Ah, life’s milestones – perpetually bittersweet. When you marry, you leave the safety and familiarity of your family to set out on a new adventure that holds the key to life itself. When you begin a new career, you devote yourself and your energies to becoming a force in the world – at the exclusion of a thousand other viable options. Yes, for everything gained, something is lost, and vice versa.
In the past two weeks I have moved both of my children out of the temporary permanence of the dorms and into the next phase of their lives. As the last of the boxes were loaded into the car, what motherly words of wisdom were imparted on this momentous occasion? “Do you have everything that you need?” And “Drive safely.” As the words fell from my lips they felt incredibly shallow and inadequate. 18 years of mental pictures flashed through my mind, and that was the best that I could come up with? But what was I really wanting to say? What can you really say to someone as they embark upon building a life?
After some thought, here’s the information that I wish I could have magically imparted as the car pulled out of the driveway.
Build your confidence
When we’re just starting out, our dreams are big – but our experience is small. This coupled with the fierce competition of today’s world can make us feel defeated right out of the gate, if we’re not careful. Allow yourself to revel in small victories. In truth, it’s a series of baby steps that result in huge leaps forward. Nobody gets there overnight, so allow yourself to celebrate each effort. It’s this process that helps us to truly discover who we are, both the positive and negative aspects of ourselves, and to continually fine-tune until we become the person we “want to become.”
While we must walk the path of self-discovery alone, we are never truly alone. It’s the people around us that make life worth living. Take pleasure in sharing your time, your laughter and your kindness with others. In the process, you’ll build a support system to help you through your weaker moments too. Our compassionate nature is what sets humanity apart from all other species on Earth – so do your best to avoid becoming too self-consumed. The love you give away truly does come back to you. It is never a waste of time.
Challenges are not only a part of life, but also a valuable part of our steering system. Hardships allow us the clarity of knowing what we don’t want so that we can better create the life we do want. The key is to let go of the notion of perfection and allow yourself to learn. Kindness towards yourself, combined with the support from those around you, will help you to develop the resilience needed to keep growing in positive ways. Set a goal for the future – but then focus only on this moment, and making it the best that you can.
Build your legacy
Eventually, and it comes much quicker that we realize, we see that the only thing that truly matters is “what we stand for.” Yes, all of the status, titles and accomplishments were nice and in some way proved to the world that we are worthy – but then deep inside we knew that anyway, didn’t we? In later life it can almost seem like a lot of jumping through hoops, just because everyone else did. People may have a limited lifespan but our legacies live on. How did we touch other people and serve as an example of a life well-lived? Did we offer encouragement, joy and the wisdom of our hard-earned lessons? All human beings face the same pleasures and the same pain – so strive to make your life a welcome inspiration to others.
In hindsight, perched upon my empty nest, I suppose all of these carefully chosen words fall short in comparison to what I’ve really given them – the wings to fly. And the fact that they’re now soaring off to new and wondrous locations should be honored and appreciated as the accomplishment it is – for all of us. I suppose I’ve answered my final question myself – “Do you have everything that you need?” Yes. Yes, I suppose you do.
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Marci Wise is the award-winning author of Pain, Passion & Purpose. Copyright © 2015 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address.