This week marks the passing of 37 years that I have been blessed with breath in my lungs.
I am not one for wanting a big to-do on my birthday. Kind words and thoughtful best wishes are gifts enough. That’s not because I am scared of growing older, nor am I someone who declares to be forever 29.
To me, the value in marking one more year is powerful in a quiet way. I have seen lives end much too young. Becoming wiser, maturing through mistakes and celebrating milestones is not a destiny afforded to all.
So we have to take it. Run with it. Love it. Live it.
My life isn’t what I’d pictured it would be at this age. It’s absolutely nothing like I thought it would be, in fact. I’m OK with it almost always, but some days I struggle with it, like all humans do. But as life unfolds, it should be met with gratefulness, no matter what is missing or what is hard to understand.
The journey is important in all its forms.
So as you go through those rituals every year — as you blow out your candles or open a little blue box from your significant other or hang a birthday card with stick figures on your fridge — stop and reflect.
You know what they say: “Not every day is good, but there is good in every day.”
How can I be better? How can I do better? How can I project better?
Those things are what we should be concentrating on, because they are the greatest presents we can open. The beauty is that we have the power within us to unwrap it all for ourselves and increase our presence in the world.
Know you will take nothing with you when you leave this Earth. So get your soul right, get your heart right, and make sure you are planting lovely seeds, even if you may not be around for harvest.
I strive to live like the things on this list. We all have shortcomings, and mine are plenty, but this is who I hope I am and who I hope to be. Some people who are my age may say 37 years passed is too many, that they wish they could turn back the hands of time.
Even though I feel like I wasted about 10 years, my years of learning are not nearly long enough to be the person I want to be.
Because presents should lose out to presence. Every time.
And I am ready to learn new lessons in the 38th year. The good, the bad and the ugly.
37 things I tell myself about life
1. Take the back roads. The beauty is in the dirt, not in the shine.
2. Be comfortable in your skin. Wear leopard print and stripes on the same day if you get a-hankerin’.
3. Kris. Cash. Hank. Merle. Willie. Waylon. Repeat.
4. Send handwritten thank you notes.
5. Talk to strangers like you talk to your grandma.
6. Treat farmers with the respect you do doctors. They’re both keeping you alive.
7. Ask someone older to tell you a story. Pass it on.
8. The soul sings sweeter when there is: Lots of fresh air. Lots of sunsets. Lots of gazing across the prairie.
9. Always leave the door to your heart cracked, no matter how much you want to install a jimmy-proof, double-latch deadbolt with a five-star security system that throws darts (and/or missles).
10. Listen to understand not to reply.
11. Make it a priority to do the two-fingered wave when you’re driving.
12. Trust others’ actions, not their words. Be action, not words.
13. Be honest, even when it’s messy and painful and uncomfortable.
14. Invest in Jesus. Invest in yourself. Invest in your family. Invest in history. Invest in your community. Invest in something.
15. Laugh at yourself. Never take yourself too seriously.
16. Be authentic. Be you. Different is not weird. Different is living.
17. Don’t apologize for loving or crying or feeling things more deeply than others seem to. Don’t doubt those things brewing inside you and don’t wish them away. Certain emotions exist in you for a reason. Your heart is what it is. And it was formed by God.
18. Likewise, don’t try to talk someone else out of their feelings either. Respect the hearts and opinions of others. If they are bothered by something or saddened by something or offended by something, it is their business, not yours. Your job is to love your neighbor through it.
19. Be confident, but realize that you are not any more amazing than God’s other creations, no matter how many times someone might say you are.
20. Understand that humility is one of the greatest besides love.
21. Taste the power of your words before spitting them out.
22. Do everything with sincerity or don’t do anything at all.
23. Never lose the determination of the 10-year-old inside your soul who will do any kind of chores at 50 cents a pop to save up for a new horse.
24. Don’t waste your talents or your smarts. If you don’t think you have talents or smarts, it’s easy to change that.
25. Work hard even if no one is watching.
26. Be generous and wild at heart.
27. Pretty is as pretty does.
28. You are an extension of your parents, even when you are old and gray. Be your own person, but don’t dent the legacy they spent their lives building.
29. Don’t regret. Learn.
30. Live in possibility.
34. Sing, even if you are off tune.
36. Pray when you need an answer and when you don’t.
37. Go all in.
Every day, just go all in. Don’t take 37, 47 or 87 for granted. Don’t hide the number or be ashamed of it, because some of the best people don’t even get to 7.
Consider each birthday a badge of honor, like you have outlasted the meanest bull in the pen.
And then vow to get even better in the next round.