I was ‘home’ in Rhode Island for less than 24 hours because my mother’s annual Christmas visit now includes travel escort service on both ends. Once your parents reach a certain age, this is as it should be, but it’s also a reminder of the passage of time and just what that means. As a side benefit my sister visited on the front end of my mother’s stay and I had the opportunity to see some friends and relatives on the back end. This doesn’t happen often now that I live over 400 miles away from ‘home’. I come from a large family and the holidays were always a big deal in more ways than one. Now we are all scattered about the country and at best only get together for weddings and funerals.
As the youngest of this large family, I became an aunt at ten-years-old and am now a great aunt. Scary thought. One nephew and two of my nieces now have spouses. Soon there will be more grand nephews and nieces. I often think of my nieces and nephews as being perpetually in their twenties, but now, some are approaching their thirties. Yikes. Twenty years can disappear just like that.
One of my nieces just passed the bar exam and is now working at a law practice. I was listening to her talk about her life which is really just beginning and it got me thinking. In my twenties all I wanted was to have ‘life experiences’. Now in my forties, I just want time to slow down or to stop altogether. Sometimes it feels like I sprinted through life, anxious to complete the next thing on some invisible list. I rarely cast a look over my shoulder fearful that was behind me might try to hold me back. It’s OK. This is what we are supposed to do when we are young. Live. Have no regrets. There is plenty of time later to ruminate.
But if I could go back and advise my younger self, there are few things I would tell her:
- Money is a means to an end and nothing more. Learn how to save it. If you are fortunate enough to have a good job, max out your 401K from the start. You’ll need that money later. Trust me.
- Live within or below your means. ‘Stuff’ will not make you happy it will only burden you.
- Never say never! You will eat those words so often you’ll begin to choke on them.
- Love is all that matters. Marry for love. Marry your best friend. You might be poor, but you will be happy and you’ll find a way to survive, together. It still won’t be perfect but you will be happier than many others.
- Give to charity. Self explanatory. No matter how little you have, someone else almost always has less and could use some help. Sometimes a little kindness is all a person needs to get back on their feet and moving forward again.
- Have children. A career is a wonderful thing, but if you can’t manage to ‘do it all’ and you must choose one or the other, you’ll regret not having children if you really want them. They are our greatest achievements, even when we make mistakes raising them. You will have many jobs in your lifetime and several that you will never lament leaving. If having children is not possible, be the best aunt you can be to the children of your siblings and friends.
- Travel. It will expand your mind, teach you compassion, and open your eyes wider than any other experience ever will.
- Right now you are taking your young skin for granted, but your forty-something self will thank you for doing this one simple thing: Start wearing sun block every day, especially on your face and neck.
- Be worthy of trust. It will make you a good friend.
- Stop talking and do. Do something you are passionate about, even if it can only be a hobby at first. You need money to survive but you need fulfillment to be whole.
- Take care of your body. We each only get one and the better you treat it now, the better it will carry you later.
- Marriage is tough. See #4! Nothing will test your resolve more. Sometimes you will want to quit. You’ll need to decide what is and what isn’t a deal breaker. See the rest of the list, especially #3.
If I could go back and tell my younger self these things and she would likely ignore me and say, “I’ll never be as old as you”. Then I would look back at her and say, “Girl, you have so much to learn!”
Happy New Year all!
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