It’s official. I hit the big birthday. You know, the one they say is the new 30 just to try and make you feel better? Well, it’s not the new 30. In fact, it’s way better than 30.
On my 30th birthday, I was unmarried, childless, singularly focused on my career and frankly, a bit harsh. I was impatient, judgmental and self-centered.
But with time andlife experiences comes sensitivity, a softening of the edges and most importantly, wisdom. This is why there are age requirements for driving, voting, movies, drinking and a whole bunch of other activities that require context and an understanding of the consequences.
So, as I stare down the half-century mark, what lessons have I Iearned? What perspective have I gained these last 5 decades? I actually started cataloging these lessons like teachers come in all shapes and sizes; or dogs and toddlers and elderly folk are Zen masters; and you can only pretend to be perfect for so long. But as my list grew, I kept coming back to one central theme that has become my own little mantra: my worst day is someone else’s paradise.
When I’m frustrated by a traffic jam, my mantra reminds me that I should be grateful to be caught in the back up and not causing it. It reminds me that having a car is a privilege; that driving is a privilege. If I lived in Saudi Arabia, I’d be banned from driving.
The minute I begin to feel overwhelmed as I try to balance work, family and sanity, my mantra helps me focus on the joy and sense of self-worth that I gain from the different facets of my life. I think about other people who don’t have enough food or clothing for their families when I’m inundated with household chores.
I’ve also learned that even the most fervent optimist falls of the serenity wagon from time to time. Invariably something – whether minute or elephantine – just gets to us. I use my mantra to climb back on, adjust my attitude and tune in the bigger picture. . . .my worst day is someone else’s paradise . . .
Sally Phillips is a marketing executive in Charlotte