For me, turning 40 was monumental. I was so excited to hit the milestone – to leave my thirties behind. I knew great things were coming in this decade, but more than anything, I was excited at the prospect of finally being able to speak my mind. Slowly, my thoughts started coming out, my desires became apparent, and for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. The decade started off great.
The first two years were rough – this last one the hardest. The decade I thought would be spent discovering my true voice has instead been one that turned my life upside down.
Looking back, the tears and pain have all been worth it. Where I am today is by far the best place I could possibly be. I never would have found my place without the pain of the past year.
In nature, fire is often the catalyst for needed change. There are several seeds and spores that only release their seeds in the middle of a fire. I have learned there are certain aspects of ourselves, our lives, that will only ever be released with the flames of life. The scars and burns make us the best versions of ourselves.
As my former life has simmered and smoked around my ankles this summer, I have learned some of the most important lessons of my life.
Full disclosure, from a very young age, I faced an unreasonable amount of life and missed a lot of age-appropriate experiences. Because of this, there are several life lessons I never learned. Setting boundaries and saying no are perhaps the biggest ones.
Sitting in the wreckage of my life this past April, I refused to feel sorry for myself or be a victim. Rather, as I surveyed the wreckage, I asked myself hard questions. I knew that whatever was broken in me, whatever I needed to change were the keys to a healthy life. All I had to do was ask enough questions and reflect enough on my life, and the areas in need of change would make themselves known. The biggest change? Setting boundaries and saying no.
Looking back, I can tell you that the root of almost every challenge, bad situation, and pain I had endured was my inability to set boundaries and say no. In fact, sitting here writing this article, I vividly remember a counselor telling me to learn to set boundaries 18 years ago. Apparently, my challenges were much more visible than I realized.
Sitting on the verge of 43, I can tell you saying no, setting boundaries, and learning what I truly want in life has given me the most amazing feeling. I am more confident, calm, and secure in my decisions. I am relishing saying no, and sometimes find that I want to say no just because I can. Slowly, I am finding my voice, discovering new things about myself, and learning to love life. Never before have moments seemed so precious, laughter so rich, and naps so sweet. For the first time in my life, I am living by my rules. And I can tell you, I am never going back.