Forty will be here in a few days.
Something happens when you start approaching a milestone birthday like this one. You spend a lot of time in quiet introspection, contemplating where you’ve been and where you’re headed. True, it happens at other times, too. But as I conclude the final days of my 30’s I’ve been feeling a surge of what I can only describe as equal parts nostalgic joy and quiet anticipation.
I take great pleasure in sentimental remembrance of all I’ve experienced and witnessed in the last 40 years, knowing there’s been far more good even in the midst of pain. But I also feel a measure of satisfaction when I evaluate where I’ve fallen short and made mistakes. Because I can only regret something once I’ve learned there’s a better way.
One of the things that has never sat well with me is the idea that to live a happy and full life you need to live without regrets…that looking back and wishing we’d made some different choices somehow keeps us locked in the past and prevents us from being happy and healthy in our present. This, coupled with the sentiment that we reach a point where we’re suddenly “too old to change”, leaves me baffled. Being dissatisfied, disappointed even, in certain decisions is an essential part of the gift of life experience that shapes us and our relationships. To refuse to live with any regrets is terribly short-sighted.
Looking back on the last 39 years I can tell you without hesitation I absolutely have regrets.
I regret I spent so much time worrying about what other people thought of me.
I regret the years spent dissatisfied with my younger, stronger, more flexible body, because it did not fit into a size 8 pair of jeans.
I regret being quick to lose my temper and slow to forgive.
I regret holding myself and my loved ones to such impossibly high standards and expectations that disappointment and failure were inevitable.
I regret all the times I lost my temper with my kids, especially over the little things, instead of keeping my cool and some perspective.
I regret not spending more time actively seeking God, and instead waiting for things to fall apart before seeking comfort in His word and love.
I regret all of the time spent looking ahead to what was next instead of just being content and fully present in the here and now.
“Because I can only regret something once I’ve learned there’s a better way.”
I look back on the past 39 years and there is so much that I wish I did more or less of, did differently. But I’m thankful for that view of the past because it has led to a much healthier, more content person in the present. One who has learned a lot about what’s most important in life and where to focus her time and energies. She’s not perfect, but I like this me more than any previous version.
Forty will be here in a few days. And I look forward to entering this next decade with a little more patience, a little more grace for myself and others, a little more content to be here and present, and little more reliant on God.
I expect that by the time I hit 60, 80, (maybe even) 100 I will look back on the previous decades and see the things I should have, could have done differently, because God’s not done with me yet.
No matter how old I get I hope I never close myself off to allowing Him to change and mold me into the person He’s created me to be. I know this body — this life — is not my final destination, but I’d like to make the most of it while I’m here.
Yes, forty will be here in a few days and I’m quite alright with that.