By: Jennie Scott
As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop, alone. Of course, there are other people in the building, so I guess I’m not technically alone, but I came here without anyone else, on purpose.
I had a few hours to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to be alone with a caramel macchiato and my laptop.
This is proof of growth, my friends. Ten years ago, I never would have chosen solitude when there might have been another option. I would have worried about what people thought if they saw me by myself, and I would have chosen strangers’ perceptions over my own needs.
Now? Who cares what they think? I like being alone. (And I’ve learned that very few people are paying attention to what I do. Most of us humans are wrapped up in our own worlds and our own minds, and even if we notice someone drinking coffee alone, we usually don’t give it a second thought. It’s just what people do.)
I’m staring down age 40, and my next birthday will be the one decorated in black and “Over the Hill” signs and balloons.
Lots of people dread this milestone, but I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’s taken me a while to grow into who I am, but now that I know myself, I like myself. Plus, I’ve learned there are incredible gifts that come with age, and the ability to be by myself — and be at peace — has been a great one.
Another gift of age? The ability to speak my mind with confidence when my mind needs to be spoken, but understanding that my thoughts don’t always need to be voiced. As a child (and teenager and young adult), I always had a lot of thoughts. I had strong feelings on a variety of topics, but along with my strong feelings came an almost paralysing self-consciousness. For a lot of reasons that I won’t get into here, I just didn’t feel confident saying what I thought. So I held myself back and let myself feel inferior and remained quiet when I really should have done the opposite.
But as I’ve gotten older and have experienced a lot of life, I have learned to allow myself to take up space in the room, and that includes with my words. But just as importantly, I’ve also learned that having thoughts doesn’t demand I verbalise them. I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs as part of my daily Bible study, and it amazes me how often I read a proverb about wisdom. Wisdom and discernment go hand in hand, and often if I stop to consider my words before I say them, I realise they just aren’t necessary.
Another gift I’ve aged into? Not falling for fads and trends and the latest gimmicks. I’ve never been one to jump on bandwagons, but in the back of my mind, I sometimes wondered if I should. I sometimes felt left out if I wasn’t wearing what everyone else was or using the products everyone else used. But a gift that has come with time is that my care-meter on things like that has gone way down. Those fads and trends just don’t matter to me like they used to.
I know my own style, I know the products I like, and I trust my own judgment. Thank you, four decades of living!
I’ve also, over time, learned that someone else’s way of doing things doesn’t have to be mine. You like working 60 hours a week? Go for it. That’s a no for me. You want to micro-manage every second of your kids’ lives and make it virtually impossible for them to ever be independent? Nope. You want to brag about never getting a date night with your spouse? My husband and I are going to dinner, come hell or high water.
Don’t get me wrong — I still get that nagging temptation to compare my life to others’ and wonder if they’re doing it better. But with every additional day I live, I grow stronger and more confident in the way I’m living and the decisions I choose.
One of the greatest gifts of my age is the knowledge that people are just people. The hierarchy I used to believe in is garbage. Regardless of title, position, income, or address, every human being is a human being. There are some the world elevates and treats as better than, but it’s simply not true. Not one of us is any better than another. (And the people who insist on others noticing them are usually the most insecure.)
I still fail daily, but I try to be intentional to see people the same — all created in God’s image; all worthy of love and respect.
If the first 40 years of my life have taught me anything, it’s that change is necessary. Things I used to value and believe have evolved, and I’m actually really good with that. I want to be a person who is constantly improving, and improvement requires change.
So, 40, I’m looking forward to you — and all the new lessons to come!
(What did I leave out? What are some lessons you’ve learned as you’ve gotten older?)
Article supplied with thanks to Jennie Scott.
About the Author: Jennie is married with two children who shares lessons from her own unexpected journeys and encouragement you might need for yours.