Happy birthday to you! I know your years are usually measured by the days between January 1st and December 31st, but it’s been 365 days since your last birthday, and I know you’ve learned a lot. You are 365 days older, 365 days smarter, 365 days kinder, and 365 days wiser. 42 taught you so many things that you’d rather not have learned, but you are starting 43 with some extraordinary life lessons in your pocket.
I hope you’ve learned that the grass isn’t always greener on someone else’s lawn. I know you had to discover for yourself that the grass isn’t in fact greener so you wouldn’t have to constantly wonder if the grass would have been greener. It wasn’t, but there’s always new grass to discover.
I hope you’ve learned that you take your health for granted. That every single day you are able to get up and go through your routine is a blessing. That you had to see for yourself what days at hospitals look like for families, what grief looks like, and what sickness looks like in order to appreciate your health and the health of your family and friends.
I hope you’ve learned that gratitude, DAILY gratitude, is a routine you wish you’d done your whole life. That writing down three things you’re thankful for each morning really is the best way to start your day (with coffee, of course). That at one of the lowest points in your life, you never struggled to find gratitude. You just needed the wise words of your sister-in-law to introduce and instill that habit in you.
I hope you’ve learned that you are never too old to discover brand new hobbies and you’re not too scared to try them. That the old saying “try, try again” has as much power now as it did when you were a little girl. That a hobby you never thought was “you” ended up being everything you needed to be a better version of yourself.
I hope you’ve learned that stress and anxiety are the dynamic duo at the center of a lot of your problems. That they creeped in even in the best of situations and slowly began to change who you were at the core. That they must be recognized, acknowledged, and dealt with in order to manage them and that managing them looks different for every person, but they must be managed. I’m proud of you for managing.
I hope you’ve learned that the state of your inside well-being determines the state of your outside appearance. That worry, fear, and exhaustion can become a physical part of you, that they can become traits that others can see on you as clearly as your hair and eye color. You wore them too often this year and I’m glad to see you begin to shed them.
I hope you’ve learned that things you were ok with eight years ago, just aren’t ok anymore…and that’s ok. That even though your line is very broad and hard to cross, it can be crossed, and you’re no longer ok with that. That for you, not being ok with something, is a sign of growth in your life and I’m proud of you for that.
I hope you’ve learned that leaving something behind, or even losing something, can produce shame and embarrassment at first. And that over time, shame and embarrassment evolve into pride and confidence if you just give it enough time to evolve. I’m proud of you for evolving.
I hope you’ve learned that at difficult times in your life, you are fortunate to still be able to turn to your parents. That those indistinguishable phone calls filled with tears and panic never inhibit their ability to speak words of comfort and encouragement over your life. That the reassurance you get from them that everything will be ok is all you need to know that everything will indeed be ok.
I hope you’ve learned that having a supportive spouse really is the dream. That if you told him you wanted to move to Malaysia and raise monkeys, he would start making a spreadsheet to figure out how to make it happen. That stressful situations can make marriages hard, but they can also reveal the truest colors of the person you married and that his colors are just as beautiful in the storm as they are in calm.
And lastly, I hope you’ve learned that when you boldly step off the path and you crash and burn in the process, that stepping back to an old path is nothing to be ashamed of. That every path in your life was blazed for a reason and it will always be a part of your journey. That if you could see the bigger picture, the roadmap from a bird’s eye view, all the squiggly paths eventually converge into one big, beautiful treasure.
Wisdom is your treasure.
Wisdom comes with age, hard work, scars, grief, and failure, but at the end of all these things, you’ve found yourself 365 days wiser and ready to move into the next 365. You look back occasionally, but only to see how far you’ve come.
Congratulations! You now have the wisdom to not only move forward, but to also have gratitude for the lessons that stopped you dead in your tracks on the journey. Your last 365 were filled with valleys, some of them so deep, you didn’t think you’d make it through. You have, you did, you will again, and I’ll be here to remind you of the treasures you’ve gained.