When I was about 14-years-old I made the decision that 22 was the perfect age. At the time 22 seemed centuries away, so it gave me just enough time to arrive at a life I was crazy about. Unfortunately there was substantial build up to my perfect age, and like every year the birthday came and went. I haven’t thought about my perfect age for a while, but now less than a week before my 32nd birthday, I have been thinking about it often. I don’t think about 22 but more about who I was at 22, and being thankful I have grown so much since then. So in celebration of my upcoming birthday, here are the top five lessons I have learned in the past ten years:
1. Continuously grow.
I think when I was younger I assumed that I would hit a plateau of sorts in multiple areas of my life, fitness, friends, and happiness. A person grows up hearing “high school/college were the best years of my life,” so a person can almost start to believe that. But how depressing! Typically you are so young when you are in college; so to think that the rest of your life you will look back at those days as the best..no thank you! I specifically remember when I graduated undergraduate school I made a commitment to myself to work really hard so that each year I live is better than the last. Obviously life happens and part of life is pain, loss, maybe even seasons of depression, but choosing to actively engage in my own happiness has been monumental. I want to be able to look back on Sam in 5, 10, 15 years and laugh at her, enjoy her, but never miss her. Becoming my most authentic self means actively working on myself year after year. I don’t get it right a lot of the time, and I have filled myself with disappointment but if there is one thing that I am good at it is dusting myself off, planning for a better future, and telling myself to, “get it together, Sam.”
2. Regardless of my family dynamic: marriage, kids, dogs… friends will always be necessary for my internal joy.
Authentic friendships are the pillar of my being. I have met many women over the years that do not have strong women friendships and this conversation is always so interesting to me. I have heard it all, “women gossip”, “I don’t trust them”, “they’re fake”, “I get along with males more than females.” While some of this may be true, if these beliefs have been true for you, it is important to ask yourself what kind of friends you have been seeking; and maybe more importantly, what kind of friend you are. I have found that to have good friends one hast to learn how to be a good friend; and yes this means holding your tongue when gossiping sounds fun, waking up in the middle of the night to watch Overboard when your friend is sad (thanks Steph!), being mindful of the little things, and staying in contact. Friendships just like any relationship they need love, trust, and fuel. If you find you are lacking in good women friends I would encourage you to seek them out. Women are absolutely amazing and the friendship possibilities will add so much joy to your life. I am thankful for my friendships, not only for the fun and joy that they have given me, but because without them, I would have never experienced the personal growth that I have.
3. Worrying really does age me.
From the time I was small I have been a worrier. Being in the mental health field I know that worrying can take over one’s life. I remember being a kid someone told me, “I think you just like to worry.” I mean who likes to worry exactly? Although I don’t, I understand the sentiment. Sometimes worrying is easier than engaging in effective coping skills not to worry—worrying takes less work. So, on the brink of anxiety controlling my life I figured out my most effective way of dealing with it. Although it still creeps up more often than I would like, the skills that I have acquired have given me the control back to my life. Now worrying may not be your thing, but maybe sadness, harmful relationships, high risk behaviors are; so looking at how to take control over those parts of ourselves that can so easily gain control over us, can undoubtedly impact your growth process.
4. Always seek adventure.
Adventure is my life! I have learned, especially over the past couple of years, that I don’t want to live without adventure. I have even started to keep track of my mood, and have noticed patterns about myself. When I don’t have something adventurous to look forward to, or when it has been awhile since my last one I start to get irritable, moody, and frankly kind of sad. Some could look at my need for adventure as a unhealthy or as an obsession, because believe me I have heard both, but I think the opposite. Everyone has to find something to make their soul kick, I have found mine, and I could never feel sorry about being in touch with myself and nature.
5. Never underestimate my ability to shock, challenge and rock my own world.
John Muir Trail
I have a race coming up this weekend. I decided to do this one fairly last minute, and what really sold me on the run was the fact that I could be crossing the finish line right before my 32nd birthday. Now with that said, I am nervous. The last 100-miler I attempted I had to drop down to the 50-miler, and although that was the best decision for me that lingering fear of quitting has been sitting with me here and there ever since. Going into this race knowing that it’s another 100-miler, 24k of elevation gain overall, and with a 36 hour cut-off time, honestly scares me. But one thing I have always been committed to is never allowing fear to control my decisions. If the timing doesn’t work out, if I’m not ready, or if I don’t have the money to do it then okay, but not because it scares me. So with that, I bought myself my $300 birthday present and signed up for the race. So here I am waiting for Friday, unsure about how everything will go down, nervous about the possibility that I will be sick and slightly anxious about the pain I know is inevitable, but more than anything I am excited. I am excited that I will see so many of my friends this weekend, excited that my family will be there to celebrate the big finish, and excited that on the eve of my 32nd birthday, I should be crossing the finish line of my 3rd 100-miler. But mostly I am excited because one day years from now I will look back on this and know that this was just the beginning.