Today, I begin a new year of my life.
Each year I reflect upon key philosophies that I’ve learned and choose to bring forward in life. I offer them here, in the hopes that they may be of value to you (such as last year’s philosophies of attaining happiness and feeling youthful).
What do you consider your birthday to be? I previously enjoyed my birthdays as an opportunity for self-celebration. It’s an obvious opportunity to feel special, to be pampered and indulged in, to be recognized and be paid attention to.
This year was different. I had an epiphany.
This past Saturday, I spent the day at my grandmother’s house with my parents, grandmother, and husband. At one point, my grandmother pulled out my late grandfather’s best shirts, and urged my husband to try them on. In her bedroom, I watched with moistening eyes as memories from the past were brought into the present and offered with love. Moving around the room, I ran my eyes and hands over familiar, faded and worn objects from my very early childhood, from when my grandparents used to take care of me.
It was emotionally moving – wondrous in a perplexing, curious way – to experience my past juxtaposed onto the present.
We laughed and joked as my husband tried on pieces of my grandfather’s life. I got some shots of him and my grandmother together, as well as photos of some of my grandmother’s everyday objects. Internally, I choked up a bit in sadness, recognizing my picture-taking as an effort to capture still-living, ephemeral moments, and to record loved memories of my past.
Later that night, I called my mom. A ‘quick call’ turned into a two-hour heart-to-heart talk in which she shared her frustrations and fears of the inevitable changes that come with age. I listened, and responded with my heart.
Age is inevitable. Losing parts of our life that we are unwilling to part with, whether it be the presence of a loved soul, or losing bits and parts of how we define ourselves (e.g. memory capabilities), is painful.
Here are some of the thoughts that I shared with my mom. They represent some of my main life philosophies, and are universal of age.
1. Find ways to hold precious memories close to you. Immortalize the beautiful, emotional moments when they happen, so that they do not fade into distant memory, or away completely.
It is impossible to hold onto the full, original essence of an experience. But you can take elements of such, and craft them into mementos that carry a fair significance of the original.
It could be via photography, writing, a recorded audio or video interview, or a combination of multiple mediums. Whatever the form, the act of thoughtfully expressing your impression and sentiment will give you the opportunity to highlight the most meaningful elements. The result will be something that vividly represents a memory that will not be diluted or lost over time.
2. Acknowledge that things beyond your control will change, and that you will have to find ways to adapt.
There are some amazing life events that you won’t be able to anticipate; that is the magic and joy of life. On the other hand, there are also less-desirable circumstances that have a high or absolute certainty of coming-to-be.
You can anticipate some of yours by learning from those who have already taken paths that you will likely take.
Knowing the changes that may lie in front of you, you may choose to put off addressing it until it comes up. Or, having identified them, you could actively start considering and strategizing options. By doing so, you will be better-prepared to accept the inevitable, having positioning yourself for a smoother emotional transition.
As example, my mother warned me of the high likelihood of greying in my mid-30s, as did she. Given that, I considered my desire to color my hair, and timing of such. I decided to hold off on hair coloring in my 20s to enjoy my natural highlights, and gave myself permission to more drastically change my hair color once I started going grey. I’m now in that transition phase, and instead of being resigned or upset, I plan to have fun with it!
3. Don’t be overly judgmental on yourself. Keep a positive and self-accepting mindset, and instead look for new self-development opportunities.
It’s healthy to be critical of oneself. On the positive side, it encourages self-growth and improvement.
However, with age, you also gradually lose capabilities or characteristics that you may have previously taken for granted (e.g. your hearing peaks in your early 20s and then starts going down).
Obviously, it can be a frustrating and upsetting process. But if you focus and fixate on what you’ve lost and can’t change, you could stagnate in self-pity. I would choose to utilize that energy to look for new, creative opportunities to express or develop yourself.
4. Do things that make you feel fulfilled.
I say ‘fulfilled‘, not ‘happy‘, which is a much more commonly-expressed sentiment. I believe that acting upon the larger sense of self-purpose is a key element of living a great life.
You could choose to measure life in small, easily-achievable segments of short-term happiness. But instead, consider framing and taking action on your longer-term goals. By investing in and accomplishing your passions, the self-validation you gain is significantly more valuable than individual, ephemeral joys.
When all is said and done, I believe we aspire to have led a meaningful life. Fill the pages of your life story with experiences that enable self-exploration, introspection, and growth to build a rich narrative that you’re proud of.
This year, my epiphany was that a birthday should not be so narrowly-defined as a celebration of oneself, and that life changes faster than we would want it to. A birthday is a fantastic occasion to recognize and appreciate those who make one’s existence possible.
To my family, thank you for forming and guiding who I am, and for your love, which will live with me through all of my life.
Also, a very special thank you to my husband, who understands and supports me so deeply and intuitively, that I’m continuously amazed that such a beautiful, complementary soul exists to be my lifelong dance partner.
I thank you today, and every single day of my life. I love you.
P.S. If this post was inspirational/helpful for you, I think you would enjoy reading this post about philosophies of youth and happiness) from last year.