39 things I’ve learned

It’s true, I’m about to turn 39. With my 38th birthday becoming quite a turning point, I have great expectations… and trepidation about this one.

Last year, my grandmother’s long battle with cancer ended on my birthday. In a moment that’s hard to put into words, she sought my permission to die. If ever I felt that I was taking on the role of matriarch, coming into my own as a woman, this was it. I stroked her hair as if she was my daughter and told her that her work here was done and she could move on whenever she needed.

And it didn’t get easier from there. I was challenged in many ways, on every front, I questioned many of my decisions and rearranged much of my life, exhausting! So, with another birthday rolling around, I thought I’d reflect on everything my 39 years has taught me. Here it is, for whoever may be interested:


  1. Eat the cake. My grandmother watched what she ate. She refused desserts. She had bowel cancer and said to me, ‘I should have just eaten the cake.’ Yep, sometimes you just should.
  2. Small moments make a life. It’s the small moments – the walks through the bush, finding interesting rocks and leaves, watching water flow and finding a mother duck and her ducklings that can make the best day.
  3. People look for easy answers. They will ignore nuance, make tenuous connections and think they understand when they really don’t. Fight the ignorance with loving action.
  4. Your gut knows. Whenever I have ignored a niggly feeling about a client, they turn out to be too demanding, when I’ve thought something was wrong with the kids despite everyone tells me it’ll be fine, I’m right.
  5. People will kick you when you are down. They don’t mean to, it’s what happens when you are vulnerable. Get up and dust yourself off.
  6. By the same token, you show your character when people need you the most. See other people’s perspective and try to work with that.
  7. There is ancient wisdom – in our elderly, in philosophers before us. Checkout Rumi or Marcus Aurelius. Others have worked this stuff out before us, we are not pioneers!
  8. Music is splendid solace – pain, grief, regret, joy, all expressed.
  9. Having kids is like living life in 3D from 2D, you understand yourself and your family from a whole new perspective. Nothing will ever be the same again.
  10. Risk is so important
  11. Kindness is everything
  12. You will be asked to stretch in ways you didn’t know you could survive. You do survive.
  13. Living is a dance of opposites. If you have loved, you will grieve. Do it anyway.
  14. Your world expands in every way as you get older – your emotions, your skills, your opportunities, your courage
  15. The only person you can control is you. The only thing you can control is your reaction.
  16. ‘Self-help’ is so full of contradictions as to be unhelpful. An open heart is your guide.
  17. People with definite opinions aren’t using all of their brains.
  18. One of the biggest battles I have faced is the battle with bitterness. But the world is full of hopelessness and cruelty, you must fight against letting it in.
  19. My family is the most important thing to me. Being clear on my values has helped guide my decisions.
  20. Difference makes life interesting. Even apples come in different varieties.
  21. You can be hurt, angry, jealous, sad. It’s all good. It’s telling you something. You just can’t live there.
  22. You are more beautiful than you think
  23. External beauty is so overrated.
  24. Marriage is a tough gig. You need someone who compliments your craziness. Then you have to work at it every single day. Having someone who makes you laugh is pretty much essential.
  25. Be careful who you get advice from. Most criticism says more about the person delivering it than it does about you.
  26. ‘Work’ is a collection of skills and interests. Find the purpose that makes it part of who you are, not just your job.
  27. If it isn’t working, move on. This ‘don’t give up’ mantra is torture for those not listening to their intuition.
  28. The Buddhists are on to something when they say nothing is permanent. I’ve had nowhere to live, now I have a house. I’ve had success and failure, been rich* and poor*. It adds to the tapestry of you, but it isn’t you. (*relatively, I’ve never owned a private jet and I’ve never needed to get a meal from a garbage bin…so far).
  29. You might not have gotten what you needed when you were younger – enough love, etc. It’s okay. You can be different.
  30. Life is an opportunity to get good at something, lots of things. Keep learning, keep making mistakes, keep exploring.
  31. What would nature do? I love the saying, a tree doesn’t wonder if the other trees think it’s tall enough or has green enough leaves. It just grows as its own beautiful self.
  32. There is nothing wrong with you.
  33. Sometimes you just need to dance.
  34. Criticism is easy.
  35. Somethings/people/ideas are worth digging in your heels for. Be clear, stand firm. Tell people what you require of them.
  36. You will be underestimated. Go for it anyway.
  37. Money – it’s tough to live without it. Breaking out of poverty needs to be seriously applauded. Like, gold medal style applauded.
  38. Quiet is necessary.
  39. We don’t know anything. We are all just trying our best here. Nobody knows more, is more than anyone else.

What wisdom have you picked up over the years?