Twenty years helps the maturity process and I'm certain in 20 more I'll laugh at how mature I feel I’ve become over the last 20. But, the last 20 have included much of what has made me who I am today. Those first 18 years were a lot of trial and error, goofing off, and just learning to turn the stove on. I think my parents did a pretty good job and I’m thankful for the values they tried to teach me (even when I tried to avoid learning them). The last 20 have included things that have made me who I am today (in no particular order) like college, living wills, career changes and callings, seminary, motherhood, marriage, miscarriage, stroke, brain surgery, cancer, finish lines, and much more.
I realize there is still much to experience in life (I hope there is, anyway) but I crammed a lot into the last 20 years and I'm thrilled to be in a place of learning from those experiences. Being in the middle of the last 20 has stunk at times (if I'm being honest).
Recently, (well, I wrote this more "recently" than it was posted!) I returned to my home state for time with old friends at our 20 year high school reunion. Some of those friends I've not seen in 20 years. Most of them have way better memories than I do and some of them have a lot less hair (which I was not the first to point out, Jason!). Everyone came with questions and stories but no one came with drama. My long-time friend, Doug, pointed this out. Actually, it turns out Doug and I got married in Kindergarten and I'd forgotten all about it. My husband took the news really well though. Anyway, that was the most dramatic it got. Wow, I made mistakes. Wow, I was not always wise or truthful. This fact was pointed out to me by a sweet friend whose boyfriend I am told I tried to steal during a week at band camp. I didn't remember that one either (brain surgery is my forever excuse of all things forgotten). So, I'm sorry Kimberly! And, honestly, the time went too fast to hear many of those stories I have forgotten from my past.
So, I write this to remember and encourage. If you're 18 and reading this, you may think I’m elderly. But, it wasn't that long ago. Cherish these last 18 and embrace the next 20. If your path includes even half as many turns as mine has, you are in for a ride of a lifetime! If you’re 38 or older and reading this, what do you take from the last 20 (or 40 or 60) and how has it made you who you are today?
My friend Brandon said something that rang true as he welcomed us to dinner at the reunion. He said, “Wow, look at us all grown up. I just want to say in advance that we're past our childish ways and I apologize if I hurt any of you 20 years ago. I didn't know how to treat myself, let alone the rest of you. We're adults now, let's have some fun.” And, we did.
As I move into the next phase of life, I must admit that I like life without all the drama of those early days growing up (when I made some not always wise choices). I like honesty and respect. I like people who are authentic and real. I am far from perfect, but I hope I can be authentic and real for those in my life. The journey doesn’t have time for anything less than real. Life is too short; I’ve learned that more than once.
Whitney R. Simpson
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