Where do I even start? The thing is, I don’t feel old enough to be writing a letter to my younger self, because I feel as if I’m still there, imperviously in my twenties, filled with energy and curiosity. Although the calendar doesn’t lie, embracing certain life lessons was precisely the foundation that allowed me to remain so open-hearted well past my thirties. Perhaps sharing them with you might make a difference when your silver years come knocking.
Learn to let go
Of friendships, jobs, relationships, pain, grudges and failures, above all else, although life teaches us all to let go of anything that ties us to the past. Fond memories and scars are unique lessons that should never be unlearned, and they are a part of the substance that makes us who we are. Once they become intertwined with your existence, there’s not much to let go of.
But I can remember being angry over silly things too many times, and countless arguments that had absolutely no basis. The first job and first boyfriend I had were in my young mind something of a perpetual truth, impossible to end. Much like my mother’s life. But when they did collapse, one by one, it felt as a tsunami rushed over my fragile life and took away all the bits and pieces that made any sense.
Call them what you please, injustice, the natural order of things, entropy having its way again, but if you don’t learn to let go and embrace a new step forward, you’ll miss so many timeless moments that lie ahead, that the value of your sorrow will perish. What good is our pain if it doesn’t teach us anything, but only makes us prisoners of our past?
Stay in the moment
While I’m on the subject of Master Oogway (yes, I’ve watched Kung Fu Panda an embarrassing number of times with my kids), grasping the fleeting sense of the present is a lesson I have yet to master, as do we all. For all my eager enthusiasm during college and all my untamed spirit of early adulthood – I worried too much. It was all about the what ifs and what could have beens, instead of just letting go and enjoying the moment.
It’s precious, our brief existence, and we only get a glimpse of its transient nature when we come face to face with grief over a lost loved one, and when we ourselves start nearing our end. I used to meditate for the sake of serenity, because the stress of parenthood, work and unexpected turns of events caused me to need a moment of quiet and solitude.
Today, I value meditation for its most profound, simplest purpose, and that is to anchor myself into now. I learned to enjoy the beauty of breathing, and embraced the gratitude for all the everyday functions that we often take for granted – the smell of my morning coffee, being able to walk, see and hear, the taste of water. If you wait only for the grandiose moments to happen, you’ll spend most of your time waiting to live, while true, raw life happens to you.
Appreciate your future
I felt genuinely invincible in my youth, and I’m still guilty of that feeling, but the frailty of life has taught me the extent to which our actions shape our future. Even the smallest of choices have an impact on how your life will unfold. Had I known that a one more year of savings could have amounted to a trip to Bali, I would have been much more encouraged to skip on buying a dress or two for the sake of an exotic vacation.
Not to mention the fact that planning for retirement was nowhere near my mind when I was in college – the furthest my thoughts reached was my following year of studies, or a job search for the summer. We rarely consider whether we want to live in retirement homes or stay with our kids, do we? I want to spend my old days not as a burden to my family, but in comfort, and being taken care of properly, but that takes years of planning ahead.
Somehow, seeing my nana pass away while she was still sharp and perfectly mobile seemed like an unspoken promise that the same fate will befall me as well. But you never know what life has in stake, and old age can be as rewarding as it can be challenging, as I have yet to see myself.
Kindness above all
But if there’s a single lesson that sums up the above, and a single piece of wisdom that can guide any soul, young or old through life, that would be to choose kindness. It comes in many shapes and forms, from self-respect, forgiveness, awareness, appreciation, to letting go and caring for your future self, kindness is the basis of a peaceful life.
Do not avert your eyes when you see someone struggling. Give them your smile and a kind word, even if that’s all you have to give – sometimes that’s more than enough to make a difference. Do not judge the funny dressed gal with a quirky voice, or the cranky man across the street, give them the right to tell and live their own stories, especially if they have caused you no harm. And don’t waste your time on grudges. Even if someone is no longer worthy of your friendship or love, let go, move on, and don’t let anger fester in your soul.
There will be moments in life when sorrow will feel like water drowning your spirit, and those that fill out your heart with bliss. Embrace them all as life-building puzzle pieces and cherish them – they will someday shape your old self, and provide you with wisdom to greet another tomorrow with grace.