I have a secret to share.
And it’s a little hard to admit.
I just turned 39.
Twelve short months from “Over the Hill.”
I remember a show from the 1980s called Thirty-Somethings. I clearly recall thinking, “Whoa. Thirties. Old.”
I was 11 at the time, and couldn’t imagine ever getting that old. Now I’m a year away from entering the decade beyond. Amazing.
This particular birthday of mine has incited some deep reflection. Life might not be exactly as I’d predicted, but at the same time, it’s really good.
Added years bring tiny lines around the eyes, an alarmingly slowed metabolism and required preventive screenings. But at the same time, lessons learned through the years are the icing on those many birthday cakes.
In sitting down to contemplate the benefits of new birthdays, I was a bit bowled over by my gratitude that emerged.
And, thankfully, by the little rewards that come with age.
- You learn that size is just a number. And if it bothers you that much, cut out the blasted tag. If it looks good, feels good on and doesn’t break the bank, you’re as fashion-forward as ever.
- You learn that you teach people how to treat you. And if they fail the lesson more than a couple of times, it’s time to let them have a new teacher.
- You learn that if someone doesn’t treat you well, they have no room in your life. End of story.
- You learn that fear is your greatest enemy, and so often, your greatest illusion.
- You learn not to sweat the small stuff, and realize that almost everything falls into that category. It’s one thing to read that in a book and another to grasp it in the real world.
- You learn to pick your battles and realize that having the last word doesn’t mean that you won.
- You learn that listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give. And sitting with someone who is hurting is a balm for the soul.
- You learn who your real friends are. Hint: they’re the ones who walk through “life” with you, give you the freedom to mess up royally, and then throw you a party when you reach the other side. You should do everything possible to find these friends and to become one yourself.
- You learn how incredibly blessed you are.
- You learn to not only count your blessings, but to outright wallow in them.
- You learn that what you once thought essential to happiness might just be a detriment to God’s best.
- You learn that He knows what He’s doing. After all, you’re in the palm of His hand.
- You learn that perfectionism and control are painfully overrated.
- You learn to appreciate what you’re given, but to not find your identity in externals.
- You learn that friends can stick as close as family, and sometimes even closer. And that’s OK.
- You learn that your invincible parents get older. And it makes you want to drown in their presence.
- You learn that everyone messes up. Some more than others. And that “real” people – the ones who have faced life in the trenches – are much more genuine, forgiving and refreshing. Bravo to these survivors and role models. You learn that you want to become more like them.
- You learn that failure is one of the very best teachers, a truth seen only in the rearview mirror. Don’t be afraid of it; let it do its good work in you.
- You learn to not kick others when they’re down. Only because you remember being there yourself and you could return at any time.
- You learn that putting others down to make yourself feel better drives people away and defeats its purpose. Leave that to the 20-somethings who are still figuring things out.
- You learn to hang on to the good memories and let the rest go. Only so much grey matter for storage.
- You learn that tears aren’t a sign of weakness, but an occasional cathartic stop along the way.
- You learn that the more you learn, the less you know. Or, at least you realize how much more you have to learn.
- You learn that – at the end of the day – diplomas, status and zip codes don’t mean a thing. At the end, you’ll be remembered not for your professional accomplishments, but for the way you made people feel.
I’m beginning to glimpse the other side of the hill.
When I reach the top, I’ll take one last look back to appreciate the birthdays that got me this far.
And then with gratitude for the opportunity, I’ll crest that hill and proudly start down the other side.
Wrinkles, emerging gray hairs, a few extra pounds and all.
And I’ll tell you another secret.
From my vantage point at 39, 40 looks surprisingly good.
Over the Hill might not be so bad.