Forty Lessons I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Forty

I have learnt to embrace all parts of life’s journey, and have fun while I live. In the past, one thing that I’ve reflected on at the end of every year is whether or not I’m where I thought I was going to be or where I’m meant to be in life. But I always reconcile with the fact that regardless of my assessment, I know that I’ve lived. I’ve taken on challenges, taken risks, put myself into situations that have allowed me to feel, fall, grow, achieve. Often, we can get bogged down in the seriousness of life and forget to have fun and enjoy the moments that we are in.

Has every year ended the way that I wanted? Absolutely not. But looking back on it all, there’s not much I’d change. As Taylor Swift sings in ‘You All Over Me,’

But like the dollar in your pocket, it’s been spent and traded in
You can’t change where it’s been
Reminds me of me

I’m me, the person I am today, because of every place I’ve been, every face I’ve seen and it’s not something I’d want to change. Beau Taplin captures this sentiment beautifully in his poem ‘Masterpiece.’

You are all the places you’ve been, the sights you have seen, the marvels you have achieved, and every soul you have touched; each passing moment another brushstroke on the canvas. So rise, live always with passion and heart, and someday you will look back on your life and find a work of art.

A song that I instantly loved and can’t help but feel life rush through my veins every time I hear it, is One Republic’s ‘I Lived.’ When I decided to take on this project, I knew straight away that this song would be part of my final lesson. It’s a constant reminder to try to live every day to the fullest so that when I go to bed I feel content. Full of rich experiences, full of gratitude for the things that have shaped my growth and development, both good and bad and to never let a day go by wasted.

Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Dolly Parton puts it so simply when she said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” It won’t always be a walk in the park, and we will never know what’s around the next corner; but that’s what makes life so exciting. As Taylor Swift sings in ‘Beautiful Ghosts

But I feel so alive with these phantoms of night
And I know that this life isn’t safe
But it’s wild and it’s free

We need to embrace the excitement of all life can be and look towards opportunities and experiences that may scare us, but will make us feel alive; that could be challenging, but will make us stronger. Natalie Imbruglia sings about embracing a positive mindset towards life in her song, ‘On My Way.’

I’m aiming higher, older and wiser
This thrill could be real, on my way
Life should be sweeter, rise up and meet her
This thrill could be real, on my way

Author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, encourages us to embrace that thrill of life. He says, “To live will be an awfully big adventure.” And it’s one that despite the inevitability that it will end, we shouldn’t be afraid of. Paulo Coelho explains why he wants the phrase, “died while he was alive” as his epitaph. “Everybody dies when he or she is alive. No, this is not true. The same pattern repeating over and over again, you are not living anymore. To die alive is to take risks. To pay your price. To do something that sometimes scares you but you should do because you may like or you may not like.” He believes in seeing the beauty in life and death and urges us to “Pay attention and try to get the best of every moment; the most important advice in life — to live your moment fully.”

And why wouldn’t we? There are no guarantees in life, for another day or even for another shot at life after we are gone. We have to make the best of life while we still have it, while we are IN IT. Kacey Musgraves echoes this message in her song ‘Die Fun.’

We can’t do it over
They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older
Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell
We might as well
’Cause we don’t know when we’re done
So let’s love hard, live fast, die fun

For me, life is like one big ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. I loved reading these books as a kid, feeling a sense of being able to control where the story went. When I’d get to the page where it asks you to choose between two pages to turn to next, I’d always keep two fingers pinching that page, so I could flick back to make a different choice if I didn’t like the outcomes of my decision. But life isn’t like that. We can’t flick back a few pages and undo decisions if we find ourselves in unpleasant situations. At the same time, we can’t be afraid to take risks for fear of getting hurt. I love how poet, best-selling author and professional photographer Tyler Knott Gregson writes about living life.

We are here, now,
but once. Let yourself
get lost, let your heart explode;
I want to see the red of your joy
staining your clothes.
We are here, now,
but once.
Let yourself love
unashamed, let yourself
lose, and risk loss again,
then emerge,
anew.


We have to live our lives knowing that even if we take a risk and it doesn’t pay off, we can still start over again. As naive as it may seem, I live my life with an optimistic outlook that everything will work out. When I hit a speedbump, I know it’s there for a reason, that we need the lows at times to appreciate the highs when they come along. A song from the musical TV show, ‘Central Park’ that reminds me of this, is ‘Follow Through.’

We all need the lows
To see how high our hopes can climb
And now we know, and now we know
Just what we’re gonna find
We can’t know if life will hand us happiness and love
But what we got, the life we got
We’ve gotta be proud of
Wherever we land

If we had crystal balls and could see forward to how our stories would unfold and eventually end, we’d go through life firstly with no surprises, but also potentially missing out on enjoying the moments in between. And it’s the parts in between that provide us the most meaning.

Alan Watts, a writer, theologian and speaker says, “Life is like music. Inherently playful. You don’t ‘work’ the piano; you ‘play’ the piano. One doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played the fastest and there would be composers who only wrote finales. If we think of life as being only about reaching the finale — whether that’s a goal or the literal end of our being — we’ve missed the point. In both music and life, the point isn’t to reach the destination but rather make the most of nuances, the highs and lows; it’s about doing our best to embrace every minute.”

This past Friday I was reminded by singer-songwriter, Adele, that life is a series of choices. It’s important to have self-awareness and self-reflection to understand that our choices have resulted in the person we are right in this very moment. We won’t get it right 100% of the time and in those situations, we need to go easy on ourselves. On the surface she pleas with the audience (her ex-husband, her son, whoever is listening)

Go easy on me, baby
I was still a child
Didn’t get the chance to
Feel the world around me
Had no time to choose what I chose to do
So go easy on me


However, the attentive listener will understand, she’s singing to herself; reminding us all, that when we are reflecting on the series of choices we’ve made, to go easy on ourselves. There will be moments from our past that can dredge up unwanted feelings and it can be easy to slip down a rabbit hole of re-visiting past hurts. It’s important to remember that there’s always better times ahead and it’s better to use our energy moving forward with love than wasted in the past with pain. Finneas sings about this in his song ‘Only A Lifetime.’

So don’t waste the time you have
Waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime, that’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have
Waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime, that’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love, so don’t waste it

Finding wonder in all the beautiful things the world has to offer is so much better than wondering about the past.

I want to finish this lesson and this project with a reminder to constantly find the joy in each moment of life, to live life the way that I want to, embrace the things I love, so that when I get to the end of it all, I can truly say that I lived. Delta Goodrem’s song, ‘Play’ is that reminder for me.

When the lights go down
And they call last round
I hope I lived, hope I loved
As much as I, I could of
Without rushing to the end
Stayed true to who I am
I hope that I played

Hope that I played my favourite song
While dancing all night long
And laughed until I cried with my friends
’Cause when this story ends
It’s easy to forget just how to play
So I’m just going to play

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