The world keeps moving. When I was a 19 year-old, making mistakes was what I did best. I lied to people I loved. I hurt people who were just trying to help me navigate in the world. I pushed back on advice, wisdom and dependence. None of these things are things for which I am proud. They are the truth, all the same. Here I am, fresh into my 34th year and I have learned a lot from my old self.
1) We are Not Invincible.
When I was 19, I never thought about dying. I never considered how dangerous and life-threatening things were that I did. I thought I was invincible. I remember the day in my mid twenties when my boss was telling me a story about a young man who had lost his legs in an accident. He was explaining to me that the man had learned nothing from his tragic loss. He knew this to be true because as soon as he was well and able, the man was out racing in the same manner which had cost him his legs. He told me, “When we are young, we never think we are going to die. We think we are going to live forever and nothing will hurt us.” Wait one second. Do that thing where you pause time. Cue the music for an epiphany. Burn this conversation into my memory. See my eyes finally acknowledge this truth. Holy crap! Why has this thought literally NEVER registered with me? Sure, I have watched “My Girl” and “A Walk to Remember.” I have listened to and sang “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry. I have read tons of obituaries, heck, I even wrote some. So why does it seem like this idea is just now registering? I have no words. Dear self: you are not invincible.
2) God is the REALIST.
I do believe this is the logical follow-up to lesson number one. In case you missed it, go back up and read again. I do believe that God puts people in your life for reasons. He allows you to marry into a family who puts Him first. He crosses your path with strangers on planes, in schools, on Instagram who plug you full of heart-wrenching and heart-pounding Godliness. He finds a little crevice in your soul where Satan has not yet made a blemish and he blows and blows on its embers until a spark ignites. When he starts to see the fire spread in your heart, he sends back-up to rectify your choices. God gives us coworkers who have lost children and shows us what trust in him can do. God gives us the ability to hear him work through the vocal cords of a precious Texas woman belting “Beulah Land.” He navigates us to a page where a woman is documenting her husband’s struggles with an illness, her words and her emotions are running God’s commentary. You see, God is making you a believer right now. Welcome to God’s will.
3) Things Don’t Make You Happy.
Ask my 90 year-old grandmother, you are in charge of your own life, not any other person of this world. She has been alive since 1928. If I asked her right now what the best things have been in her life, she would say: THIS and then she would point to all of us. She has no need for material things. She doesn’t own a car. She doesn’t have a big house. She doesn’t need much of anything except some love from her family and her animals. I want to be my grandmother. I want to live for the smiles and laughter. I want to know that material things are not required for happiness. A simple life is not a bad life. Happiness comes from slobbery kisses, homemade cookies and family stories you can pass down to your great-grands.
So, this is 34. No, it’s not a milestone year. There are no special number cards in the card aisle with 34 in bright colors. There aren’t any songs about 34 or any bucket lists for 34 year-olds. That’s okay though. 34 is exciting! 34 is new! 34 is rich with possibilities of things I have never seen. And, if for some reason 34 ends up being my last year, just know that this has been a profound 34 years. I have learned a lot! We are not invincible, God is the realist and things don’t make you happy, you do!