Sunday was my 33rd birthday. While I enjoy the hooplah of cake, visits from family, and Facebook greetings, I most enjoy the time I dedicate to reflect over last year and consider how to live well in the new one. This year, more than ever.
After writing this year’s letter, I took time to compare it with my musings from 2014 and 2015. The differences are striking, I think. This year’s letter is so much more about being than doing. More about the essence of life than the presence of daily activities. Maybe it’s a sign of growth. Or maybe I’m just getting old?
So without further ado, here’s my 2016 letter to myself. I’d love to hear what you’ve written to yourself—or what advice you gave (or will give) yourself upon attaining your 33rd year.
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24 July 2016
It’s that time of year again: the one where you get all sentimental and wax eloquent about days gone by. Or at least, like to think you do. We’ve known each other long enough to know you’re not giving up this habit. So let’s at least make it a productive one. Deal?
Over the past six months you have undergone the most significant shifts—personally, professionally, spiritually—of your life so far. If your life is a river, then likely you’ll look back on this time as the proverbial flood that forever altered its course.
One does not move through this sort of transformation without an altered perspective. It’s been a long year, and an incredibly short one. A hard one, and the easiest of your life. The clearest of your life, and the most disorienting.
Only you know just how much has changed inside and around you. The key is: you’ve got to remember those things. Twenty-three things, to be exact.
Keep these in mind every day this year, and you’ll do just fine. Really:
1) There is always more.
The only real lack on the planet is our lack of perception. Anxiety blinds us to our own treasure. When we remove the blindfold and really look, we find that we are already rich.
2) Unseen things exist.
Energy, emotion and intuition are as real as a tabletop or a bedpost. Learn to walk the borderlands between what you can see and what you cannot. Reality always lies in the liminal.
3) Your adventure starts now.
There is no waiting for the plane to take off, or the train to leave the station. Every day is an opportunity to explore, to learn, to discover something new. Stay open. Stay curious.
4) Practice emotional kintsugi.*
Hearts break, but only when we have truly loved someone. So mend your fractured soul with glue that sparkles. Highlight your scars in gold. Because love is always a badge of honor.
*Kintsugi: a Japanese decorative art that mends broken pottery with precious metals, celebrating the cracks as a part of the history of the object and an elevation of its worth as art.
5) Farewells move us forward.
“There’s no greater power than the power of goodbye. Learn to say ‘goodbye.’” – Madonna
6) Romance is like bread.
Try to extend the expiration date, and it quickly goes stale. So love hungrily; eat up each moment together, and don’t hoard the crumbs. Bake your love fresh every day.
7) Dress like a phoenix.
There are only two styles: life and death. To be the Resurrection Bird, you must love your coat of carbon as much as your gown of gold. Ash is always as beautiful as feathers.
8) Belonging takes work.
We assume that participation naturally equals connection. But true connectedness is a choice we make every day. How we choose to show up for those around us determines our identity.
9) Love is an act of destruction.
To build a relationship, we must tear down our walls. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
10) Forgive the person in the mirror.
Smile at her daily. Tell her you love her, and let her know that even when she makes mistakes, you’ll still be her very best friend. Because your reflection needs you.
11) Listen as if your life depended on it.
Because actually, it does. The quality of your time on this planet is directly proportionate to how well you hear what others are telling you. Cultivate active openness.
12) Time is priceless.
Give that, and you have given your soul. Time is your most critical investment, and the most priceless one anyone can make in you. Well spent, it always earns interest.
13) Don’t lose your charge.
When we look at the world outside, and try to control it, we leak power and energy. To recharge, we must look always inward. The power grid within never goes down. So plug in.
14) Own your stuff.
True freedom means possessing, not being possessed. Material goods demand care, care takes time, and time is energy. Choose wisely what you acquire and always be its master.
15) Responsiveness is sexy.
Society has taught women how to be men—and we learned the lesson too well. Femininity takes practice and intentionality. Receptivity plays up our assets far better than makeup.
16) Fear is curiosity in disguise.
That tangle of anxiety in your gut? All your attempts to control the situation? Just drop it. Because when you do, you’ll get playful. Wonder is so much more fun than anxiety.
17) Roots are their own reward.
Bilbo had his shire. Jane Eyre had her Thornfield. No matter how strange or spooky or just plain average, there is power in the place we call “home.” Revel in that power.
18) Fear always requires healing.
We cannot simply command fear to leave us. Like illness, it requires diagnosis, treatment and considerable recuperation. Become a tender nurse for your own insecurities.
19) Just be more.
It’s easy to get trapped in a “Just Do It” mentality. But who we are is much more powerful than what we do in the world. Cultivate being, and the doing will take care of itself.
20) It’s never really about you.
What people say about you and to you is really about them. The subtext is always clear. Criticism of others is thinly veiled hatred of the self.
21) Friendship is like the stock market.
You’re in it for the long game. Put your capital in early, and just leave it there. Don’t get too discouraged (or elated) when numbers shift up or down. Resist the urge to day trade.
22) The universe is a boomerang.
What you put out is what you get back. Raise your own vibration, and the world will hum in tune. Lavish the world with your joy and your presence, and you will be lavished upon.
23) You are already strong enough.
Stop speculating on what you will do when the next crisis occurs. Trust your fledgling wings to hold weight at the right moment, and not a moment sooner. When the bottom falls out, fly.
Because really, you already have.