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HEEEEEYYYYYYY! It’s my birthday!
Wow, another year has passed and boy it was a big one, full of expansion and personal growth. Unlike a lot of women, I am not afraid to tell my age (that plus the fact that it’s on Wikipedia); I’m 48 today! I was joking last night and tweeted that today would be the 20th anniversary of my 28th birthday. That’s when someone asked me this:
Great question! Wow, what would I have told myself? So I thought about it and here’s what I came up with.
First of all, if you take nothing else from this letter know this, you are fabulous, worthy and have every right to take up space on this planet. In honor of your birthday, I have something for you, life lessons from two decades in the future. You ready?
LIFE IS HARD: That does not mean unrewarding; the very fact that it is hard is what will make it so. The valleys will be deep and sometimes seem endless but they will give way to mountains with unimaginable peaks.
REAL GROWTH HURTS: I’m paraphrasing but someone once said “Don’t expect to grow when you’re comfortable or be comfortable when you’re growing.” Real growth, the kind of quantum leap stuff that molds character and turns mere mortals into game-changers, well that shit hurts. Gird your loins and be thankful for it.
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION: You will never go wrong.
YOU WILL STILL BE HOT: You’ll also have hot flashes. Oh and adult onset acne. Together you will be a hot, pimply mess and that will suck.
YOU ARE SMART: Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. Question the motives of those who would have you believe otherwise.
YOU WILL BE OKAY: You will experience job loss, health crises, fear and loneliness. There will be days that will take Herculean strength and effort to get out of bed. Power through; you will triumph over those and so much more.
BE UNAFRAID: See above.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK/SAY ABOUT YOU: Seriously, don’t give a shit.
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON: I know it’s cliché and trite but it’s true. At 43 you will lose your job. Two weeks later you will lose your breasts. The following year you will lose your hair. In losing all those things, you will find yourself and who you are truly meant to be.
YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR WILL SAVE YOU: The president of the news organization you work for will call you regularly and tell you “ That’s not funny”. He will be wrong; it is funny and so are you. Your humor is an indelible part of who you are; it makes you special, like a shiny penny. Don’t quash it just so you can continue working for people who don’t get or appreciate you. The times you crack up will keep you from cracking up.
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN LIFE: Remember the day you discovered Cliff’s notes? What a glorious find! Not only did you not have to READ all 256 pages of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but this little book also put it in context! While that works for literature, it’s not that way in life. You will have to experience every twist and turn, heartbreak and flutter, thrilling joy and crushing disappointment. There will be times the context will elude you and it may take years to figure it out. But you will.
IT WILL TURN OUT BETTER THAN YOU IMAGINED: This I can promise! Rene, you have blinders on right now. You are tiptoeing the tightrope of expectation, both yours and others. By 48 the blinders will be gone, opening your mind and heart to a world never before on your radar.
ALL THINGS IN TIME: You will achieve great things but not one moment before you are ready. Don’t rush that. Don’t get caught up in society’s silly rules about what you should have accomplished and by when.
DON’T WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO GIVE YOU A VOICE: By 48 you will be firmly entrenched in a movement of imperfect parenting. But it will take you a minute to realize that no big talent agency or PR firm will believe in you as much as you do yourself. You will build this brand on your own with the help of a few key people. Those big agencies will be back, knocking on your door. Be a nice girl and resist the urge to tell them to kiss your ass.
YOU WILL ACCEPT YOURSELF: At 28 you work hard to present an “image” to people who ultimately don’t matter. That will rob you of the energy you need for the people who do. Spend less on the former, more on the latter.
YOU WILL BE LOVED: This is hard for me to explain but even you with your prickly personality and idiosyncrasies you will be surrounded by a love deeper and more fulfilling than anything you’ve ever read in a book or concocted in your head. In a couple of years, you will marry and have babies. And here’s the truly confounding part; those same people who drive you bat-shit crazy will conspire to steal your heart. But that’s not all. You have friends who BELIEVE in you and will be there, long after the hangers on have let go. They will love you for your essence not your image. That kind of love will snatch your breath away and sometimes you will feel wholly unworthy of it. You are not. Breathe it in, let it envelope you like a blanket. Let it buoy you in bad times and return it in spades.
So, there you go, 28-year-old Rene, that’s what you can expect in the next 20 years; learn it, live it, love it. Life, with all it’s muck and mire, is still a beautiful place. Happy Birthday sweetie!
So – what would you say to your younger self if you had a chance?