the journey. This Mathieu Stern video (a trampoline artist) humorously illustrates the journey to success in anything in life, whether it be work, relationships, or personal growth. (You won’t regret clicking on it.)
Love the people God sent you…one day He will want them back. Treasure them. Cherish them. The grass is not greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it. But what we rarely think of is the grass can also grow much greener when a load of crap has been piled on it. Think about that! Conflict is a part of life. It never gets easier. So learn to be better at handling hard. Some days you will be a warrior. But some days you will be a mess. Most days, you will be a little of both. Don’t run from the battles. They create an evolution of character so that you can feel comfortable in your own skin.
Don’t shy away from trusting people. That can happen when people hurt you. With each new experience, learn more about how to be discerning in whom you place your trust. And while you’re going through the process, love as much as you can. And when you find someone that you can love AND trust, don’t let go! Do everything you can to treasure and preserve that relationship. That is the person who will never, ever leave you. Even if he/she has 100 reasons to give up, that person will always find one reason to stay.
I wish it could be that way with everyone you cared about. But you must learn there is a big difference between being human and being a human being. A human being is a noun…it is a person CAPABLE of compassion, articulate speech, solving problems, reasoning, and enhancing culture. Being human is a verb. It requires the action of using those skills well and with quality. Human beings do not always choose to be human. You will get hurt. And you will hurt others.
Learn to forgive…even if the other person isn’t asking for forgiveness. What you will learn is that harboring that bitterness and anger affects you a lot more than it affects them. In fact, they are probably not thinking of you at all. So, forgive and get past it. Then discern if that person is, in fact, a trustworthy person. If not, walk away…you’re wasting your time anyway. Just don’t walk away in anger. That will only hurt you.
Remember, anger is almost always a secondary emotion. Dig down to see what the root cause is. Have you been hurt? Has your pride been wounded? Have you experienced a great loss? Do you feel duped because someone lied to you? Did someone violate your trust? Did someone betray you? Are you frustrated that things aren’t going well? Do you resent someone for something they did? Get to the real cause of the anger, and you can rid yourself of it more easily. Anger is a cancer that will eat away at you if you let it stick around.
When the world knocks you down (and it will), get up. You shouldn’t spend any additional time asking, “Why me?” when something bad happens than when something good happens. You are a survivor. You are strong. And remember, you are only one decision away from a completely different life.
Life runs in cycles of darkness and light. You can’t hide or deny the dark times. You can’t cheat your way through them. You just have to have patience and endure. Light will come again. And when it does, embrace the change. Always be willing to try new things. Learn to scuba. Raft the Colorado. Get a baby grand piano or learn French. Write or paint, even if it takes a glass of wine. Do it! Love the journey, not just the results.
Figure out as early as possible how to love unconditionally. It’s easy to see things in black and white but resist the temptation to judge. Don’t be so quick to dismiss another person’s point of view. It’s okay if people don’t agree with you. Learn to love them anyway. Jesus said, “They will know you are mine by the love you show them.” So, stop and listen. You may make a friend for life.
Know right from wrong and choose to do right. God will ALWAYS honor obedience in your life. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You don’t get do-overs. So, make every day count. Even when you make mistakes, do all you can to right the wrong as quickly as possible. There’s nothing like failure to help you recognize that being driven and competitive to achieve does not make you whole.
Remember, it’s okay to be single and alone. ONE can be complete. It doesn’t take two. No other human person can make you feel complete. Sometimes you will feel most complete when you are alone with God, for only He can fill that hole inside you.
Trust God. He loves you and has a plan for you if you will trust Him. There will be times when you may wonder what He is doing in your life…or if He is there at all. Joni Eareckson Tada said it well. (If you are unfamiliar with her story, Google her for an amazing example of trust and resilience). “Real satisfaction comes not in understanding God’s motives, but in understanding His character, in trusting His promises, and trusting He knows what He’s doing, and He does all things well.”
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply
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