You know what happens when you turn 30? Nothing much, really. You probably still do the same kind of job, you’re most likely still in love with the same person you’ve been in love with for the past 5 years, you still fit in the same sets of clothes, your looks probably hasn’t changed all that much.
But when you zoom out and look at how your life has changed year, after year, after year, you’ll find yourself rhetorically asking yourself, how on earth did I end up here again?
I turned 30 years old about three months ago, and some of you probably remember that I’ve always wanted to post something like this on my 30th birthday. Three months in the making, here’s my attempt at putting together a 30-item list of lessons I learned in the past 3 decades. Some of these items may not apply to everyone, some of them others may not agree with, but all of them are based on my personal experience and are proven true in this life of mine.
And surely I learned more than just 30 lessons in the past 30 years. I’m just sharing the ones I remember so well, hoping that you’ll pick up a thing or two. :)
1. It’s impossible to go through life alone.
I’m not saying it’s challenging, or difficult. I’m saying it’s impossible. No one is strong enough or independent enough to be happy and successful, and I know this because at one point in my life I thought I could be truly happy living on my own. I was wrong. Whether it’s your husband, or your family, or your best friend, you need someone to do life with. Live it with people who love you for everything you are, and whom you can love the same way back.
2. Wherever you are, be all there.
(Thanks Jim Elliott, for these wise words.) Here is a generation of people who seem to have been born with ADHD. You often feel trapped inside your own body while your mind wanders in far off places. When you have a job, you want to resign and find a different one. When you’re single, you want to be married (and vice versa). When you’re in Manila, you want to be somewhere else. Every time you feel this way, be reminded that God placed you where you are right now for a reason. Instead of wishing to be somewhere else, enjoy the here and now.
3. The days are long but the years are fast.
One day you’re cramming your undergraduate thesis, the next day you’re living your dream job or starting a family. Or.. one day you’re just saying “I do”, and the next day you’re a mother and there’s no turning back. Time already flies as it is, don’t rush it any more than that. Make the most out of every season in your life.
4. Preserve memories, keep remembrances.
Moments pass us by and our minds can only remember so much, so try to preserve memories as much as you can. Take lots of photographs, write a journal, timestamp milestones, publish a blog even. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if used in moderation, are good tools for keeping memories. Use them well.
5. At one point in your life, you’ll lose a loved one over death.
And it will feel like a part of you also died with that person. Cry, lose control, it’s okay. You’ll always miss him and there will always be that empty seat in every occasion (Christmasses, birthdays, weddings), but be assured that coping will get better each day. Instead of letting his death break you, use his memory as a motivation to carry on and live your life to the fullest. Even better, treasure each day with your loved ones and appreciate the big and small things.. while they last.
6. Passion is the single most important thing in doing any job.
Talents and skills are important. So is experience and compensation. But if you don’t love what you’re doing or the people you work with, it’s only a matter of time when your job starts sucking the life out of you. If you’re not driven by some level of passion, then it’s time to really assess what you want to do in your life. Best thing that can happen is you find an employer who’s willing to invest in you for your passion. Doing a job you’re not exactly crazy about, but knowing that you’re doing it for people you’re passionate about, is also a good place to be. I say, take that job which makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and spread your wings.
7. The greatest affirmations you’ll ever receive are not words.
A tap on the back from a boss who hasn’t spoken to you in days, a thumbs up from a person you look up to, a warm hug on a bad day, or the sweet smile of an innocent child—these are the greatest validations (and the greatest rewards) you’ll ever receive. When you receive them, then you’ll know that your work is not in vain.
8. It’s never too late to chase new dreams.
However old you are and wherever in life you are, you can always make new dreams. In fact, don’t be stuck with old dreams, open your eyes for new opportunities. Dream dreams for yourself, for your family, for your kids. It’s a beautiful feeling to know that you’re not alone in making your dreams come true.
9. People judge, God vindicates.
At one point some family members will not support your choices, or your friends will not understand your actions. Even random strangers will have an opinion on your decisions and the way you do things. You don’t have to explain yourself to them or to even try to prove them wrong. Focus on God’s leading, carry on with your life, shut down the noise. If you know in your heart that you’re simply following God’s lead, He will be the one to vindicate you in the end.
10. God’s timing always prevails.
You can make gantt charts and make plans all you want, but God’s timing always prevails. It’s okay to prepare for the future, but don’t be too wrapped up in the schedule you set for yourself. Instead, trust that God knows what’s best, and wait for His perfect timing. He’s never too early or too late.
11. Invest in the young people.
You never lose by investing time and resources to young people. Pick up your phone to give them a call, have coffee with them, get to know them, raise funds so that they can go to leadership camps, pray for them. They are the next generation’s teachers, leaders, parents, missionaries, CEOs. Remember that sometime in your young life someone also invested in you and helped you become who you are today. Pay it forward.
12. Marry someone who makes you laugh.
If you’re not married yet, surround yourself with friends who make you laugh. And I don’t just mean someone who makes you smile, I mean laugh! The kind of laughter which makes your sides hurt, and makes an entire room of people stare at the two of you and think you’re crazy. Life gets complex sometimes, problems happen, difficult people arrive uninvited—you’ll need a really good laugh every now and then.
13. You can’t change the past, but you can let go.
You can’t change the wrong choices you made, but you can let them go. And while you’re at it, forgive yourself for making those mistakes. Don’t carry around baggages from the past, they will only slow you down. When you forgive yourself, you’ll realize that you feel lighter, happier, and more grateful for the lessons that you learned. It also follows that you let go of the hurt and mistakes other people caused you.
14. Forgive, just as you were forgiven.
To forgive is one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you must release forgiveness to someone who caused you an enormous amount of pain. Even more difficult if the person who hurt you is not asking for forgiveness. Forgive, anyway. Forgive everyday. It’s easier to harden your heart or to be indifferent, but you’ll never experience true peace if you don’t learn to forgive.
15. Wealth is not about money.
The measure of happiness and fulfillment is not based on the material and financial things you acquire in your life, but on the people you journey your life with. True security is not based on how much money you have in your savings account, but on the assurance that God provides. How you define “wealth” determines how fulfilled and content you become with your life.
16. Gratitude is the antidote to discontentment.
Practice gratitude every day. Don’t take note of what you don’t have, instead, be grateful for what you do have. It’s easy to fall into a state of anxiety and self-pity when things are not going the way we expect, when doors are slammed shut to our faces, or when people around us are being too difficult. The trick to proofing yourself from discontentment is to count your blessings, look at the glass half full, and simply be thankful even when things don’t seem to make sense.
17. You never lose by being kind.
The opposite of which is, you lose everything by being mean— you don’t only push people away, you also stress yourself out with all the mean things you cultivate in your mind. Show kindness to others, in all things, at all times. Kindness in this age and time is scarce. The world is already full of angst and bitterness, there’s no point adding to that. Be kind to the people you do life with. Be kind to strangers. Be kind to animals even. Spread kindness wherever you go.
Now it’s easy to be kind to people who love you, but the real challenge is to be kind to people who are being mean to you. Show them kindness anyway.
18. Never be ashamed to show affection.
Some people will find it yucky that you post love notes on Facebook walls, write love letters on your blog, or engage in public displays of affection. Don’t mind them. Hug your loved ones in public, hold hands, post on his Facebook wall where everyone can see. Life is too short to be ashamed to express how you feel.
19. Marriage is beautiful, but it can be painful if not done right.
Adjusting to married life, devoting your life to someone, placing his interests above yours, or simply letting go of some of your clothes to make room in the closet for his clothes—Marriage involves a lot of work and adjustments, and it can suck the life out of you if not done right. But when you do it with the right person, and you love and serve each other well, and you rely on God to sustain your relationship, marriage is truly awesome. I think God designed marriage to be awesome.
20. Invest in good photography/videography for your wedding day.
I just have to make this part of the list. Because you see, your wedding photos and/or wedding video are the most important investments you’ll ever make when preparing for your wedding day. You will only wear your wedding gown once, people will forget the food, souvenirs will turn old and yellow. But your wedding photos and videos? You’ll keep looking at them for years to no end. You’ll realize how feelings are instantly renewed and relationships saved just by browsing through the remembrances of your wedding day.
21. Home is not a place.
It’s a collection of chosen people, beliefs, and memories that you take with you wherever in the world you go. So don’t be afraid to go places, to leave the comforts of your zone, to step away from a life that you’ve known so well. Know that wherever you go, you can take home with you.
22. When God takes something away, trust that He means well.
I’ve blogged about this in length before, which still remains to be one of the most viewed and most searched post in this blog. Which can only mean that.. many of us have had our hearts badly broken, have lost some of our most prized possessions, or have had to let go of a person we love.. and we wonder why God allows these things to happen. The best way to deal with these kinds of losses is to take them as an opportunity to trust God. There’s no other way.
23. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be a better person.
The bad news is, we’re bound to encounter difficult people in our life. People who want to bring us down, people who simply enjoy bashing on other people or being too critical of others, people who spend time complaining and ranting about the tragedies of life. The good news is, we can shut off that noise and choose who we surround ourselves with.
So choose to be in the company of people who inspire you to do good, who speak words of encouragements, who selflessly show acts of kindness, who make you want to be better. The roundabout way works too. If you’re inspiring, encouraging, and pleasant to be around with, then you’re bound to attract your own kind.
24. Invest in a business that profits not just money, but happiness.
I’m not an experienced entrepreneur, but I do know one thing: if I must invest in (or continue doing) a business, I’d invest in one that makes people happy, inspires them to be better, and adds some form of value to their lives. And definitely something I love doing too. For me, monetary profit is just an added bonus. Being part of other people’s lives and helping them achieve their goals and dreams—that, for me, is the true value of putting up a business. Also, being generous. Working a little extra, giving more than you’re paid for. Generosity is probably the greatest marketing investment you’d ever make for your business, you’d be surprised at how much generosity pays off in the long run.
25. Never underestimate the teaching ability of the little humans.
I knew this even before I conceived and birthed babies. Once upon a time, I was a Sunday School teacher, but my students were actually the ones teaching me something. Then Isaac happened, and our house in Caloocan became a classroom of sorts. Now that we have twin girls in the house, I have to say.. I must have learned more in the past 10 months than the past 30 years combined. These kids.. they’re the best teachers you’ll ever have. So listen, open your eyes, pay attention, and learn.
26. Worry doesn’t change anything, prayer does.
The problem with worry is, the things we worry about hardly happens at all. We can worry endlessly, but none of our worries can ever change our situation. The thing with prayer is, as we make our concerns known to God and as we speak out loud our praises to Him, He hears us and answers our prayers. Sometimes He answers our prayers different from what we expect, and sometimes our circumstances don’t change at all. What changes when we pray in our hearts and our perspective of things. When we pray, we start to see our situations with eyes of faith, and we begin to see our circumstances not as roadblocks but as opportunities to trust Him.
27. Words are powerful, use them wisely.
Words have a way of lifting up someone’s spirits. We use them to express love, to worship, to praise, to encourage, to give hope. But then, words also have the power to inflict pain on others. I’m sure we’ve all been a recipient of someone’s curses, or have been traumatized by the pain caused by another person’s verbal attacks. Words are powerful. And when they’re spoken, it’s just so hard to take them back. So use words wisely, carefully, and thoughtfully. Instead of using them to hurt other people, use them to speak blessings and encouragements.
28. God manifests His greatest strength in your weakest moments.
Two years ago I came across these words that completely changed the way I see my own strength, making me realize how powerless and hopeless I am without Him. “It is God’s love for us that causes Him to bring us to an end of our own strength. He sees our need to trust Him, and His love is so great that He will not let us live another day without surrendering our arms to Him, giving Him our fears, our worries, even our confusion, so that nothing becomes more significant to us than our Father.”
Truly it’s in those hardest of days and weakest of moments that He manifests Himself in us even more. Because there we know that His grace is sufficient and our strength is not our own.
29. This may be your life to live, but it’s not about you.
It’s never about you. If this life is about you, then what a tiny and boring life this is. I believe that everything that happens in our life is about God’s glory. My life, your life, our lives put together is a master piece that speaks of His glory. So don’t live your life for yourself. Live in such a way that will bring glory and honor to His name.
30. “Above all, love God well and everything will be well.”
And these final words are not my own but my Dad’s, a message he gave me on my 18th birthday which remains to be one of the most important truths I live by each day.
You need advise on anything? What to do with your life, your family, your career? The answer is in those 9 words: Just.. love God well and everything will be well. It’s my Dad’s secret to living a full and happy life. It’s up to us to make that choice too.