With age comes wisdom, but have you taken a hard look at the wisdom gained from your own life? Most of the time we criticize and regret our past but if you take a different view, you may find a vast treasure of wisdom gained you weren’t aware you had. As I enter my 53rd year, I made some much needed discoveries. Long overdue discoveries that have helped let go of outdated beliefs, thus enabling me to discover and be who I truly am.

Lessons learned:

Grades don’t matter: I was the first born daughter of first born children. My parents taught me that grades, honor roll, honor society, education, advanced education, and excelling in school were a top priority. Perhaps because they excelled in all these areas they expected the same from their children. Perhaps since my parents grew up poor, they viewed education as a way to break out of poverty. It worked for them, but for me, it resulted in extreme anxiety and a lifetime of striving for straight As (which I never obtained). I still attended college and graduate school regardless of low scores on the ACT, SAT, and GRE. It took 10 years to acquire a job in my chosen profession. I enjoyed the job, but it didn’t fulfill me. By 2009, the job was eliminated.

Determination matters: Even though my father insisted I excel in school, he also taught me that determination is a driving force to success. While I was determined to please my parents, I was also determined to pursue my interests. I didn’t have much of an opportunity until I was much older, but I dabbled in sports, classes, part-time jobs, and adventures to get a taste of what I desired. My determined spirit guided me to start two businesses.

Society is harsh: I have moved 10 times in my 50 years. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, in my first 21 years, I moved 9 times. I’ve experienced a lot of cultures, communities, religions, and people. Being introverted, I preferred to keep to myself, but that was too stress-inducing for my parents. They shoved me into society, certain it would ‘cure’ me while opening opportunities. In my attempt to fit in, and for those of us who try, it’s a sure road to depression, stress, and eating disorders. What I learned was that society didn’t care. Only now can I appreciate that my struggle to be liked obscured the importance to like myself. Letting go off all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’ heaped upon us has led to far happier 5th decade.

Make yourself happy: Rather than wasting a life trying to make everyone and everything happy (which will never happen), focus on your own happiness. Find the people, places, and things that make you happy. Pursue the career that motivates you. Seek out the people who love and accept you as you are. Accept those differences in others and you’ll expand happiness wherever you go.

Be grateful for your experiences and welcome opportunities: We’ve all had highs and lows, but they have formed who we are today. It’s our attitudes and choices that define how we learn from them and move forward. Quit blaming others—a parent, a sibling, an ex-spouse, a boss—and take charge of what’s next. Pursue everything with curiosity, wonder, and excitement. Expand your comfort zone, and include a safety net of friends, family, and resources.

Family: I love my family. They drive me crazy, infuriate me, entertain me, and sometimes break my heart, but they have helped form who I am. Spend time with your family. Listen to them. Hug them. Inspire them. Encourage them. Those are the basic needs for all and the greatest gift one can give.

Love: What do you love? Chocolate? Coffee? Sunrise? Sunset? A full moon on a wintry night? The sound of your grandchild laughing? Who do you love? A spouse? A partner? A man? A woman? Unless you love yourself FIRST, it is difficult to love anything else. Society has a way of making us feel unwanted and unloved, but it’s time we turn the tables. Start by loving yourself then all the other issues are easier to work through.

What about you? What have you gained from your first 50 year review?

Kristen Edens