Today is my 30th birthday! Happy Birthday to me! *doing the cabbage patch*
I’ve been uber-excited about this day for the last year. I know that generally most women are bummed when they turn 30, but not me. I made up my mind that I would usher in this day with great fanfare, and I did. My friends and I had a blast this weekend and this is definitely my best birthday ever! Thank you to those who came out to celebrate with me, who sent birthday wishes and words of support.
Another reason that I’m so excited is because my 20s sucked! (lol) I did some great things – fell in love, moved to DC, went to grad school, studied/traveled abroad, and started my own business… but my 20s were filled with growing pains, having to develop a thick skin, dealing with uncertainty, failure, and disappointment. I can confidently say that these experiences have made me a much stronger woman and today I stand tall as I bask in my grown-womanhood… but I’m SO glad that decade of my life is over!
I’m ready to dive into new experiences, learn to love myself even more, do it all in style and have fun along the way! Here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned during the last decade:
1. You are the authority on you.
No one can know you as well as you know yourself. Take the time to fully learn what your likes, dislikes, passions, skills and weaknesses are. You’ll get so much more out of life if you learn to live it to the fullest every day, and one way to get more out of each day is doing at least 1 thing daily that makes you happy. A good example of this lesson is that I have a big, goofy sense of humor. I used to be embarassed by my humor until I realized that the more I laughed, the happier I was. So if people don’t like when I joke around, they’ll smile and move away, but I won’t stop being happy Prosechild (I do know when its inappropriate however). This lesson was one of the first ones I learned and one that I feel is integral to the other lessons.
2. Trust your own judgment and don’t internalize the negative opinions of others.
This one is a two-fer. Learning to trust your own judgement is a gradual process. During my 20s I sometimes felt hesitant to step out on a limb during situations that I was unfamiliar with. I’d often ask friends, coworkers and other people I knew for pointers on navigating new situations. What I found was that, even if someone else had experience with what I was asking, my experience would often be different from theirs. And sometimes their advice wouldn’t be helpful at all. This lesson taught me that the best I can do in each situation is understand myself – my strengths, weaknesses and talents and anticipate how those factor into each situation.
Also, asking for this feedback opened me up to the negative opinions of others. Sometimes I would ask but frequently the advice of others came unsolicited. People take license to comment on your life and decisions, and I had to learn to smile and tune them out. You don’t need another’s negative attitude or disbelief to permeate your mind. Continue to strive for your dreams regardless of what others say. Some of the greatest men and women in history – Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Henry Ford, hell even Barack Obama – were told that the dream they pursued was impossible. What if they had taken this advice, how would our world be different today? So develop your own internal guidance system based on who you really are, and continue to press on despite what other people think of your endeavors.
3. The only opinion that matters is your own.
You trust your own opinion by choosing those things that make you feel good. If you’re wearing a dress that your friends don’t like, but you love and makes you feel good, then don’t change it. A happy, confident woman is much better than a fashion-foward woman who relies on the opinions of others. When you step away from the need for external validation, then you begin to live a fuller, more robust life. You’re an expert on little old you, what can someone else tell you thats better than what you already know?
4. Know when to chart your own course.
By trusting in my own judgement and leaning on my own opinion, I started to see that alot of the caveats that the black community lives by don’t work for me. How many of us have been told to “wait on the Lord” for a mate, to be seen and not heard; how many times has education, economic responsibility and accountability been discarded in favor of keeping up with the Joneses, acting ‘hard’ or ‘black’? How many excuses have been made for why black women are single in such proportions, the high out-of-wedlock birth rate or the numerous other ills of our community?
This is not to harp on any negative aspects of our race. This is moreso to illustrate how group think can and often does become detrimental to the individual. Walking alone is sometimes a lonely road, and like I wrote above, people often feel entitled to comment on your life and the choices you’ve made. Walk alone with conviction that when you turn away, y0u turn away to strengthen your own mental and physical health, to move closer to positive goals that not only benefit you but some of the same people who discourage you, and that being a goal/results-oriented woman is better than twiddling your thumbs and resting on your laurels.
5. Never give up on your dreams.
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly. ~Lanston Hughes
I think when people let their dreams die, its caused by a lack of faith, perserverance and impatience. One may feel that because something isn’t happening for them now, that it won’t happen later. Impatience is a form of faithlessless – you want things to hurry up and come to you because you want to be sure that it comes. Its hard to struggle financially and remain faithful that your situation will improve. Its hard, but not impossible. In that example, and in others, its possible to live in the now by enjoying the things you do have, while staying hopefully optimistic that all that you desire its on its way to you. Besides, you don’t want to look back, at the end of your life, and wonder what could have been.
Be sure to check out Part II, which I’ll post tomorrow.