Yesterday I turned 50th. While this birthday has me excited, it also has me in a reflective mood. My daddy passed away when he was 49, and my momma died when she was 50, and after recently developing a blood clot in my lung, I find myself thinking a lot about life, what I want to accomplish before I leave this earth (in the very distant future) and the lessons I’ve learned on my journey.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- God is everything. Even though my momma kept me and my brothers in church all the time, I didn’t really establish a personal relationship with Him until I was in my 20s. Looking back, I know it was nothing but the grace of God that kept me. I wonder why I wasted so much time trying to figure things out on my own.
- Family is everything. I spent the first 13 years after I graduated from college living far away from my family. It wasn’t until I moved back to Birmingham in 2006 that I realized how important that bond is. It’s not that I didn’t know it before, but experiencing family as an adult is totally different. There is no way you can pay for that type of bond.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. There have been so many times I’ve been afraid, but I’ve learned sometimes all I need to do is take one step. That step has taken many forms—moving to New York in my 20s, sending an email asking about (and later receiving) work, walking away from bad relationships, opening myself up to love—but it has the common result of leading to so many amazing opportunities.
- Your dreams can come true. I’ve wanted to write books since I was 14. I didn’t actually sit down to write one until after I had my daughter in 2004. I received a book deal in 2006. The way it came about, I know it was nothing but the grace of God. It taught me that no matter how young or old you are, your dreams can come true. Trust me, if my dreams can come true, yours can too.
- No is a complete sentence. I used to feel guilty about saying no. Now I don’t, and I don’t feel the need to explain why I’m saying it. You can tell someone no without offering an explanation.
- Teach people how to treat you. People will do to you what you allow to be done. If you don’t like the way someone is treating you, you have to tell them, even if butterflies are doing backflips in your belly when you do it. If they have a problem with you saying something, then it’s time to put distance between you and the other person.
- People see you the way you see yourself. Years ago, long before I became an editor, I referred to myself that way. The interesting thing is people started calling me that too. Funny how that works.
- You are the only Bible some people will ever read. You can’t profess to be a Christian and then walk around cursing folks out and talking about people behind their backs. People will assume that’s how all Christians behave. Your behavior should be a reflection of Christ.
- I am enough. I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes, but every day, I’m trying to get better.
- It’s never too late. With the passage of time, you may start to wonder like me whether it’s too late. I’m telling you, it’s not. Whatever you want to do or accomplish—whether it’s going back to school, pursuing your dreams, or falling in love—as long as you have breath in your body, it’s not too late to make it happen.
- Learn to be happy where you are. I lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for two years. I met some awesome people, but honestly, I spent most of my time there wondering when I was going to leave. I learned a valuable lesson: If you can’t be happy where you are, you can’t be happy where you want to be.
Speaking of happy, even though my birthday was yesterday, I’ll be celebrating this milestone all year, so Happy 50th Birthday to me.