“By the time she was two, Matilda had learned what most people learn in their early thirties: how to take care of herself.”
~”Matilda,” film (1996)
I don’t usually have much to say about my birthday. Usually, it’s “Yeah, so, I had a birthday. Moving on. Who wants to talk about Jane Austen?” But this year, between crossing items off my “31 things” list, coming up with a new “32 things” list, and soon, a recap of a cool road trip we took over my birthday weekend (love when my birthday falls over Columbus Day weekend), I just seem to have more to write about. Anyway. Last month, I started thinking about all of the little pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up, either from life experience – I actually have some now – or from family or friends. Turns out, there are quite a few nuggets in there. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my 31 years on the planet:
1. Habits, once formed, are hard to break. So form the habits that you actually want to have, like flossing, exercising, and making your bed. And steer clear of the ones you don’t want – like smoking, a habit I’m glad to say I’ve never had.
2. You’ll always look stylish if you learn to dress your own figure. Not your best friend’s, your sister’s, or a model’s in a magazine. It doesn’t really matter what the trends of the moment are. If you’re wearing clothes that fit well and flatter you, you’ll look good. (It took me a long time to learn this. Related: full skirts are not my friend, unless it’s Halloween and I’m dressing as Tinker Bell. Clap if you believe!)
3. Be upfront about what you want. Once upon a time, I wanted a promotion. I beat around the bush, complained to hubby, and asked my boss in a very roundabout manner. I didn’t get the promotion. The next week, I went out to lunch with my mentor (who I didn’t think had anything to do with my job seniority or position). I told him why I wanted a promotion, and why I felt I deserved it. The next day, I got my promotion, and a nice raise to go with it.
4. Wear earrings. No outfit really looks complete without them (if you’ve taken the step of piercing your ears, that is). And trust me – I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t want to go too long without wearing them. Ouch.
5. Don’t eat or drink things that make you feel bad. For example, if coffee makes your head pound and your stomach churn… don’t drink coffee. Simple as that.
6. Cut up fruits and veggies the moment you bring them home, and keep them where you can see them. You’re going to snack (admit it) so you might as well snack on something good. Plus, produce is expensive, and cleaning out a crisper drawer full of decidedly un-crispy fruits and veg hurts me in the wallet place.
7. You can’t always choose your circumstances, but you can choose your response. I’ve learned this several times over, most recently in the NICU. We didn’t want to have a preemie, and we didn’t expect to have a preemie, but a preemie we had. I’m not saying it was a joyride, but things did get easier once we strapped ourselves in for the ride and changed our attitudes from self-pity to determination. Re-writing my response from “This is so unfair!” (it was) to “Let’s do what we need to do so we can get the whole family home,” (we did) got me through some of those long, unpleasant days.
8. Keep your stuff organized. You’re more likely to use what you have if you can see it. This applies to everything from dried beans to yarn to jewelry.
9. Bloom where you’re planted. Anne Shirley taught me this lesson. You won’t always be able to control how or where you live, but you can control what you do with the time you have. Make friends, create something, volunteer. There are always opportunities, everywhere. Plus, if you don’t bloom where you’re planted, what’s the alternative? To wither. And who wants to wither?
10. The more love you give, the more you will receive. Time spent cultivating a strong relationship with hubby, soaking up all the special moments of Peanut’s childhood, and chatting for hours over the phone with my mom, my brother, my darling sisters-in-law, or my best friends R (from college) and J (from high school) is time very well spent.
There’s more, but I’ve also learned when enough is enough (except with regard to tea and books, that is). What lessons have you learned in your time on Earth?