it’s time to celebrate a new milestone! today i turn 40!
but, first, let’s flashback 20 years to when i was 20. i was in college/university studying to be a teacher. i had to take a basic art class to fulfill my requirements. i’d put it off for as long as possible. anyways, i was in class on the first day (me, a senior, with a classful of freshman) and we got an assignment to prioritize what is most important in our lives from a long list of words.
words like: love, family, security, money, adventure, fun, happiness, success, inner peace, education, friends, travel, employment, creativity, etc.
the class grumbled at the assignment, but nerdy me was all over it. i went home and stared at the list of about 50 different words. i immediately knew what word was most important: inner peace. i didn’t think about it. just felt it when i saw it on the list. so, my list of ten had to begin with inner peace. in class the next day, i was called on to share my list and when i did, the professor asked me to explain it, seeing as i was the only one who even had inner peace on their list, much less at the top of it.
here’s what i said and my explanation still holds true today: in order to be of any help to ourselves, our family, our community, the world, or anyone, we must have inner peace. in order to experience or hove any of the other things on the long list of words, we must have inner peace first. or we must be seeking it. seeking that grounding, that foundation, that connection to our souls is essential. it is the beginning of our journey toward discovering our bliss and creating a world a peace, and it the most important thing in life in my opinion. and now, 20 years later, as i turn 40, i still believe that same thing is true.
so, yes, 40!!! how is that possible?! it feels so unreal. so crazy. and so unbelievably wonderful. yep, you heard it. i am not freaking out about this birthday at all. there are no bad feelings of being old or over the hill or anything like that. i’m only filled with bundles of joy and loads of excitement.
of course, true to my nature, i’ve also been quite reflective, because, well let’s face it, 40 is a huge milestone. and, by leaving my 30s behind, i feel like i have earned a few moments to indulge in a little advice-sharing. i mean, isn’t there a sense of wisdom that comes with turning 40? i’m not in my “searching and discovering” 20s and not in my “settling into who i really am” 30s. but, i’m beginning my journey into my 40s – and i am beginning it feeling like there is much to be done – much amazing work and dream-making to be done.
today, i feel like i’ve come to understand a few things about life, without feeling like i have everything all figured out. in fact, i am nowhere near having it all figured out. still, on my journey through life so far, i’ve learned a few things… things that i didn’t know or couldn’t have know without living through these past 40 years. and each of these things has brought me closer and closer to the bliss that i am following. the dreams that i am making reality.
so, my fun, little gift to you on my birthday is a list of 10 things that i’ve learned throughout my life. things that keep me grounded and connected. things that bring about that sense of inner peace that i have been striving for since i was 20. things that i have discovered on my journey as i follow my bliss.
1. embrace the present moment
slow down, friends. be here and now. right now. notice the little things in life – like flowers or the sunset. smile at strangers and give out hugs. listen to music. look up at the sky. and if the present moment is tough, then just breathe your way through it. you are much stronger than you imagine. when faced with hard moments, remember that the only way forward is forward. you can do it. i know you can. in the meantime, keep looking around and being aware of every little detail, and i promise you that life will become this beautiful gift of feeling truly alive.
2. food + drink are important
indulge in good food and good drinks. sip on wine. enjoy a cold beer. warm yourself with a cup of coffee. you know, food + drink are not only tasty, but they are the things that gather us together around tables. a simple meal or meeting for drinks or coffee becomes an intimate moment shared between people. some of the most amazing conversations i have had have happened around a table. it’s called breaking bread together, and in my opinion, it is a sacred part of life. giving thanks for that which nourishes our body. meeting people. savoring the bounty of the earth. connecting with one another. keeping our bodies and minds and souls in sync so that we can live our lives to the fullest.
3. feel your emotions
laugh. cry. giggle. get angry. be honest. how you feel is how you feel – and you are entitled to your feelings. so, feel them. process them. write them down or share them with someone. and then let them pass. but, do not hold them in or ignore them.
in sharing your feelings, you are showing your humanity – and that, my friends, is what connects us all. we all hurt. we all are scared. we all yearn for love. we all make mistakes. we all celebrate. when we share our feelings, it reminds others that it is ok to be human. that none of us are perfect, but our flaws and our journeys unite us and teach us to live together.
4. magic is real
love does exist. amazing love that takes your breath away is our there – both romantic love and love for each other as brothers and sisters. wonder and awe are all around us. sometimes these things are invisible or we feel as if we will never experience magical moments, but they do exist. and, to some degree, i believe that it is all about our attitude and what we expect. whatever we put out there will return to us. so, if we believe in magic and love and peace and hope, then, even in the midst of bad times and suffering, we will find little magical moments of joy and contentment and peace.
magic is all about faith. faith in whatever you believe in – be it fairies, god, santa claus, science, people, love. magic is hope. and, though the world is in pain, hope remains. and, if we choose to, we can be a part of the healing of the world. we can bring our own magic into the world, which leaves sprinkles of fairy dust hope and love everywhere we go.
5. be alone
meditate. breathe. be by yourself. let your soul speak to you. if you can handle it, take a half day or day or week retreat by yourself once a year. and most definitely carve out just a few minutes all alone every single day. it will change you and focus you and ground you in ways you cannot imagine. start small and let yourself be filled with inspiration and empowerment.
6. nature is your best friend
get outside. marvel at the beauty of the natural world. get back to nature. simplify. challenge yourself. enjoy every type of weather. unplug and get off the grid. just let yourself be organic for a little bit. nature will heal you and inspire you and teach you. whether it is an ocean, a mountain, a desert, or a park, find a way to feel the ground or touch a tree. smell a flower or gaze at the sky. let nature remind you of the cycle of life, and of your place in it.
7. who you are is a gift
be yourself. act silly. don’t grow up. stop worrying about what others think – you are perfect just the way you are. really and truly. i believe that with all of my heart.
oh, how i spent so many years trying to figure out who i should be instead of just being me. i was stuck in others’ expectations- or my perceptions of others’ expectations. i was stuck trying to figure out what “type” of person i should be, what kind of life i should lead. what and who i should prioritize first, and all the while i neglected myself. i never even really explored who i was, though i knew what i cared about and what made me happy. bottom line: i was afraid to put myself first (and i still work on that today). and i was always afraid of what other people would think.
so, i made my decisions and created my life based on what i thought would make others happy – so no one would be mad at me or disappointed in me. i didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. but, what i really didn’t want to do was face myself. because, if is did, then that meant that i might make decisions that others wouldn’t agree with.
well, you can only live that that – totally for others (be it people, institutions, or expectations) for so long. somehow, i found the courage to truly listen to my soul (and this took years to discover), and begin to explore who i am. i let go of caring what others think. and i found peace – and you know what else? people actually respect me more for being true to myself.
8. travel far + wide
explore. never stop learning. live in another country if you can. at least visit another country at one point in your life. travel is education. travel promotes peace. travel teaches us about ourselves and each other. and travel changes us – giving us new perspective, opening our eyes and our minds. and… it’s fun!
9. dreams do come true
tap into your passion – that thing that you would do every day all day long, if you could. believe that your passion can be your work. and then make that happen. even if no one believes in you or thinks you are crazy. summon the courage to do your own thing. and work hard at making that dream of yours come true. and… do. not. give. up.
10. no matter how you imagine your life, it will not turn out like you thought
oh, dear friends, this does not mean to stop dreaming. please, dream away. dream big. but, know that this journey in life is just that – a journey. and an unknown one at that. our path forks sometimes. or unexpected joys and tragedies come into our life which make us feel off course. but, be patient. trust. and keep going. it all makes sense as time passes and as we travel further down our road.
ultimately, there are no rules and no expectations. those are things that society creates and we all get all stressed out about the “should’s” in life. we think we should do this or should not do that. but, all of those “should’s” come from our culture, our country, our society. don’t listen to them.
instead, listen to your soul. do the things that nurture your soul and that you feel passionate about. do not be afraid of going against the tide, of blazing your own path, of taking risks. and whatever you do, live life to the fullest. soak up every little moment of life every single day. this is your one, beautiful, crazy life. so, get out there and live it!