This past Sunday was my birthday.
It was quite an unexpected fanfare.
There were bonfires and barbecues and parades galore the entire weekend long. Schools all across the country closed for a four day weekend. Government buildings throughout the nation were shut down on Monday.
I even overheard the phrase “Labor Day Weekend” being tossed around…. I guess Mom must have really outdone herself when giving birth to me!
Okay, okay, maybe all of the festivities had a little less to do with my turning 35 than they did the 1885 government recognition of the American worker. But hey, potayto-potahto, right?
In honor of leveling up to 35, let’s see the top 10 things I have learned along the way.
Why only 10? Because 35 seemed like an awful lot…. Or maybe, I’m just a slow learner.
Either way. Kick back, relax, and enjoy!
1. Growing in love is better than falling in love.
Falling, by definition, is not a good thing. Seriously, take a look for yourself:
- Falling: (adjective) moving from a higher to a lower level, typically rapidly and without control.
When you fall in love, it’s instantaneous. You fall in love with that exact person, in that exact moment. Sure, in rare chances it might work out for ya. But most the time, it’s doomed from the get-go.
When you start at the top, no matter how great the view is, there’s only one direction left to go.
Just like with a house: you can have the best curb appeal ever; if your foundation is shit, the house is still gonna crumble.
Let’s take a look at another definition:
- Growing: (adjective) undergoing natural development by increasing in size and changing physically. Becoming greater over a period of time; increasing.
Now that sounds like a love worth being a part of. A solid foundation to build a strong relationship on.
Sure, it might not be easy. You’ll probably scrape your knee and want to give up a few times along your journey to the top… Growing in love is hard. But boy is it a beautiful destination!
Falling in love, that just sucks. The landing hurts… and they don’t even hand out parachutes for that sorta thing.
2. Haters gonna hate.
“You can’t make everyone happy…
You’re not a taco.”
Bummer huh? But, you know what happens to a taco? It gets devoured.
That’s what happens to the person who tries to make everyone happy. The person who has no haters. They (their soul, their essence, who they really are) gets completely devoured.
Haters “hate” for one of two reasons:
- Jealousy: generally refers to the thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over a relative lack of possessions.
- Envy: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
These emotions aren’t all bad though. They do have a pretty useful purpose.
Jealousy and envy are a tool used to identify the aspects of life or characteristics of others that we wish to have ourselves. Or that others wish they had of ours. They only become unhealthy emotions when we turn to hate, rather than action.
Don’t take a hater personally. They aren’t hating you, they are just hating what you awaken within themselves.
Smile at your haters and go on about your life. Odds are high that the person will, eventually, reach the understanding they need to achieve what they desire. And if you’re lucky, you may even get the opportunity to help them along the way.
3. If you really want it, you’ll go get it.
You have two options regarding what you want out of life; go after what you want, or shut up about not having it.
If you want a beautiful home, yet you spend all of your free time lounging on the couch, watching TV, or aimlessly surfing the internet, you’re not going to have a beautiful home.
If you want a strong, healthy body, yet you stuff your face full of junk food every day, stop at fast food joints every time you leave the house, and are as enthusiastic about going to the gym as you are your annual colonoscopy appointment. Guess what? You won’t have a strong, healthy body.
If you want financial security; to not stress about paying the next bill or putting food on the table, yet you spend all your money on toys, going out, and having fun. Guess what? Once again, (for those in the back) you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t obtain financial security.
You should be so filled with passion toward your goals that you are excited to pursue them, willing to sacrifice to achieve them. Otherwise, maybe you’ve got the wrong goals, chasing a dream that’s not really yours.
If you want it, go get it!
4. You gotta just go with the flow.
Sometimes shit hits the fan, and all you can do about it is hope that it washes off easy.
God has a unique talent for giving us exactly what we need, even when we don’t want it.
Especially when we don’t want it.
Bad things happen. Good things happen. Life, happens. And every little bit of it shapes us into who we are.
Things, people, places will come into our lives and leave our lives no matter what we do, or say, or want. Like a handful of sand; if we grasp on desperately, we will only cause the sand to disappear faster.
There are things in life worth fighting for. But that list of things is much, much smaller than most people think. Don’t waste your time and energy fighting the un-fightable.
Let the things that will come, come and the things that will go, go.
5. There are three measures of growth in life.
Age is simply a measurement of how many years, months, days, minutes, and seconds that we have existed in this world.
It’s just a number.
A 65-year-old woman who spent her entire life locked up in a cage, in a hidden room, with no windows, deep in an abandoned basement. Where somehow she magically received just enough food and water to stay alive…
A 15-year-old girl who traveled abroad her entire life. Visited every country known to man. Saw the world’s marvels that most only dream about. Ate food most have never heard of. Met people from every culture known to man…
Tell me… which one is more experienced? More “grown”?
Like the number on a scale, age is merely a form of measurement that can be significantly insignificant.
- Life Stage
Another form of measuring growth is by a person’s current life stage.
There once was a couple who were 22 years apart. When they met, the man had been married and divorced with two adult children. The woman was also married and divorced, with three children. Neither had any interest in starting up a new family. They had both completed that stage in life. Learned those lessons.
There was another couple who were 12 years apart. When they met, the man had been married and divorced and had been a single parent for years. He had zero interest in starting up a new family. He had already completed that stage in life. Already learned those lessons.
The woman had just recently turned 20. Though she didn’t want it immediately, she did want the option of marriage and kids in the future. She had an interest in experiencing that life stage. Experiencing that level of growth. She hadn’t learned those lessons yet.
So, which couple was a more compatible match? Which couple likely had fewer arguments over the direction of their lives together? It wasn’t their ages, but their life stages that made the difference.
- Level of Comprehension
We all experience various things within our life. We all learn lessons from these various things. We may learn the same lessons from different experiences. We may learn different lessons from the same experiences.
We gain a specific level of comprehension based off of absolutely everything that pertains to our lives; the people we meet, jobs we work, cars we’ve owned, places we’ve lived, books we’ve read, movies we’ve watched, and on, and on, and on.
Our current level of comprehension has a great effect on the decisions we make, judgments we hold, behaviors we display, perception of others, and so forth and so on.
When evaluating individual levels of growth; age, life stage, and level of comprehension make the most sense.
6. You cannot change people.
You can encourage people to change. You can advise, suggest, request, recommend. You can even give them an ultimatum. But, you do not have the power to make them change.
Others lives are not yours to live.
Unfortunate huh? But that’s just the way it is.
People make choices based on their specific measurable level of growth. You cannot force someone to accept a reality that is not theirs to accept yet. You also cannot hold it against them for being at the level they are at, for you were once there too.
You wouldn’t expect an infant to have the knowledge to obtain a high school diploma. Why would it be any more reasonable to expect someone to understand a truth that is beyond their current level of comprehension?
You can want so badly to get through to someone. To have them see, as you do, the impact their actions or behaviors are having on their life. But, you cannot make them understand, which is what they need to change.
Don’t resist planting the seed of knowledge in others though. What better tool do we have at our disposal to help another to grow?
You can support their change, but you cannot force their change.
7. Worry and guilt are (mostly) completely useless emotions.
Worry and guilt are pretty useless emotions. They are also pretty detrimental to our mental health.
Why do we have them?
Because a long, long time ago… in a land far, far away… (just kidding!)
Worry and guilt really do have a purpose.
Imagine what life would be like if God just forgot to give us worry and guilt…. We’d likely all be dead and the world would be a decaying black ball floating around the universe.
Due to the concept of worry, we learn responsibility. We ensure bills are paid on time. Cars are maintained. Kids are not playing on two-story rooftops. That sorta stuff.
Due to the concept of guilt, we develop a moral compass. We don’t blow up our neighbors houses. We don’t rob banks. The majority of humans don’t kill, steal, or intentionally harm others; due to the existence of guilt.
Thank God for “small” favors eh?
Unfortunately, we have so greatly exaggerated their purpose that we’ve made them unhealthy.
We take the emotions wayyyy farther than they were ever intended to go. Excessively worrying about things completely out of our control. Things that we can do absolutely nothing about. Yet, we insistently chose to stress ourselves out over them. Why?
Guilt is the same way. We obsess over things of the past, drowning in a sea of guilt, over something that we cannot ever change. What happened, happened. What was said, was said. What was done, was done. You can’t change the past. Dust yourself off and don’t make the same mistake next time.
Like watching the grass grow; worry and guilt may give you something to do, but ultimately, it has zero impact on the growth of the grass.
8. It all applies to you, too.
You look at a stranger standing in front of you at the grocery store wearing their pajamas and sporting a mop of disheveled hair. The person down the road, who’s grass could have been cut two weeks ago. The garbage piled next to their front porch. The junky car sitting in their driveway.
You look at them, and in an instant, you judge. Judge who they are. What they believe in. What they value and prioritize.
How they could be doing IT so much better.
Do you always leave your house dressed to impress? You’ve never once ran to the store in the middle of a horrible day when you just didn’t give two flying fucks what clothes you had on? Have you ever gotten so busy, had something so pressing going on, that the garbage backed up a little higher than you intended? The grass went un-mowed a little longer than you wanted? Have you ever bought a toy over paying your bills? Gossiped? Lied? Sinned?
We easily see the ugly in others. The distasteful behavior, the destructive actions. And then we judge. Judge how they could be doing it better. How you would do it better.
We are far less inclined to see the ugly within ourselves. To assess our distasteful behavior, our destructive actions. To look in the mirror and actually do “it” better.
Every thought you have toward another, ask yourself, “Is there any way that I am displaying, acting, behaving, thinking in a similar way?”
Because… it all applies to you, too.
9. Things are neither good nor bad, they just are.
For every abstract concept to exist, it’s equally opposite concept must also exist. For example; hot/cold, wet/dry, light/dark, love/hate, matter/antimatter, etc.
To know love, to be able to gauge love as measurable, you MUST have a comparably relative opposite. That opposite just so happens to be hate.
Contrary to popular opinion, God is not all love and light and butterflies and rainbows. God also created snakes and spiders, scorpions and great white sharks, tornadoes and tsunamis…. hate.
The same God that created the gorgeous rainbow also created the treacherous thunderstorm. They are just things, events. Humans are the ones that have labeled things as good or bad, not the Big Guy in the sky.
God created everything (literally, every single little thing) for us to experience the completely amazing magnitude of it all. To experience life in its fullness. Then, He gave us free will to chose how we would prefer to experience it.
We are the ones that have chosen to perceive it all as good or bad.
10. Life is not really that complicated.
People, society, the world, life itself; it is all a great deal less complicated than we think.
Certain laws of nature are very consistent and reliable. If you follow them, you will get very consistent and reliable results.
“What goes up, must come down.” ~Isaac Newton
We all know that one. But did you know, there are natural laws tied to almost everything?
If you throw a baseball at a glass window, the window will break. If you dump a cup full of water on your shirt, your shirt will get wet. If you do not go grocery shopping, you will not have food. If you do not wash your dishes, you will not have clean plates. If you do not pay your utility bill, you will not have utilities. If you scream insults at your spouse, you will not have a healthy marriage. If you eat ten thousand calories of junk food every day, you will get fat. If you smile at strangers, you will have a happier day. The list goes on, and on, and on….
If you do not want a shitty life, then don’t fill your life with shit.
It really, truly, is that simple.
The natural laws of cause and effect are tied into nearly every aspect of life. Every action. Every thought. Every behavior…. Obey the laws, and you’ll live a much less complicated life.
There you go folks, the 10 things I have learned on the road to 35. We went kinda deep there, but I’ve learned some lighter things along the way too.
I’ve learned that pineapple really does belong on pizza… but anchovies, why are we letting them slide?!
I’ve learned that sitting in the sun on the back porch with a cup of coffee is heaven, so are sticky s’mores with your family around the bonfire, and sunsets, and crickets, and fishing, and….
I’ve learned to work hard. To play hard. And to love… even harder than you do anything else.
I’ve learned that life is good. That life is do-able. That I’ve come a long way. That we’ve all, come a long way…
I’ve learned, how to thrive by 35! 🙂
What life lessons have you learned along the way? What events shook you to your core and changed who you once were? Share your stories in the comments below!