Once upon a time, I used to tell people that I wanted to be dead by the age of 40. I'd forgotten I used to say this until an ex-boyfriend reminded me a few years back. When he did, I recoiled a bit, surprised at the bold words I had proclaimed during my impetuous youth.
Then I remembered why I said it. Based on the history of popular culture, I felt like many of the great stars died by the age of 40 — Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, James Dean, and on — and I wanted to be one of the “greats.”
Soon, I'll be 40. And, as fate would have it, I am firmly of the belief that my life is anything but over. If I could speak to that 16-year-old girl, the one bound up in fear of what others think, in fear of her own family life, in fear of never making a difference in this world, in so much fear … this is what I’d say:
1. Don't be afraid of aging.
You may think that beauty is something only on the cover of popular magazines, but you'll one day feel otherwise. The truth, which you already know deep down, is that beauty is all about what's on the inside. The secret that you have yet to discover is that beautiful thoughts make a beautiful soul, and aging is a rite of passage. Find the beauty in the journey.
2. Respect the bonds of love — consciously.
You are young. Attraction can be, well, attractive. Lust is exciting; passion is addictive. But here’s the thing: true love, true bonds, true friendship, true partnership, can be every bit as exciting as fresh love. Learn to deny the allure of momentary passion in lieu of something far greater — deeply connected love, which can also be extremely hot. You are worthy.
3. Live life in a way that brings you no regrets.
Diligently care for your friends and family. Thoughtfully administering love and affection is one of the greatest gifts of this life. You'll never regret kindness. Offer it boldly, while still maintaining a regimen of self-care. You need both. This is part of living a life of no regrets.
4. Believe in yourself and speak up!
Your voice matters in this world. When you speak up, when you seek the truth, others will do the same. This empowers both you and them. It’s invaluable. It's the path of discovery.
5. Learn to embrace hard work, but stay balanced.
Discipline has never been something you've avoided. Stay that way. It behooves you. Hard work is essential to surviving and thriving. So is luscious play and deep relaxation. They all play a role in health and happiness.
6. You can do absolutely f*cking anything you put your mind to. Anything.
There will be people who tell you otherwise. There will be folks who don’t want you to believe it. Trust me. They are wrong. You have something special. Do not let them convince you that this is false. They have it too.
The most important thing you can do is show up for your life like you're already the creature of your dreams. In more ways that you can fathom, you are. And when you do, others will do the same. And the more you encourage one another, the greater the likelihood that you will change the world. Together. So don’t stop. And don’t cower. And give love. And be love. And hold your head high. Because everything you do, say and think matters.
7. Celebrate your mobility — run, walk, play, dance, move ...
Many of your loved ones will lose their ability to move over time. As such, it's imperative that you always savor your precious health. It is a gift. Maintain it, nurture it, grow it wisely with great care and joy and ultimate self-acceptance.
8. Learn to forgive, because those who wrong you were doing the best they could. (This applies to you too.)
Sometimes people will do unthinkable things in your presence. And sometimes, the culprit may even be yourself. Here’s a vital tidbit: Everyone wants to be free from suffering, and everyone wants to be happy.
You aren't meant to understand the choices, behaviors and words of all mankind. You're simply meant to pursue your own joy, knowing that others only know what's best for them. Just like only you know what's best for you. Trust that inner knowing.
9. Be kind and uplift others. Always. Even in the face of conflict.
Learn to appreciate contrast. Without pain, there is no joy. Without suffering, there is no freedom. Without dark, there is no light. We need contrast. It is source getting to know itself. Contraction into expansion; this is the way of the dance of life. Rather than resist the undulations, learn to embrace them. Never use differences as an excuse to create pain. Instead, celebrate one another for what makes you unique without judgment.
10. You’re not fat. And it doesn’t matter anyway.
I can’t stress this one enough. You could spend an embarrassing amount of time and energy in your life worrying about this topic. Over the years, you'll come to realize that a person’s weight is just a number on the scale. It has nothing to do with the quality of their soul. Please, please, please — let your obsession with this element of life, this meaningless element of life, go. Love yourself and others regardless of the shape of the body.
11. There is no reason to hurry. Enjoy the journey instead.
That’s the funny thing about life. The art seems to be in learning to enjoy the longevity with a keen level of awareness over how fleeting the whole thing can be. You'll lose loved ones. They will be here one moment and gone the next. And you will lose people slowly and painfully. Cherish. Indulge. Don’t shy away from something because it seems like it will take awhile. You might have forever. You might only have a day. You never know. So enjoy it. Work hard to stay present and enjoy it. Every precious moment.
Smile and shine on.