This year I turn 40. I’m running away to Paris where I will surround myself with wine and crispy loaves of bread. I shall eat cheese and hike up narrow streets and bask in the overall glow of love. I’m taking Louboutin heels because there is no other occasion to wear them except for Paris. I plan on smiling more than sighing, walking more than sitting, eating more than sleeping, and looking into the eyes of the man God sent me to love. I may never leave.
But honestly, what do I really know of life?
A few things.
I sat in bed and sobbed after a week of radiation, the throbbing in my skull, wondering if this tumor in my head would finally kill me. I wondered if I’d ever be a mother or have a retirement party or if I’d have my eye ripped out like a freak with a patch.
My forehead was sweating during an eight-hour law school final, writing so furiously my hand cramped. I didn’t think I’d ever make it out and I’d forever be stuck as some government worker the rest of my life.
I remember taking shots of tequila in the big mass of New York and walking around in tottering heels with the world spinning and wondering why things were going in circles.
And oh, my babies. They were never supposed to be, but they were. And they grew inside of my abdomen for nine long months and rising out of me like little angels. My heart could barely take the happy.
And then there was moment I found out my 14-year-marriage was nothing but bones and dust and I found myself curled up in a closet, my mother begging me to eat toast since I seem to have forgotten to eat in a number of days.
And don’t get me started about the three-hour time-out battle with a four-year-old.
So I know a thing or two about life.
And if I could say anything about it to an alien, or an eighteen-year-old, which is basically the same thing, I would say that life is a collection of interesting stories. Stories you repeat to yourself when you’re old. Stories that are only interesting if they are tragic, or terrible, or unbelievably weird. No one wants to know about your boring chicken dinners.
Many of these stories you can’t control. They just blow up like a West Texas dust storm in the west, heading your way whether you want them there or not, and you have to navigate the fallout. And there are stories that you can control, where you make your life interesting and rich, and choose to take the hard road.
Go make good stories.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and think about what your gifts really are – the things that only you have that no one else can do quite like you. The things that are innate in your soul that God has placed there to better the world. Think of how to improve these things and maximize these things and go kick some ass doing these particular things. Whether it’s taking karate or traveling to India, live out these great big stories.
At the cusp of 40, I want to shake the necks of all the 20-somethings. To not think of life as working and partying on Friday nights, but as a long journey, where you can choose to take the boring interstate or veer off on the side roads, where you get to sit at old diners and eat rabbit stew and meet folks like Earl. Take these back roads with gusto and develop an interesting history, so when you’re old you can look back and say that you lived, and earned your life, and you wouldn’t do anything differently.
Some things in life you can’t control. But other things you damn sure can.
Go live your life. You know, the one you imagined.