Six Things I’ve Learned at Thirty-Six

Today I turn 36. It’s been great weekend hanging out with friends and family. I wanted to share a few reflections on some of the things I’ve learned thus far. While not a complete list of course, these were the most relevant to my life today. As always, a disclaimer: I might be wrong.

1. The moment we forget that we can become what we hate the most, we lose our most powerful tool in bringing about healing in the world: empathy. I never understood this, and for many years I felt like I existed on some higher plateau of morality, belief, and practice. Then life humbled me. It has taken turns I never expected it to. I’ve made decisions I never thought I would make. Because of that, my worldview is vastly different than it used to be. You see, when you’ve hit the bottom your eyes are opened and you become much less judgmental of those that are down there with you. Your heart has the capacity to open up to more people and experiences than you could ever imagine. I’m not saying that you need to go out and make shitty decisions to eventually become more whole, I’m saying that at one point or another, life has a way of humbling us when we begin to believe we are better than other people.

2. Change is a process, not an event. The world is obsessed with instant results. Instant weight loss, instant downloads, binge watching, happiness delivered to your door, etc. But real, genuine change takes time. Years. Decades. If we are serious about change, whether it be spiritual, social, political, or physical, we need to be committed to the long haul.

3. Be kind to yourself. The way we view ourselves is reflected in every aspect of our lives. I cannot love others without loving myself, just like I can’t write checks without money in the bank. I know this because I’ve tried both and failed. This has been incredibly valuable as a parent. My worst moments as a parent aren’t when my kid says or does something cruel. They are when I stop believing in who I am. First and foremost as a person and then as a parent.

4. Count no day a loss in which you wait your turn, take only your share, and seek advantage over no one. In a Trump-kind-of world, our ability to deescalate the rise of hyper capitalism within our psyche can be a form of resistance. It is believing that there is enough for us all. It is adopting a narrative of abundance and not scarcity. We aren’t enemies, despite what so many systems in our world tell us.

5.  Growth comes from seeking out people and experiences outside of your own. The past few years have been an incredible journey into listening and learning from people who have had experiences that differ from mine. My straight, white, cis-gender narrative doesn’t even come close to painting a full picture of humanity. This exploration has been a painful one as I’ve had to face the fact that I have been an accomplice in systems of supremacy and oppression, but a worthy exploration nonetheless.

6. Relationships are where it’s at. Birthdays have always been a time to take inventory of the blessing in my life and the people that fill it with love. This year I’m particularly grateful for the family and friends who, when the going got tough, leaned in and not out. For those that literally carried us when we couldn’t carry ourselves. Everything we learn in life happens in relationship to others and I have been so fortunate to have a lifetime full of people (even if only for a season) who have filled my life with goodness.

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