Turning forty was big for me. In all honesty, despite my positive outlook on life, I kind of dreaded it. At a dinner celebration with my girlfriends, my friend Melanie said, “I feel like we’ve been talking about you turning 40 for years now,” and she was right. I have been “almost 40” since I turned 31 … technically making me “almost 50” now. I think I feel this way because there’s just so much that I want to do and so much that I want to see. Time seems to be racing by.
But I’m fully aware that I can’t control the future, much like I can’t control the past. I talk about it all the time, but even I need a reminder here and there that all we can control – and all that’s worth our thoughts – is what’s happening right now, in this very moment. This is the reality, but there’s still the dreamer in me that wonders for all of us …
If you could control your past, would you? If you could go back and change an event or action you took in your previous days in some way, what would it be?
I’ve been playing around with the idea for this blog in my head for quite some time now. A few months ago, I asked my Instagram followers for two words that they’d whisper to their younger selves if they could go back in time. Here are some of the responses that were shared with me (I’d love to hear yours in the comments):
• Be you
• Take risks
• Be patient
• Don’t rush
• Be strong
• Calm down
• Start exercising
• Always sparkle
• Don’t worry
• Enjoy it
• Keep trying
• Be confident
• Have courage
• Be grateful
• Don’t quit
• Keep smiling
• Have faith
• Act now
• Be kind
• Love yourself
• Never settle
• Go BIG!
I certainly wouldn’t take back anything … and I mean ANYTHING … that life has handed me. Even when I think back to moments in my life that make me cringe a little still, they’ve made me who I am. All of the happy moments, the sad moments, the pain, the mistakes … I wouldn’t be who I am today if they didn’t all occur, and I am truly grateful for all of it. Because of each event, I am stronger, but gentler. I am braver, but cautious. I know my worth and I am aware that all others are worthy of the same compassion. We all are on our own individual journeys, with experiences unique to us that make us the people we are in this very moment.
For this reason, I wouldn’t go back and whisper anything to myself that would necessarily alter my past, but I would certainly love to enhance my experiences thus far. This is what I would whisper to my younger self, following my rule of two:
1. Create happiness. This one is first for a reason … it’s the most important to me. For so long, I rushed through the present moment and looked for the next “big” events in life to complete me. I felt I needed to speed off to college, get married, get pregnant … I thought that if I had all of those things, I would be happy. Of course, these things do make me happy, but they don’t complete me. I know now that I am the only person who can make myself happy; I am THE CAKE. I wake up daily and make the decision that I’m going to be happy. All of the other things … my kids, my relationships, vacations, etc. … these things are all just icing on the cake that I baked myself. When you are aware of the fact that you are responsible for your own happiness, it’s easier to let go of things and people that aren’t meant for you. Be the cake; the sweet foundation for all good things to come.
2. Take chances. I’ve had two close calls with death; one when I was 26 and another when I was 33. These experiences were two of the greatest gifts I could have ever received. Ever since, I take advantage of every experience that life puts in front of me that speaks to me, even if it’s just a little bit. I’m always “winging it”. Worst-case scenario, I don’t enjoy it and I don’t continue to pursue it. I can guarantee that I will learn and grow from it though. When making a decision, I always ask myself: which would I more likely regret down the road – having tried or not having tried? I don’t ever want to look back with regret. I don’t ever want to say that I wish I had done something but I was too scared to try, or that I was worried about what other people would think. Follow your heart and have confidence that what is meant for you will fall into place when it’s time. All of the worrisome chatter in your mind has no validity.
3. Be honest. For so many years, I was so concerned about other people’s feelings that I wouldn’t always tell the truth; I would tell people what I thought they wanted to hear. Through experience, I’ve learned that it’s so much easier on myself – and others – being straightforward from the get-go. If someone asks me if I want to do something that I don’t want to do, I simply say “no.” It’s liberating and refreshing for all involved, and guess what, the world doesn’t end! I now gravitate toward honest people who speak their minds, but in a kind way, of course. Tell me I’m not being rational. Tell me I look awful in that dress. Honesty will help me grow as a person.
4. Take shortcuts. I went back and forth between naming this one “take shortcuts” or “f*@! Pinterest.” I enjoy pinning things that I’ll most likely never make just like the rest of you, but I’m done with the pressure to do everything perfectly. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t enjoy a good old Funfetti cake out of the box. I believe it is possible to “do it all” … you just can’t do it all and give EVERYTHING all of your heart and your best efforts. Pick what you really love and run full speed ahead with that. It’s ok to take shortcuts with the rest. Order a pizza, buy an already made cake, and enjoy the time with your company. The time is what matters.
5. Don’t expect. This is the toughest one for me; it’s something I still struggle with daily, but I’ll get there. (When you have a big heart and would do just about anything for people, this is a rough one to fully embrace.) I try to remind myself to not take things personally. When someone doesn’t do what you wish they would do, it most likely has nothing to do with you in the first place. Again, we are all on our own unique path.
We can wish to go back and give ourselves some tips to enhance our previous years, but clearly, we can’t. Would we have really understood these words whispered in our ears then anyway? Perhaps it took us all of the growing experiences to truly understand the value of our own advice. Way back when, they would have just been words.
We can’t change what we have experienced already, but what we can do is take these words that we wish we could tell ourselves then, and instead remind ourselves of this advice right now, and from hereon out. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHO YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE.
If you could whisper two words to yourself … not then … but right now … what would they be? What’s stopping you from heeding your own advice? Write those words down on a post-it note and hang it on your refrigerator, your mirror, or the dashboard of your car. We can’t alter the past, but we can make the absolute best of every remaining day.
P.S. I’d love to hear what your two words are. Please share them in the comments!
P.P.S. Aren’t these photos great?! Once again, they were taken by the EXTREMELY creative and talented (and super fun to hang with), Cara Polizzi. We always have lots of laughs together! Check her out on Instagram, too: @photographybycaranj.
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