Column: A note to my younger self

I turn 40 at the end of the month. No black balloons needed. No mid-life crisis waiting in the wings. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned in these four decades for all of the bikini-clad, childless, debtless, no-strings-attached days of an American 20-year-old. No thanks. I’ve gone down that road once, and while it was fun, I am happy to never go that way again. In fact, I’d like to tell my younger self a thing or two about the journey to come:

1. Fake it. Everyone else is. Recognize early that there is no perfect job, no perfect position, no perfect company and no perfect person. We are all flawed and doing the best we can do. You are your worst critic. Relax. And when you stumble, learn from your mistakes. But keep at it. Others will quit. You aren’t the best, but hang in there long enough to see the benefit of perseverance.

2. Learn from every experience. Yes, even when you are in that dead-end job that forces you to wear panty hose every day. You are not only learning about different careers and different companies, you are learning about yourself. And panty hose will soon go out of style.

3. Find your joy. Determine what you love to do, and do it. Those around you benefit when you are happy.

4. Don’t worry about what other people think. You can’t control it. The thoughts of others should never be a deciding factor in any choice you make. Ever. Be yourself. Know yourself. Laugh loudly, dance freely, and write openly without always looking over your shoulder for approval.

5. Recognize the many paths available to you. Choose wisely. But choose and move on. Don’t sweat decisions after you make them. Often, there are numerous right answers. And sometimes even the “wrong” choices you make will turn out all right. You might be a bit bruised, but you’ll gain wisdom.

6. Don’t cut your hair to your earlobes when you are 30. You don’t have the nose for it.

7. Take life slowly. You have much more time than you think. Savor the small moments. Don’t expect everything at once. Learn to be satisfied with an ordinary day.

8. Cut your fellow man some slack. Even that slow-as-molasses cashier chomping on gum and not making eye contact. Even that reckless driver that made you swerve. You never know what their life looks like at home. Stop being so critical. Breathe deeply and be gracious.

9. Know that you will have children. Quite a few, actually. So while you are mourning a baby lost or a barren womb, know this: There are many shrieks of laughter, howls of pain, and moments of quiet snuggles ahead of you. You will make it through this trial, and there is joy at the end.

10. Be fully aware. Every moment of every day, be awakened to your blessed life. Recognize the daily gifts and be grateful.

Consider these thoughts, my younger, fresher self. The skin I’m wearing at age 40 is certainly looser than yours, but I’m more comfortable in it.