Like it or not, I’ll be 50 soon. 50 is the age that when I was 25, I thought I’d never see. In fact, I was one of those people who never planned for getting old because life was hard enough without throwing in being old too. I know, edgy… right? No, I was just an idiot and maybe a bit depressed.
At 25 I thought I knew everything I was going to need to know. I’d been through hell and came out clean. I’d survived child abuse, rape, a violent Ex, and been homeless too many times to be comfortable in one place too long. And yet I stood there with my two young sons and faced a future where people looked down on me for having children and no husband and didn’t let it make me ugly or force me into drugs or drinking. 25 made me cocky because I was finally sure that I didn’t give a shit about being hurt anymore, and I was independently brave enough to take charge.
Lesson 1 – You don’t know WHO you will be yet.
I remember sitting on the table getting another tattoo, considering the exact placement of this totally kickass dragon. I was quite sure that this high ankle monster was going to be great and somehow by getting this symbol of strength, I was reflecting the to world that I was a badass and shouldn’t be messed with.
But the question lingered of where nagged at me. It was 1994 and women at the time were not rushing to get their favorite quote inked on their ribs for a lifetime of beautiful reflection. Tats were reserved for biker women who didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of them. So I took a risk and went for that sassy ankle placement and gave the nod to permanently engrave my brazenness in purples and pinks.
Why does this matter? Here’s the why. At the time when I was 25, I didn’t see a life where I’d be attending charity galas in our Nation’s capital. I never dreamed I’d have to consider what dress I’d be able to find that could cover up what ended up looking like a fat purple worm with googly eyes. I didn’t know who I would be, because at that moment in time I was pretty sure that I’d never get far from Bakersfield and I had no desire to BE the type of woman who would be asked to chair a fundraiser. I was wrong.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to make the best decisions with what you know now. I am saying that our lives change in directions that sometimes we could never predict and we have to allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities and sometimes laugh about the mistakes.
Gawd this inked monstrosity is awful.
Lesson 2 – You’ll give away many things, your soul shouldn’t be one of them.
I’ve moved so many times that I don’t have a solid count, maybe 60 times or even more?
How many couches have I owned? How many pairs of sneakers have I given away? Whatever happened to my baseball mitt? Hell, how many times have I given my heart to someone who didn't know how important that was?
Physical things come and go, there are a few things that I’ve held tight to and dragged around the country with me. I have some old photos of friends, a ring my Gram gave me, a teddy bear a boyfriend gifted me that was once cut into tiny pieces by an angry mean woman and sewn back together by someone kind. I have little trinkets that are memory markers. But things come and go.
I’ve given up time that I’ll never get back, let go of promises that will never come true. I don’t regret giving up luxury when it meant I had time to be with my children when they needed me or fancy vacations traded for home-cooked dinners and board games.
I’ve walked away from people whom I valued more than gold when I realized that their lives were changing me into someone I couldn’t love anymore. When I looked in the mirror and found myself covering the lies on my face, the weakness in my stance, and the ache in my heart, it was time to move on and away. It’s not okay to give away your integrity or what makes you real.
Lesson 3 – Your scars made you wise.
It is so easy to fall in the dark and never get up, to start feeling that dark climbing up on you and becoming WHO you are. It’s so damned easy. However, somehow there is a desire to be a part of the light, to be better than what is pulling you down and the only way you are going to get out of this pit of knives is by fighting your way out. One day you'll stand at the edge of the hole, and you look back at all that you have come from and see that life has left you with scars.
Those scars are reminders of strength. Embrace the moments in time and see clearly the moments behind and in the future.
These few years are the most stressed you will be in life.
Lesson 4 – It’s okay to be hurt.
At 45, I’m cynical as hell. I have a hard time making friends. I’ve been burned by people who were only out for themselves. I held on to the rare ones who were willing to give themselves without needing something back.
Sometimes, I have to force myself to remember that people are still learning, and by taking chances I am living instead of hiding away. It takes at least three years to really get to know someone, good or bad.
I do get hurt, and it is that pain that helps me to see the lessons more clearly. That’s life.
Lesson 5 – Admit when you are an asshole.
This one was hard for me to accept until I did and then I saw how much better it made me. I used to be one of those people who tried only to say the nice things. I didn’t want to lie, but I also didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. EVER.
I was the champion of turning the other cheek, then standing there shocked when that cheek got slapped too.
Then I met a friend, Steve, who taught me that being himself and being honest about how he felt was the right thing to do. He threw everything I thought I knew about being a good person out of the window. He simply is who he is, and Steve is an asshole.
Have you ever been talked into doing something you hate entirely because you didn’t want to look like a jerk and say no? Yeah, that happened to me all of the time. Then I’d sit there, miserable, wishing I wasn’t where I was.
How many times have you been invited to a “fun party with a small presentation” which is basically your friend getting you to come over to buy shit, so they get a discount or free stuff because you felt obligated to buy something from her? I HATE THAT! Wine parties, organic parties, candle parties, adult toy parties. ( The last one is even weirder when you think about your friend just got a new vibrator because you spent $100 on kink for yourself. WEIRD)
It’s okay to say no. Or say exactly the truth. When you get older you realize that pleasing everyone is impossible, so you stop trying. And there are times when your views go against what others want you to think or say, and it’s just better, to be honest. And if it makes you an asshole to stand up for what you believe. That’s okay too.
At 25 you aren't expected to know everything, even though you think you do. You are still figuring out your life and who you are. Make time to laugh, make doctors appointments and go to the dentist, and make mistakes that you own up to and learn from. That's how you will be successful.