leather jacket, scarf, sunglasses

What are the Most Important Things you Began to Realize as you got Older?

WARNING: Potential arrogance alert! Read on at your own risk.

I have entered my fifth decade, and I’ve had the good fortune to have a wide variety of experiences during this lifetime. Many of them I would not have chosen, but I wouldn’t undo it if I could, because I’ve learned something valuable from each one.

Right now, my overriding realization is: I AM all that!

When I was younger I didn’t have a good handle on my skills or talents; I didn’t understand my purpose. I allowed life to happen to me, instead of taking the reins and directing it. I didn’t realize that I had the power to do that. But life started showing me otherwise.

In my 20s I worked for a small business as an admin assistant. I liked my job and I was competent. Then it was revealed that one of the partners was cooking the books, and a whole lot of nasty events transpired. As the company unraveled I was given far more responsibility than I could handle, and assigned tasks that I’d never been trained to do. Ultimately, I got fired. I was devastated, because I was so emotionally invested in the outcome of the fight, and I couldn’t believe that they were letting me go. A few years later I had gained enough perspective from the situation to realize that they got rid of me because I knew too much. Had I been a litigious person, I could have sued the pants off those partners as a result of some of the things that happened to me there. They took advantage of my naivete and gambled that I didn’t have the awareness to stand up for my rights. Their bet paid off. But from the distance of a few decades, I understand what happened to me, and I no longer tolerate that type of disrespect.

In my 30s, I had several miscarriages, but also managed to give birth to a beautiful son. My husband and I bought a house; I started a business. My mother-in-law moved in with us; we bought a bigger house. Everything was good. I learned what it felt like to be content. I was a wife, mother, entrepreneur, school volunteer, church volunteer, caregiver. I was busy and (mostly) happy. I took it for granted that this was how my life was supposed to be. I forgot to be grateful for my blessings.

In my 40s, it all crashed and burned. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my entire life revolved around her care. My business suffered, my other family relationships suffered, I became a physical and emotional wreck. My husband started drinking; my son began acting out in school. I was angry all the time because I couldn’t figure out how my life had become such a cesspool. Then the recession hit. My husband lost his job and we came within a breath of losing our home because we couldn’t pay the mortgage. It took every ounce of strength that I had to deal with all the sh*t hitting the fan at once. And then the real kicker: I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. So now I’m giving myself injections multiple times a day, every day, just to stay alive. A weaker person would have given up, but I kept fighting.

Eventually things worked out. My mother-in-law moved into assisted living; my husband began a new career in a related field and experienced success fairly quickly. I focused on getting my son the emotional help he needed, and I’m happy to say that he was able to overcome his obstacles and today he is a well-balanced individual. I started paying attention to my own needs, and began dumping obligations right and left. I hadn’t realized that so much turbulence in my home caused me to distract myself with other tasks. I was the consummate volunteer, and I was very, very good at it. But that took my attention away from my real job, which was keeping my family whole and healthy. I didn’t really know how to do that, and I didn’t feel worthy of having a happy life. I felt as though I’d done so many things wrong that I didn’t deserve to be content. I felt “less than”, and I passed up a lot of valuable opportunities.

Now I’ve entered my fifties, and I’ve become a completely different person. My son is an adult, still living at home while going through vocational training, but with a job and a life of his own. My husband has a successful business, and he is working diligently on his sobriety. It’s hard, kicking an addiction, for everyone in the family. But he is dedicated, and given time, we will all benefit from his decision. Last year I ended up in a diabetic coma; I was as close to dying as a person can go without tripping into the afterlife. That experience has given me a new attitude. I am no longer content to sit around and wait for things to happen. I squeeze as much living as I can into every moment. I’ve learned to become still and listen to the wisdom from within. I have let go of relationships that no longer serve me and put more energy into the ones that truly matter.

I’ve had a second chance at care giving, because my father-in-law was diagnosed with dementia. He passed away a few months ago, but during the two years that I was his primary caregiver, I made a lot better decisions than I did with my mother-in-law. That demonstrated for me that I had grown much wiser as a result of my previous experience.

And I have finally discovered my purpose. I was born for a life of service; I am happiest and at my best when I am helping people. I go out of my way to help friends in need, and it gives me joy. I wasn’t meant to be a doctor or a first responder. My special gift is writing – helping people tell their stories. Two years ago I decided to focus on that, and I have been bombarded with opportunities. New doors have opened everywhere, and I have met so many “ordinary” people with extraordinary lives. It has been my privilege to preserve their stories, either for publication or simply to be passed down to their families. I have been gifted with the talent of being able to listen and interpret their special messages and lessons, and I feel the spirit moving within me every single time I complete a commission.

As a result of these cumulative experiences, I realize that I am a truly powerful being. I’m not a superhero – it’s not my duty to save Gotham. I am powerful because I understand my worth. My skills and talents are valuable, and I am the only ME on the planet. No one else can do what I do in the way that I do it. I’ve learned the hard way to let my light shine because the glow surrounds other people with warmth and love, and people hunger for that type of attention. We all have it to give, but some of us haven’t realized it yet or just don’t know how. I’ve finally learned the “how”, and it is my hope that by understanding my experience others will have the courage to unleash their potential as well.

Life is a series of shared experiences, and if it paints me as arrogant to believe that others can benefit from my hard-won knowledge then so be it. I prefer to think that sharing my experiences openly gives others permission to do the same. Back in my 20s I didn’t understand that I always had permission, and that I already had the power to be my best self; the self that God created me to be. I had to go through a lot of trials to arrive at that understanding. But now I’m here, and I’m glad to be in this place. I share my truth with the hope of being of service. If reading these words causes even one person to stop, consider their situation, and make a better choice, then I have fulfilled my purpose. And in my opinion, that is the definition of a successful life.