Dear younger me,

Good news is you’re still going to be kicking it at 49, which should shock you considering you think people my age fall into the old category. Sorry to say, but you are clueless and naïve about the aging process, despite your beautiful innocence. Being “old” is relative—however, I do encourage you to enjoy your brief ability to fight gravity while you can. A downward trend awaits you.

By the time you reach middle age, life will have done her job to enlighten your spirit, warm your heart, and humble more than your firm edge lines. Just remember to treat your temple like a queen or she will lose her crown. Everything in moderation is legit.

While the number of lessons you will learn over the next three decades will make up an exhaustive list, I’ve curated 13 of the most important bits of wisdom I’d like you to know. Consider each a prized diamond; then build off the shimmer to further your journey of unfolding and awakening to who you are in this great big world.

1. Practice self-love

This can’t happen soon enough. Love is what you’re made of and love is why we’re here. But in order to give and receive love in full, you have to love and cherish who you see in the mirror.

2. Rediscover your authentic self and own her

You don’t even realize it yet, but you’ve built up some mighty walls to protect yourself from being hurt. All this self-preservation hides who you really are and the boundaries need to crumble so you can begin to let go of the pain deep inside you. Don’t waste your time pretending. Instead, dare to be vulnerable. Authenticity heals, my friend. You have value, worth, and purpose no matter what anyone tells you otherwise. Put in the hard work to heal. Be you. Be bold. Be brave. Be real.

3. Start practicing yoga and meditation now

Choosing to turn off the world and tune in to your heart is life-giving. You will learn to breathe yourself through just about anything. The upside is feeling more connected to everyone and everything around you.

4. Make friends with people different from you

Listening to other people and learning their stories blows your heart wide open. Once that happens, significant deconstruction of everything you felt certain about begins to take place. This leads to healing, transformation, and a profound knowing that has nothing to do with you, but also everything to do with you at the same time.

5. Get the help you need

Part of your journey includes a battle to regain your mental health. Seek counsel sooner than later, and take the meds because they are going to save your life.

6. Forgive

You are going to struggle mightily with this based on a traumatic past. But if you can start practicing forgiveness in the little things, you will build the resolve to be merciful in the bigger things. Every day offers an opportunity to forgive someone. None of this can happen without extending inward grace. Not until you accept that you are worthy and beloved in all your imperfections will you ever be able to extend the same authentic grace to others.

7. Value human connection and the physical world around you like it’s your job

Instant access to everything across the globe at the touch of a finger is on the horizon. The virtual world is exhilarating and advantageous in countless ways. But, technology is also devastating when it replaces human to human contact and physical interaction with all created things. Lasting 3D wonder exists all around you in real-time. Be present to these gifts.

8. Laugh often. Smile every day. Cry whenever you feel like it.

Each one empties the soul, allowing more life energy to flow back in.

9. Spend time with the elderly

Senior citizens are walking TED talks. Pay attention and learn from their triumphs and failures. They know what’s important in life by now. Chances are you don’t.

10. Say no to worry

Nothing is gained by projecting worse case scenarios, but a heck of a lot is lost. Love binds; fear separates. Living inside the illusion of potential dread will keep you from experiencing what you have right in front of you.

11. Be a good listener, not just a hearer

Communication is paramount to every healthy relationship and endeavor. Listen first. Try not to interrupt. Repeat back what you’ve heard to clarify. Listen some more. Speak if necessary.

12. Pursue your dreams and listen to your heart

Trust yourself and rely on your inner compass. All the gifts and talents you need are already inside you. Use them—that’s why you are here.

13. Be LOVE

Love is the Nike swish meaning of life. Just do it.

If you have any questions about the above, write them in a journal. Maybe someday I’ll be able to bend time and space and meet up with you for a girls’ night out. In the meantime, enjoy the now, be intentional with your words and actions, and hold everything loosely. You are not in control of much—only yourself.

By the way, you’re a good egg. You’re doing fine. Believe it, and allow yourself the grace to grow. 

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Shelby Spear

A self-described sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and love enthusiast, Shelby is a mom of 3 Millennials writing about motherhood and life from her empty nest. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") , and you can find her stories in print at Guideposts, around the web at sites like Her View From Home, For Every Mom, Parenting Teens & Tweens and on her blog