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Happy Birthday To Me! The 2011 Edition

Good Enough Mother® - Rene Syler

Happy Birthday To Me!
The 2011 Edition

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:

@ReneSyler Happy 28th Birthday!! (again) What would you have told yourself the first time, knowing what you know now? #myhairidol

Great question! Wow, what would I have told myself? So I thought about it and here’s what I came up with.

Dear Rene:

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.


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?


  1. juli

    February 17, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Real growth does hurt, but not as much as idleness.
    Happy birthday Rene. Enjoy your day 🙂

  2. Smarty P. Jones

    February 17, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Wow, GEM, I so needed this. Thanks for the gift on YOUR birthday. LoL! I hope it’s a great one for you.

    I wrote a letter to my younger self a couple years ago on my first blog: I have to say, it was cathartic. Your letter here helps me now as I am 28 and struggling against myself.

    What sticks out most for me is things happening in their time. This reiterates the fact that I have to be patient and accept myself. It’s been a struggle, but, I’m learning (and teaching) along the way. Everything else I think I have a handle on 😉 Whatever I don’t, I’ll just wait for more letters from you. 🙂

  3. Kia Morgan Smith

    February 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I love this post. Amen.

  4. Auntie Lisa

    February 17, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Especially thumbs-up on the part about not rushing things! I’d say to my 28-year-old self: “You will get married, but not until you’re 42. Don’t just tolerate your single years — enjoy them and keep busy with things that really count. Bond with your family and friends, as that will ground you and prepare you for marriage. Keep your eyes on God at all times. He will provide.”

  5. Jacki Marie

    February 17, 2011 at 11:43 am

    You are truly fabulous, worthy and have every right to take up space on this planet AND you inspire others to the same greatness. You’ve already made a big difference in my life. Happy, happy, happy Birthday! 48 will be a great year!

  6. Dave Freeman

    February 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    You have a prickly personality?

    All well said Rene, especially the stuff about “Yeah it IS funny!” F-em if they don’t get the joke. There will always be those who do. THESE ARE your PEOPS!
    I would have ensured your former self that she need not worry because she’ll have plenty to be proud of by the time she reaches your age! 🙂

  7. Ann Nyberg

    February 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, and most of it is small. Don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. Always keep a sense of humor and enjoy the hell out of life.

  8. Ann Nyberg

    February 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Rene, have the happiest of birthdays, I know YOU know how to enjoy life!

  9. Suzanne

    February 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Don’t forget the part where you save people’s lives… (can be filed under “Everything Happens for a Reason”). I love to joke but in honor of your birthday I will be serious for a nanosecond. You, along with my friend Mayde and my plastic surgeon, are one of the people I KNOW God threw in my path to nudge me along to have my own prophylactic mastectomy. You made it OK. Though I am not one to really give a sh*t what anyone says, your appearance on Oprah suddenly opened so many people’s eyes. I can remember so distinctly sitting on my sofa watching Oprah that day. Home sick from work- which happens once every 12 or 13 years (no joke! I go to work come hell or high water), I saw footage of you in the hospital, heard you verbalize every single emotion I have had my whole adult life in regard to breast cancer, and suddenly (as corny as it sounds) it was like a bolt of lightening….. a voice in my ear saying “See her? LISTEN. Listen and LEARN from her.” So I did. And here I am, one year away from the age of my own mother’s cancer diagnosis, healthy as a horse with a pretty awesome rack, I might add! A VERY large part of this is thanks to you. I swear I don’t know if I could have done it if I didn’t see you that say, so intelligent, so well spoken, so calm, validating the very thing I knew in the back of my mind I was going to need to do for myself.

    So in honor of your 48th, I say once again, “thank you for helping to save my life and my sanity… ” I look forward to many years of being with the posse, DWTS, and what ever other craziness comes up that gives us an opportunity to laugh and vent and blow off all that steam that we all build up just being a GEM!!

  10. Rene Syler

    February 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Okay, NOW I am crying!! Thank YOU Suzanne.. You’re here and telling your own story and touching lives in a meaningful way as well. I lol’d at “pretty awesome rack” Whew! Good for you, lady! xxoo

  11. kim coles

    February 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Happy Birthday!!!
    *wiping away tears*
    This was PROFOUND and made me sooooo cry…. I cannot wait to turn 50 in 11 months so I write MYSELF the same note. WOW! You inspire and delight me!!!

  12. Barbara Hawkins

    February 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Rene first happy birthday! I thought I looked cute today but as the tears stream down my face from your letter to yourself and the expressions of your other friends, I am a holy mess! We deal with different challenges in life and what you have shared I will share with my prized possession who is for the first time at age 43 dealing with adversaries in life. Thank you so much for sharing such a gift on the day that you should be receiving instead of giving. Let’s have a glass of vino and celebrate YOU! Luv ya dearly

  13. Elisa Malinovitz

    February 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Wow, this really resonates. The growth, the hurt, the you’re worthy, it means a lot to me to hear you say all this…to put it in writing, where I can see it. the you’re smart, and question the motives of anyone who wants you to believe otherwise.
    The part about the image stealing from my soul..stealing from my true self. Best advice anyone ever gave me is to go with my gut. My gut never fails me. I fail myself when I don’t listen to it. We need to be born with a gut-o-meter. It should flash when you start to stray. It’s so easy to do, you can talk yourself into anything. Thank you for sharing. Now for a time machine, so I can pass this along to someone who is 28 and can use it. Mwah! Happy Birthday!

  14. Rene Syler

    February 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    aww, thanks sweetie!!!

  15. Rachel vidoni

    February 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Happy birthday Rene! I hope you had a fabulous day and some awesome inner plans at a great restaurant! I’ll dedicate my glass of wine to you tonight! Cheers!

  16. Aundrea

    February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Rene- When I sent you the tweet, I really didn’t expect a response or an entire blog post at that! I AM the 28 year old Rene. At 28 (29 in June) I’m a young journalist wondering what the hell is going on! Life is not what I had imagined. Not worse, but different. I’m pursuing my passion. Yes it’s hard and it hurts and I tell more jokes now than ever before (sometimes to keep from crying.) My voice is louder and more distinct and I’m trying to find it’s place. Spending time with friends and family is something I now cherish.

    For the first time, I’m existing in a place where the future isn’t planned. It gives me anxiety and utter joy with the same intensity.

    So thank for the letter to your younger self. Your honesty helps me see past my current reality. Along with my plush robe, chocolate cake and white wine, this letter now joins the things that brings me comfort especially when I’m feeling like shit is really hitting the fan!

    Thank you 🙂

  17. M.E. Johnson

    February 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Oh my, Rene, I get more impressed by you every day. I hope you have a most wonderful Natal Day. 😉

  18. Rene Syler

    February 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Oh M.E. thank YOU! I appreciate you being such an ardent supporter.. I really do! Cyber hug from me to you!

  19. Rene Syler

    February 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    @ Aundrea no I need to thank YOU for giving me the idea. It was such a fun exercise. Don’t worry, it will all work out the way it is supposed to. I can promise you that. Oh and that it will probably be one hell of a ride, at least that’s what you hope. 🙂

  20. de

    February 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    thank you for sharing this beautiful message.
    happy birthday love!! xoxo

  21. PiecesOfEight

    February 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    And you will be far realer than any ole reality show….

  22. Debra

    February 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Rene..Happy Biarthday. I would say, Debra you can only control yourself and no others. You will come of age when it does not matter what others say or think about you. Enjoy life and all it has to offer. Hold on to family and friends. God Loves!!

  23. Peggy Phillip

    February 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Wow, Rene. This should be REQUIRED READING for every woman. I’m sharing it right now with my 28-year-old daughter. LYMI!

  24. Rene Syler

    February 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    WOW, thanks Peggy! Feel free to share with EVERYONE! Why is it we come to great realizations like this when our lives are HALF OVER? Dangit!

  25. Ruth

    February 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Pay close attention to that inner voice and follow it (your instints will never let you down)!

  26. The Recovering Attorney

    February 18, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Happy Birthday To You. Happy Birthday To You (in my very best Stevie Wonder voice). You look fabbbuuulous (in my best Billy Crystal voice)!

    Though we just “met” your letter to self has touched me tremendously. Your honesty, sincerity and wit are your birthday gifts to your readers. Our gift to you is total acceptance of all that you are and all that you wish to be! Oh how that news organization got it so wrong. There loss, our gain!

  27. Nikki Newman

    February 18, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Beautiful words, Rene. I mean, really, reeeaaally, beautiful. Thank you and I hope you had a magical day xxx

  28. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 6:11 am

    @Nikki: honey, thanks so much!! xxoo

  29. Irene

    February 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Happy Belated bday G.E.M….

    Young enough to keep on going and old enough to see the potholes…it doesn’t get much better than that eh?

    Have a great weekend.

  30. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 8:35 am

    @Barbara: Thanks sweetie! Sometimes the road is rough and we just have to hang on until we get back on solid (and smooth) ground. Tell your baby to hang on for the ride and be thankful for it! xxoo

  31. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

    @Elisa: ditto on the gut thing. I think sometimes fear or what others will say/think keeps us in a place where we shouldn’t be and we sell ourselves short. Oh and I happen to know for a fact that you are brazilliant so I’m not even going to address that 🙂 xxoo

  32. The Recovering Attorney

    February 18, 2011 at 9:29 am

    *Happy Birthday to you. . .Happy Birthday to you. . .Happy Birthday (in my very best Stevie Wonder voice).* And Rene, you look mahhhvoolus (in my very best Billy Crystal voice)!

    Though we’ve just “met”, your letter to self has touched me tremendously. I actually got furclumped! Your honesty and wit are your birthday gifts to your readers. Our gift to you is total acceptance of all that you are and all that you wish to be! Oh how that silly news organization got it so wrong. Their loss is our gain!!!

  33. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

    @The Recovering Attorney: So sweet, thank you! I love your singing voice 🙂

  34. Joyful

    February 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Happy B-day 2 u Rene! I knew I liked ya for a reason! My b-day was 2/15. Happy Birthday week to US! My cousin, who is going through similar breast issues and recently spoke with you, told me that I should check out your site. I did and also viewed your utube videos. Love you and the videos! You must have a hidden camera in my house. My kids are a little younger (7 & 8) but I can sooooooo relate to your comments on parenting. By the way…This letter I am printing out and saving for my daughter. She is only 7 but one day she will be searching and I think your words really sum it up. Heck! I received lots from it and I’m 44. It reminded me how far I’ve really come as a woman not even realizing it. THANKS!

  35. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

    @Joyful, love your name 🙂 Oh thank you for the birthday wishes, my fellow Aquarian. Learning is a lifelong process isn’t it? I just wish I had the knowledge then that I have now and the guts to use it! Oh well. How’s our cousin?

  36. Tania

    February 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I am absolutely feeling a big grasshopper to little grasshopper moment here.
    I will not only print this out and remember it when the times get rough (so I may need to print two of them) but I will also pass this on to my friends.
    You know the life we lead, trying to find acceptance from others is such a double edged sword. You need to be liked but then I don’t want to feel the need to need to be liked.
    Today what screamed at me the most: DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK/SAY ABOUT YOU: Seriously, don’t give a (crap). Tomorrow it will be something else and thankfully I have a reference guide.
    The bible says it’s more blessed to give than to receive and on your birthday how awesome it is to give the gift of encouragement to so many…especially me.
    Muah…and Happy Birthday…even if it is the day after….

    Oh yea, and THANK YOU!

  37. Rene Syler

    February 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    @ Tania Oh sweetie! I love that you cleaned it up 🙂 But the point is absolutely the same. There will always be someone who does not like you, for some reason or another. You can spend the energy on them, trying to please them and still have them hate you or channel that energy into the people who have your back. The choice is that simple. I think it boils down to being comfortable with the fact that you can’t please everyone and accepting that. Seriously.. practice saying “Oh, well, their loss…) xxoo

  38. Danielle

    February 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    This was so beautiful, it made me cry. Literally.

  39. Vanessa

    February 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Belated Happy Blessed Birthday- Year…..

  40. Cynthia

    February 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Very inspiring Rene! I shared it with my daughter also!!

  41. margaret

    February 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Happy Birthday and God’s blessings in all you do. Thanks for the great advice.

  42. Dr. Bisa

    April 14, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Great posting! Happy Birthday, Rene! You represent 48 very well! Girl power!!!!

  43. tanyetta

    May 20, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Happy Birthday Rene! Enjoy your special day 🙂

  44. Pink Kitchen

    May 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Loved this wisdom, Rene! As you may know, your name in French translates roughly to ‘reborn’. It’s never too late to live life differently 🙂

    I would add that life is too short to allow argumentative people to fight with you about ridiculous things. That’s wasted energy. We need to give ourselves permission to disengage from empty arguments. My new line is “I’ll be happy to talk to you when you’re calm and civil. But for now, the discussion is over.”

  45. Rene Syler

    May 20, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    @Pink Kitchen; Do you know I have been Rene all my life (the boy’s way, named after grandfather) and NEVER knew it meant “reborn”! Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow!!!! Thanks for sharing that and the piece of knowledge re; argumentative people. Beautifully put!

  46. Ruth Young Tyler

    August 2, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    First of all Happy Birthday!! This post was truly amazing! This post provided a profound core level of self-disclosure, hope,humor, courage, stick-tuitive-ness and genuine love for the 28-year old Rene. I am encouraged to write a letter to myself using those qualities and eveything else that makes me–ME and will encourage others to do the same! Thank you for keeping it real! Love it!

  47. Rene Syler

    August 3, 2011 at 5:15 am

    @Ruth: Oh thank you so much! My birthday was back in February but I love re-reading that one. I think I’ll do it as a yearly exercise. THX

  48. Cody Williams

    August 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Happy Birthday, my friend. You are blessed. You are also a blessing. Have a great year.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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