There are times that thirty sounds like a big number to me. With the first number being a three instead of a two, it somehow denotes a leap forward in responsibility, knowledge, and accountability. In my twenties, I always had this thought in the back of my head of “it’s ok if I screw up, I’m still getting ahold of this adult thing.” Now that I am in my thirties, I feel as though have been ridden of that excuse to not make good decisions, but in reality, the number is not a big deal.
Given the opportunity to go back and reverse the clock on my life, I wouldn’t. There is just so much that I have learned and experienced that I would not want to have to relearn. The subtle crow’s feet around my eyes are the result of smiling, laughing, and being outside. The thankfulness I feel for our current phase of life would not have been possible without the challenges of earlier phases. Things worth having come at a cost, whether it be signs of aging or unfavorable circumstances. God is good, and I am grateful for the lessons we have learned along the way.
As I grow more experienced in life, it makes me realize even more how much wisdom older people have. If I think I have life experience at age thirty, how much more do these people know who are in their sixties, seventies, eighties, and beyond? I have a heart for older people; they are just so interesting! For one thing, I am a big history buff, and talking with these people gives me great insight into the way the world was in years past. I just love talking to people of an older generation.
Elderly people have so much life experience, and it really gives them a valuable perspective. They can appreciate what phase of life I am in, because they have been there. They can see what is coming ahead for me, because they have been there. They have seen happiness, and they have seen sadness. They have seen war, and they have seen peace. They have seen loss, and they have seen gain. Older people can speak so much wisdom into our lives because they have already lived it. No situation on earth is unique, there is always someone who has gone through a similar thing.
I find that older people tend to be kinder, gentler, and sweeter than people who are younger. Of course, you have your exceptions. I worked in the healthcare industry, and I can assure you I have treated my fair share of cranky older people. However, the majority of them have been softened by life; but not in a way of being weakened. Rather, they have grown in the soft qualities of kindness, patience, gentleness, and understanding.
There is much to be learned from these wise folks, should we take the time to listen. I have been blessed in my life and career, as I have had a lot of older people to talk to. Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant gave me access to so many people that I would have never gotten to speak with, and I am thankful for that. Some of the discussed tidbits below will be the result of those interactions.
They say with age comes wisdom, and while there is certainly a correlation, wisdom is not an automatic byproduct of aging. It takes failures, life experience, a willingness to learn, and divine intervention. I certainly hope to become wise one day, but for now, I will enjoy sharing the experiences I’ve had and the shortcuts I’ve been shown.
Listen to the things the older generation tells you about life — they are usually right. It’s easy to say that we live in different times, or the world has changed significantly since that advice was practical. Life really doesn’t change that much from generation to generation. The window dressings of life may change, but the basic principles don’t. Treat others as you want to be treated, live within your means, and make time for the things that matter.
Conflict isn’t inherently bad, but it’s not easy. No one likes to be involved in a disagreement, but it is healthy. Oftentimes, the relationship is improved, and communication channels are more open afterwards. Conflict is often the price of admission for being in a close relationship with someone. It’s easy to get along with everyone when you operate at surface level. You don’t easily come across things to disagree on when you simply talk about the weather. So, in a way, conflict can be a sign of a good relationship.
Learn how to cook, clean, budget, and sew. These are life skills that are quickly becoming lost in a world that outsources everything. These little things will save money and time, in addition to ensuring a healthier diet. I hope to learn how to sew a button on this weekend (ha)!
Try to live on one income when/if you get married. It will really benefit your savings account, as well as giving flexibility for one parent to stay at home when/if kids come along. Sure, it will decrease your standard of living in the short term, but it will be so worth it in the long term. I wish we had done this, but hindsight is 20/20.
Pay with cash, and avoid using credit cards. You will open up the metaphorical Pandora’s box if you do this. Usage of credit cards is a slippery slope. It is so easy to lose track of what is being spent. Even if you monitor it closely, you can still end up with surprises at the end of the month. Another issue with credit cards is the reward points, which end up being nothing more than a red herring. No one gets rich off of those reward points, it just gives you an excuse to swipe. It took us a long time to get away from using credit cards, but it has been the best thing for us. Cash or debit is the way to go.
Think ahead when making a big purchase or life decision. Will this car, decision, etc. leave lingering effects in five or ten years? Oh, it’s tough being car people. They are fast, fun to drive, an extension of our personality, and expensive. Some of the worst financial decisions we have made have involved cars, and we even knew it at the time. The problem with that is, unless you are paying cash, you will be making payments for years. The deeper implication is that it becomes a situation that you cannot get out of easily, no matter what changes with your life circumstances. Plan ahead, even it seems excessive. Don’t buy a minivan at twenty-three, but make sure you will not be in a situation you will regret in a few years, i.e. being upside down on an auto loan with no cash to pay it off.
Time is not money. Time is much more valuable than money — it’s one of the best things you can give another person. We don’t remember the things we buy like we remember the experiences we share. We can work our lives away to make money for things we don’t need instead of taking the time to enjoy the blessings we have been given. Money should allow us to live, not monopolize our thoughts and time.
We will all need help eventually — be gracious to those who need it. Chances are, if you haven’t needed a lot of help recently, your time is coming. This was us for the last two years. We needed a lot of help getting on back on our feet after our baby was born. Neither one of us wanted me to work full-time or have the baby in daycare. The problem was, we had not prepared for that. I was just always going to work, or so we thought. After the baby arrived, that attitude quickly changed. We needed a lot of family help to reach the place where I could stay home full time. It was a blessing we will be forever grateful for.
Take an interest in what you and your family consume (food, entertainment, etc) — it has great and long lasting effects. A poor diet usually leads to poor health, just as a good diet lends itself to good health. This may be oversimplified, as there are plenty of health issues that arise without a dietary cause, but the general truth remains. The same is true for entertainment. What is the content of the TV, movies, and music that we consume? I don’t think we can lead peaceful lives if we are constantly paying attention to messages that are of a violent, sexual, or otherwise explicit nature.
Look for opportunities to be kind. You may never know how much you have helped someone simply by being kind.
Children are a blessing. As someone who was never drawn to little children when I was younger, this truth was something I had to experience in my own time. Having a kid is simply the best. Being a parent is the coolest, most exhausting, most transformative, most humbling, most rewarding, and most awesome thing I think I’ve ever experienced. You just can’t describe it. I have heard that phrase frequently applied to parenthood, and my mom was absolutely right. There’s nothing like it.
Prepare for the future, but don’t be obsessed with it. Who knows if your plans line up with God’s. Spoiler alert: they probably won’t. We can’t control our futures any more than we can control the wind. So make smart financial decisions, but don’t think that will guarantee you the life you desire.
Do what you say you are going to, and be a person of your word. As the Bible says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37). In other words, be genuine. That authenticity allows for greater connections with others, and it’s just the right thing to do. People know when you are being genuine, and when you are more worried about your personal convenience.
When making a big decision, it’s a good idea to get the opinions of neutral people within your circle. However, make sure you factor in their bias (we all have one). This will allow you to make a better assessment of 1) their advice and 2) your overall decision.
Have someone in your life that will tell you “no” or when you are wrong. It is a mistake to surround yourself with “yes” people. When we are only around people that are afraid to tell us the truth, we turn into little tyrants who always expect to get our way or be catered to. Being told when we are off base is humbling, helpful, and Biblical. We need to be balanced out by another person (or people) that have a different perspective than us. No one wants to spend much time with someone who never thinks they are wrong.
Live in the real world, not the digital world. The digital world will tell you that the sky is falling. Last time I checked, the sky was still in the same place it has been for the last two thousand plus years. Negativity sells better than positivity, so realize this when consuming online media. When we step out into the real world, we can usually encounter people who are kind and willing to engage. That kind of human to human interaction doesn’t seem possible according to the nightly news. Live in reality. A lot of times, it’s nicer than what can be seen in digital form.
Be careful about praying for patience when times get tough. I say this with a touch of humor, but it is true. I was talking with a patient of mine years ago, and I was telling her that I been praying for patience, as I was having a hard time with my super long commute (100 miles each way). She quickly told me “Don’t pray for patience. There is only one way to get it.” That struck me as being funny, but also profound. While God is perfectly capable of giving an extra dollop of patience in a challenging moment, He often allows trials or circumstances to come your way that facilitate growth in this area, speaking from personal experience. That conversation was about 8 years ago. I still think twice if I feel the need to pray for patience (ha)!
Life is made up of seasons. There are years for growth, and years for pruning back. There are years that ask questions, and years that give answers. Nothing is forever (good or bad), and that is something to be comforted by. Even when our lives can spin out of control, God is not surprised, and He is still sovereign.
Enjoy where you are in life. There is beauty in the struggle, and so much growth will happen in that space. I don’t know about you, but I learn a lot more when I am struggling compared to when I am on easy street. In fact, the feeling of peace and relief that follows a time of difficulty is often sweeter than the peace that was experienced prior to a challenge. Human beings are fickle. We need life’s circumstances to be constantly changing in order to have perspective on other situations. How much more can we empathize with someone that is going through a difficult time if we lived through that trying time too?
Life is a funny thing. We are up, we are down, and then we are in between. The back and forth dance of the day to day living can be exhausting, defeating, and downright challenging. However, there is beauty in the mundane, if we allow ourselves to see it. The daily challenges are often blessings in disguise. It is a blessing to have a home to clean, a family to cook for, a job that provides for you and your family, and a social life that leads to obligations. Attitude is one thing we can control, life circumstances are not. When we choose to see the world in an optimistic way, we can choose joy in the face of the mundane dog days of life.
I love the saying “I used to pray for the things I now have”. It shows perspective, thankfulness, and optimism. God is always good, and life is so much more fun when we choose to see things in a positive light. Let’s choose a way of living that has less complaining and more thanking — it will make your world a better place 🙂