I was such a labels snob when I was a teenager. If it didn’t come from The Gap, I wanted nothing to do with it. I had mall hair, Keds, tight rolled jeans, Hypercolor shirts, the whole nine. It was all about image. Now I’m sickened by the thought of spending more than $20 on a pair of jeans.
But recently, we needed to replace our old car, and I resisted the thought of a minivan right up to the end. I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel yet, and our family of four fit nicely in a midsize SUV. But we test drove one “just to see,” and I never looked back. The room! The convenient contraptions on the dashboard! And it’s like it gave me an automatic license to drive slower. Safety first!
We might not pull up to the cool table in it, but rest assured we are comfortable and happy in there.
2. I realized my worth as a mother.
I felt so unappreciated for a long time, but now that my kids are older I am seeing things in them that I know came from me. It’s working! I see little undesirable things too, but we’re leaning on the good side here. The core is good.
3. I put on my swimsuit and played in the water with my kids.
I don’t take myself nearly as seriously anymore. I used to sit on the sidelines, self-conscious and embarrassed by my imperfect body. But now I am right there with my kids, running through the splash pad with huge buckets of water dumped on us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not in a bikini, and I’d prefer to go somewhere out of town, but if I wait for my body to be perfect, I’ll never get out there. They want to run around and play with me now, and I want to be there with them.
4. I stopped being scared and caring what people think.
For so many years I acted tough, but I was just scared of close relationships and so-and-so’s opinion. Life is too short, people. After a while, you just come into your own and relax.
I am confident in who I am and what I believe. I rarely pick any bones; there’s enough conflict out there. I have my opinion, and others have theirs, and we can all live happily ever after.
Remaining true to myself is the softest pillow.
5. I allowed myself to dream again.
For so long, I bought into the notion that after settling down and having kids, you have to go to a job you hate and just live like that forever, because “that’s what everyone does.” That’s what Dan and Roseanne did, and they got along okay.
A few years after leaving my job (that I actually liked) and being at home with the kids, I began to wonder, what now? I used to really like creative writing in high school. Is that maybe still a thing?
6. I took the time to rediscover my gifts, and started using them.
It’s definitely still a thing. I started a blog, and I absolutely love it. I am writing again!
I was scared to fail and scared to succeed, but I was doing it whether people read it or not. It was like a breath of fresh air.
7. I took the plunge on a dream.
I started thinking, maybe I can make a living from this. I wasn’t confident at all, but I gathered all of the information I could about freelance writing and started pitching clients and articles. I did it scared, and it took off.
People really identify with what I write, and I’m doing well. I’ll never look back. And I will do it whether I’m paid or not. Take that, Dan and Roseanne!
8. I stopped competing with people and started to encourage them.
It is so pointless to compete and compare. We are all on different legs of the journey, some are ahead of me, some are behind, some are beside.
If you are 40, you have a wealth of knowledge that can benefit a lot of people. You’ve overcome something, triumphed at something. You have a lot to offer. Offer it. The true greats aren’t afraid to help other people.
9. I discovered the secret to life.
Probably the greatest discovery of my entire life. I took the focus off of myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own stuff: What about me? What about me? What about me?
Well, the big picture is actually not about me. I’ve found that the severity of my problems greatly decrease when I’m helping someone else. I volunteer at a homeless shelter and get amazing perspective.
I got over myself and chose to encourage and build people up. There’s just nothing better than that.
10. I decided to give people a chance again.
I spent many years protecting my heart, wrapping barbed wire around it and then putting up walls. It’s a lonely and miserable existence when you cut yourself off from people. It’s a common defense when you’ve been hurt in the past.
But I have learned that there is so much more good out there than bad, and I’m pushing myself back out there to see what I can find.
So now I’m 40, and all of the clothing labels, crazy hair and attitude are essentially gone. Now it’s just plain old me, and I’m having the best year of my life. If you ever see a sweet gold minivan with tinted windows out there driving around (probably lost), be sure to say hi.