It was perhaps apt that the big 30 was ushered in on three continents. Celebrated simply but beautifully surrounded by loved ones.
Here are some lessons that I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to be goofy and have fun. If it’s pretending to be the tickle monster with a set of 4 year old twins or 8 year old munchkins, do it. Chase them, tickle them and savor their uncontained laughter that emenates deep from their bellies. You’ll find that soon you will also be echoing their laughter. Watch cartoons. Play. Unapologetically. These are the moments that make you younger and bring out the kid in you. Don’t be afraid to experience them.
2. Have a bucket list. Write down the things you think are even far fetched and impossible. You’ll be surprised how the universe conspires to make your intentions come to pass. Especially when you speak (and write) them loudly to the universe.
3. The best time is often now. Don’t leave things for later or tomorrow. There’s a Hareri saying which I’m sure is echoed elsewhere that says, ‘later is the brother of never’ or something along those lines…later or tomorrow either don’t happen or are consumed by 101 other things
4. Breathe Beauty. By this I mean that one must seek and appreciate beauty in ordinary spaces and moments. Beauty is not perfection. It simply is. We must be awake to it. It’s all around us. It’s the rays of the sun streaming into a room and resting on someone’s face…it’s the petals of a bright flower…it’s a full or partial moon that seems to light up the sky…it’s a pattern on a dress…or a colorful street…or laughter
5. I’ve realized how happy it makes me to see (teenage) kids who respect, love, appreciate and honor their parents. As parents, we must treat our kids as though they are responsible members of the family whose viewpoints are sought, heard and acknowledged. As children, we must never dismiss the difficulty of being a parent, making decisions that are unpopular and living every day for the betterment of family. Keep family ties – there’s nothing like family.
6. There are friendships that are so deep and pure and real that they turn into family. Don’t take them for granted. They don’t come along often. Treasure them and feed and care for them. They are often what keep you sane.
7. Learn to spend time alone. No matter what kind of person you are, whether ambivalent, introverted or extroverted – this is important. Learn to be ok with silence when there’s no loud company or loud music or chatter to distract you from listening to and getting to know and be at peace with yourself. If we’re uncomfortable with ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to be?
8. Go with your first instinct. Don’t second guess yourself. This is true even when the contradicting voice is external and not internal. You’ll be happy you weren’t easily swayed later on.
9. Similar to the previous one, don’t be afraid to counter the dominant or mainstream. Don’t necessarily rebel for the sake of being different but understand that being different, holding an opinion that doesn’t feature very prominently is ok. Don’t change who you are or what you think based on the crowd you happen to be or find yourself with.
10. Someone’s always watching. Your words, your actions are being recorded and observed. Even when you least expect it and by those you least anticipate to be watching. Sometimes by young kids whose thinking and values are being shaped. Act and speak in a way that you would stand by at any time. This goes for your digital footprint as well.
11. Be conscious. Whether you believe it or not, your existence on this earth has an effect. Whether that effect is on the environment, or on a community or a family. You matter. Make your existence count. Make sure that at the very least, you have left the world a bit better than you found it. That could be as simple as not throwing trash on the streets. Or trampling on plants. Or harassing animals. Make sure that if those streets, or plants or animals could tell tales about you, it’s that you walked and existed on this earth with respect. Karma is real.
12. Make time to spend time with the elderly. They were born in a very different generation and have rich stories for days. There’s so much his and her stories captured in their brains and etched in their memories that one can’t get from books. Or anywhere else for that matter.
13. Perhaps back to #1 and #12, spend time with kids. They come with a different energy and bubbly enthusiasm that’s not dampened by life and jadedness. In the same vein, don’t be the one to dampen kids imaginations. It will serve them in the future and reduce limitations they put on themselves.
14. Love yourself. All of you. Flaws and all. Understand that you’re a work in progress, and you must work on those things that are in your power to change. But in the meantime, love, respect and appreciate who you are.
15. Enjoy the present. And the journey. Celebrate the small steps and the milestones.
16. Don’t get stuck on plan a. Life often throws you surprises … and what you think is certain is not. Learn to be flexible like bamboo, which means that you’ll bend rather than break.
17. Don’t ever forget your infallibility. And your mortality. And who is really in control. It will keep you grounded and humble. Although this shouldn’t be an excuse for a laissez-faire attitude on life.
18. There’s a time for patience and a time for impatience. Learn to know the difference.
19. Impossible is nothing. Don’t be afraid to dream. And dream big. But don’t stop there. You must be ready to execute and wake up in order to realize those dreams. As a friend once reminded me, impossible itself is telling us, ‘I’m possible’.
20. God is the ultimate judge. We mustn’t condemn or critique others’ actions for we know not what is in store for us. Let us focus on improving ourselves first and foremost and that in itself is a big contribution to society.
21. Don’t underestimate the power of faith. At times it is the one thing that gets us through the night or a difficult situation.
22. Love. Deeply. Don’t be afraid of pouring your love into another. It has the power to transform and doesn’t drain your reserves.
23. Don’t underestimate the power and medicinal properties of laughter. It’s good for the soul and keeps one radiant and young. It reduces stress and adds spice to life.
24. Don’t give power to ludicrousity. If such a word exists. Don’t feed, react to or dignify nonsense.
25. Put the Almighty first, always. Stand by your faith, unapologetically.
26. Be curious. Yes they tell us that curiosity killed the cat. We don’t often hear the second part of that, ‘satisfaction brought it back’. Curiosity leads to exploring, learning and discovering.
27. Take on challenges. It leads to tremendous growth but also makes one realize just what one is capable of.
28. Feed and cater to your creative juices. Read, write, draw, imagine. Beautiful things can be created through this process.
29. The monster is often bigger in our minds than it is in real life, if it even exists. The sooner we face it, the sooner we realize it’s not spooky or insurmountable.
30. And one last one for good measure. Your best benchmark is previous versions of yourself. May we always strive today to be better than yesterday, and tomorrow to be better than today.
Disclaimer: you may have read these lessons elsewhere, or at least something similar and so am not claiming they’re original…perhaps some are lessons I’ve been told or read about and implemented along the way…but all are lessons I find to have worked in my life…hope you benefit from being reminded of them.