40 Life Lessons from 40 Years

This is part of a series I’m calling Breathers…moments of reflections on things going on in life that I want to share. My hope is that you find that you’re not alone, can take comfort in something you read, and/or just generally take a breath with me for a minute. As always, you can message me your thoughts or leave comments.

hands typing on laptop with daffodils in vase and yellow banner with title

Ok, don’t shoot me guys, but I’m feeling nostalgic sitting here at the start of my 5th decade. I cannot help but think about just how far I’ve come.

As a little background, and to be blunt for the sake of brevity, I grew up in a home where emotional abuse was the status quo, roll models and protectors were few and very far between, expectations for my behavior were impossibly high, and my entire self worth was premised on how much I could accomplish–how many leadership positions, wins on the court, A’s in the classroom, advanced courses I could get. And, no matter what I accomplished, it was never enough. I could fill a book with things that would make your mouth drop, just like a lot of people I know.

I say all of that not to brag, although I do feel a sense of pride now for having survived and become who I am, because of, as well as in spite of, all of that. But, believe me when I tell you that I have earned some wisdom and that the lessons I’ve learned in 40 years have often been learned the hard way. Some things may seem trite or obvious, but I feel every word.

I look at my little family now, my friends, my career(s), my home…and I am utterly thankful because this was not guaranteed–nothing is–but it was also pretty improbable, all things considered. So, stick with me here as I’ve narrowed these life lessons down to 40 (likely oversimplified) statements. I wrote them as I thought of them, so in no particular order:

  1. Life isn’t fair.
    • I do not think I know anyone who doesn’t conceptually know this. However, having a firm understanding of this fact seems to allow some to move beyond self pity and despair and into action when unfair things inevitably happen.
  2. The healthiest person in the room is often looked at as the trouble maker in dysfunctional relationships.
    • Here’s to all of my fellow trouble makers and our therapists. 🙂
  3. Burn the nice candles. Use the fancy dishes. Life is too short to save things for another day that isn’t promised.
    • See also number 11.
  4. Growing old sure beats the alternative.
    • I had a near death experience a few days after my first son was born…Paul and I said our goodbyes, talked about how I wanted him to remarry and make sure Ethan knew how much I loved him. Every birthday is total blessing.
  5. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
    • I’ve done it both ways and it’s so much more fun to prepare as much as you can but not be so set on things going a certain way that you cannot enjoy the way things actually go.
  6. No one is responsible for your happiness but you.
    • Even if it’s someone else who is making you unhappy, you determine if, when, or how that person has access to your life.
  7. Forgive everyone everything, if for no one else, then yourself.
    • I hold no ill will or grudge towards anyone. It’s too heavy a burden and I have enough to carry.
  8. Forgive and forget does not equal be a doormat.
    • 7 and 8 go together. Also…see 14 and 20.
  9. The family you choose is just as important, and sometimes even more important, than the one you were born into.
  10. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
    • That’s not to say that people cannot change…but then again, they’d be able to show you that.
  11. Don’t wait for the perfect time, clean house, and empty calendar to host people in your home. Do it often no matter what.
    • This used to stress me out, because of my upbringing, but some of my best times in our home with friends and family have been when we’re in the middle of 3 projects in the house, things are torn apart, and laundry is piled up. Trust the people in your life with where you are in your life at that moment.
  12. If your faith is truly yours, meaning you’ve worked through it, questioned it, claimed it for known reasons, it’s a lot stronger than if it was handed to you or forced on you.
    • This has a lot to do with my education, but experience also tells me this is true. People who have worked for their faith also tend to walk to walk more in my experience.
  13. Fake it till you make it is actually quite effective.
    • During this last year, while dealing with long haul COVID, this has been my mantra.
  14. Feeling sad about a decision doesn’t mean it was the wrong one. It’s entirely ok to be upset about something and still know it was the right choice.
    • I’ve been told that being sad about things that happened a long time ago, persist, and likely won’t ever change means I’m not coping well. But I’ve found that allowing yourself to feel and process those feelings when they naturally come up rather than suppress them is much healthier.
  15. Everyone copes in their own way, and that’s ok. But one’s coping should never be at someone else’s expense.
    • See 14.
  16. You have no idea what someone else is going through, no matter how well you think you know them.
  17. Avoidance makes anxiety worse.
    • The thing you’re anxious about, when faced head on, typically feels smaller in the end than if you ran from it for a while first.
  18. Pick your battles. Ask yourself if it’s going to matter in 5 years. Perspective is key.
  19. Busy is not an achievement. Fulfillment is.
  20. Healthy boundaries–setting them and respecting them–are an act of love.
  21. It is often much better to actually go to bed angry. Things often look different in the morning.
  22. You do not get it unless you ask for it. You have to be your own advocate.
  23. You cannot pour into others from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is the first step to taking care of others.
  24. You’re never going to be totally ready for anything. Do it anyway.
  25. Passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.
  26. When you align who you are with what you do, life begins to feel effortless. Sure, the decisions and work will still be there, but they both become easier when you have this alignment.
  27. A high tide lifts all boats.
    • Seriously. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of women who understood this and they are thriving. Those who did not, withheld help, saw everyone as competition, are either struggling or my community doesn’t know them any longer.
  28. Patience is the companion of wisdom.
    • I used to be very reactionary–a lot to do with fight or flight. Now, I know the power of patience.
  29. Never say never. You have no way of knowing what the future you will want or need to do.
    • This is especially true so far with raising kids haha. They’ve had waaaay more Chef Boyardee because they wouldn’t eat anything else than I ever thought before I had kids I would allow.
  30. All you can control is your message and how you deliver it. How they respond is their responsibility and choice.
  31. If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will grow.
  32. Thinking and doing are two very different things.
    • Overthinking for me turns into inaction. See 40.
  33. Money cannot buy morality, trust, patience, kindness, love, respect, common sense, integrity, or character, or the things truly worth valuing.
  34. Some things really are better off left unsaid.
    • Again, will it matter to you in 5 years?
  35. Parenthood isn’t for the faint of heart.
  36. Attitude is everything.
  37. One moment can change everything.
  38. No one has it all together. Don’t pretend like you do.
  39. Someone else’s judgment has more to do with them than you.
  40. Progress over perfection. Perfect is the enemy of done.

I hope there’s a nugget or two that you can identify with or that makes you think. Stay tuned for more breathers.

XOXO Alicia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.