In one of my last blog post I was reminiscing about time gone by after having lunch with a couple of classmates I hadn’t seen in years. I’ve been out of high school for 36 years and that was the first time I have been with the two of them since then. I ended the post speculating on the lessons we could have taught our 17 year old selves and my niece challenged me to write about that. It almost paralyzed me into blog inaction forever but I’m finally getting around to it.
I would say kindness to self would be at the top of my list. I was so insecure and so lacking in confidence as a young women and I did many things to try and fit in and gain acceptance. I looked for comfort in all the wrong things. I didn’t believe I was worth much and that attitude was reflected in my choices and my behavior. I had terrible body image issues and always felt “less than.” If I could go back in time and convince myself that all those tapes swirling around in my brain were LIES and that I was a precious child of God, made in his image and just the way he intended I would have saved myself a lot of pain and misery. I would NEVER talk to other people the way I talk to myself...the horrible things I have repeated to myself over the years make me cringe and I wish I could say it has stopped but that would not be true. I have a much easier time looking beyond the physical with other people, seeing people for their awesome hearts, but when it comes to me all I see is what the mirror reflects back and each year that gets a little worse.
I would say choose your friends wisely. The people you surround yourself with show the world who you are and, in addition, color your every day existence, either negatively or positively. I’ve had a lot of good friends go in and out of my life but these days I am more discerning about who I allow to get next to me. I have no time for toxic people. I have “friends” on Facebook that post the most negative and hateful pictures and material, from sites set up with no other purpose in the world other than to denigrate, mock and disrespect, all under the guise of informing people about the “real” truth, as they perceive it. These are usually political in nature, either targeting the president or anyone associated with the president or any group of people that believes differently than themselves. These posts are not inviting dialogue or trying to educate or affect change. They are simply inflammatory and their only purpose seems to be so like minded people can rally and laugh and they can congratulate themselves for their superior intellectual and moral character. People that make these posts are immediately “hidden” from my daily feed. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone on everything they post but their message is hopefully not lost on their delivery. I actually really enjoy reading and learning about different lifestyles, religions, and cultures but it has to be presented with integrity and respect.
I’d tell myself to be more patient, have more compassion and don’t be so judgmental. To my 17 year old self everything was black and white. I thought I had the answers to everything. The older I get the grayer my world becomes and I really understand how little I know. I really try to understand both sides of all contentious social issues from abortion to gay marriage to gun control. I listen to my heart. Our hearts cannot delight in what our minds cannot embrace. God convicts me of certain things and they may be different than the convictions of other Christians and that’s okay with me. If, on judgment day, I find I fell on the wrong side of some issues then I’ll have to depend on God’s grace and mercy and I’m okay with that too.
I would say to find a passion and parlay that into a way to learn your living. I have always envied people who knew from any early age what they wanted to do for a career. If only I could find someone to pay me for loving animals!! I’ve had some good jobs and I’ve had some really horrible jobs but the one constant I remember is keeping track of how much time I have left. I wish I was doing something where I dreaded the thought of retirement.
I would also remind my younger self that how I live my life DOES reflect on my parents. I remember my mom used to take everything SO personally and I could not understand why my choices mattered so much to her. Causing her pain is one of my biggest regrets. Of course, now I do understand she had my best interests at heart and was trying to help me avoid the subsequent pain of bad choices. There are many things I did that still shame me terribly……I know God has forgiven me but I have a hard time forgiving myself. It reminds me of a story I read once about a grandfather who told his grandsons they could do anything in the barn, but please do not pound nails in the barn door. Of course they did and when he confronted them they apologized and promised to pull the nails out and they did but there still remained the scars of those nails on the door. Let’s just say I have many scars on my barn door.
I’m sure there are many more conversations I could have with myself but this is a start.
Happy New Year everyone!!