You know how it’s a total thing for 20-year-old people to write letters to their 40-year-old selves? Or how some 40-year-olds write to their 20-year-old selves? Well I’ve decided to write to you, my future 40-year-old children, as I sit here at the age of 41.
Because I’m wacky like that.
And now that you’re at roughly the same age I am as I’m typing on my MacBook, at our kitchen table, with a glass of white wine (obviously) and writing this letter to you, I think you’re ready to hear some things.
A great deal of clarity happens at the age of 40. It’s a cultural milestone of course, but I’m also finding it’s a decade during which you know who you are — and who you aren’t. It’s a period in life that, so far, offers some insights into what you expect from yourself as well as what you’ll tolerate (or not) from others. It’s an age of enlightenment, hope, love celebrated, the weight of unfulfilled dreams and the happy realization of promises kept.
I can only imagine who you’ll be at the age of 40. All three of you are so connected to my heart, and yet your future selves are like an obscured silhouette behind a translucent curtain. I’m so curious about your relationships, your passions, your careers and your goals. I’m curious about who you’ll be, how you’ll be and what you’ll be.
I may be around when you’re 40; I sincerely hope I am. But the reality is, I may not be. So in either case, here is a bit of advice from your currently 40ish mom to your future 40-year-old selves.
- I hope you’re blessed to have children as spectacular as you are to me. And if you don’t, I hope that is a personal choice you’ve made. Right now, as I write this, you’re 15, 13 and 2. It is the simultaneously the best and the worst of times for us. We’ve recently come through the single most trying time of our lives to date — some serious bullshit (I can use that word guilt-free that now that you’re 40) — and found a deep sense of interconnectivity, trust in and appreciation for our incredible family. Right now, you may have teens of your own, or you may just remember how you felt way back when — the exploration of boundaries and experimentation with limits; the feelings of entitlement and independence, yet also gratitude and dependence. It’s the ultimate dichotomy to be a child, and especially a teen. But I’m so proud of all of you. You’re respectful and funny, but also introspective and quick-witted. Every single one of my days is made better by the three of you. So by now, you may have your own children, or simply the fond memories of your own past (I hope), and perhaps a little more perspective as well. I just hope you remember the good with the bad. And I hope you’re enjoying time spent with people as amazing as you were (are) to me.
- I hope you’re not all judgey. And that would include not being all judgey with me for making up the word “judgey.” But my sincere hope for you is that living 40 years of life has brought you to a place of understanding that we are all different, and we all have our preferences and predilections and penchants, and that other people — as long as they’re not hurting you, your family or friends — can make their decisions to live life free of your judgment just as you can make yours.
- I hope you speak your mind, but do so understanding the potential consequences. I hope you understand that people will, sadly, judge you, but that you don’t need to care about their judgment unless they mean something to your heart. I hope you swear if you like to swear; don’t if you don’t. And I hope you understand at this point in your life that I have always LOVED swearing, and please see #2 above about what I hope you haven’t done to me about all that.
- Please tell me you’ve pursued your passions? And if you didn’t, do that shit now. Right now.
- I hope you’re nice. I mean that sincerely. While you all were growing up, I always, always tried to model this behavior — in drive-thru lines picking up my daily $1.08 Diet Coke at McDonalds, at your school while checking you in/out for dentist appointments, at Safeway or Raleys or Flowing Tide or while talking to customer service on the phone. Being “nice” to people is the ultimate reflection of respect. And I don’t mean being nice to the point that other people roll over you; nope, I want you to stand up for what you believe, too. But I hope you’re treating others as you want to be treated.
- I hope you’re educated. And I don’t mean from an Ivy League school; instead, I mean that you’ve asked questions and found answers. I mean that you’re a lifelong learner. I mean that as you sit here at the age of 40 and realize you still have unanswered questions, that you understand you can go back to school, or begin research anew. I hope you still find joy in the endless process of learning. I hope you’re still curious.
- Remember the whole “What’s the worst that can happen?” thing I used to ask? I hope beyond hope it makes sense by now. With every fear you face, ask yourself that question, anticipate the worst and have a plan for it, but hope for the best. I hope that has worked for you, and that you feel better off for using that technique as you cope with your own personal boogie men (or women) in life.
- I hope you cherish the little things that mean something big. For me, here at the age of 41, you have to know that I cherish every single note. Big or small. Elaborate or scribbled in passing. Every one of them. And I hope you cherish your mementos of love as well.
- I hope you have carried on some of our favorite traditions with your family and/or friends. You know how we routinely did “Best and worst part of the day” at the dinner table? Here’s a secret: No matter what I said to you, that was ALWAYS the best part of my day. Taco Tuesdays were a weekly highlight. Our annual holiday lights excursion on Christmas Eve while sipping hot chocolate from 7-11, one of my favorite nights of every year. Playing Trash and James Bond and Uno together? Priceless memories. I hope you enjoyed these moments as much as I did and have thus enlightened others about the joys of Sunday pancakes or yelling “pony” when you see a school bus.
- I hope you are well traveled. If you’re not, make that shit happen. Right now.
- I hope you’re not hard on yourselves. I hope you love your bodies, your faces, your places in life, your attitudes and your quirks.
- I hope you still talk to one another. Life begins and ends with family. I hope you know that by now. I hope the relationship you all forged in these early years has carried on and only gotten stronger.
- Here’s my selfish one: I hope you know I did my best when I was 40 — heck, the entire time I raised you all. I know I wasn’t a superhero, but I also know it wasn’t physically/emotionally/spiritually possible to have loved you any more than I did. You were (are?) my entire heart.
- I hope you live out loud. I hope you encourage others to know who you are, inherently. I hope you don’t hide that shit from anyone.
- I hope you handle disappointment and failure and embrace challenges. Because shit happens, and the best way to get through it is to get through it. I hope you’re in a place in life where you realize that and still roll with the punches.
- I hope you’re silly. I hope you play, and run through sprinklers with kids, and do things that embarrass others on occasion. I hope you make crazy faces and share your remarkably spirited souls with others who are like-mindedly silly. I hope you sing loudly while driving and have songs like “Dead Puppies Aren’t Much Fun” on your playlist.
- I hope you do not have a “broken” home (such a misnomer, but you get my point), but if you do, that you manage to make the most of it and continue to respect the other person who perhaps even brought children into the world on your behalf. Also, selfishly again, I hope you now know that my heart broke every time you left me, but that it also jumped for joy every time you returned. Being a single mom was both the best and worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I hope you don’t have to be a single parent, but if you are, I hope you do it well.
- I hope you’re choosing happiness. I hope you still realize that every morning when you wake up, you can choose happiness — or something else altogether. I hope you choose the former most every day, and rarely the latter.
- I hope you feel love. Every single day.
- I hope you give love. Big love. Every single day. And if you don’t, make that shit happen. Right now.
Of course there’s more. So much more. But for now, I will simply say this: No matter who you are, how you are or what you are, I love you. At any and every age.
And now my 41-year-old single mommy self has to go pick up your asses from your three different schools. FML.
I’ll always love you all MOST (times infinity factorial + 1),