39 years + 364 days, but who's counting?

On this, the eve of my 40th birthday, some thoughts for my former selves…

Dear 5-year-old self, Go right on ahead and cry about that kindergarten hoedown incident. You were completely justified! You were supposed to be paired with that nice boy who always wore slacks but instead, on the night of the performance, he got sick and you were stuck doing the alaman-left with the most boogery boy in class. Yes there’s something to be said for being kind, but let’s be honest here. You will spend too much of your life trying to please others and age 5 is a great time to start learning that in some situations—especially with boys—nobody picks your dance partners but you.

Dear 10-year-old self, I know you just got some awful news and I know you are scared as hell. It’s going to be ok. Soon enough you will stop praying that your Mom will get better and that life will return to normal. You will learn to make the best of things. Hold on to your sense of humor and positivity, because both will serve you well. Be a kid as long as you can. You will carry more responsibility than your friends, but try not to let it burden you. You will learn that the responsibilities really never stop coming, but that if you embrace them you will find grace and beauty in even the most severe challenges. Also, you need a new hiding place for your diary. Just sayin'.

Dear 15-year-old self, Rock those shoulder pads and balloon skirts, girlfriend! Sure, you will later laugh at yourself and your questionable fashion decisions. But now is the time to try things that will make you cringe later in life. You may never stop seeking that balance between standing out and fitting in. You are neither peacock nor wallflower. Trust that you will eventually find the sweet spot, and when you do, you will discover something in yourself that others will call confidence and you will call peace. One more thing, you should totally go to lunch with that cute blond boy in English class. You never know what might happen.

Dear 20-year-old self, You don’t have to have all the answers. It’s ok to feel completely lost. You aren’t the only one. Be brave. Listen to your gut. No really, shut the hell up and listen to it. When you find a kindred spirit, be it friend or mentor, hang on to them and inspire each other. Everyone’s path looks different and yours will be far from a straight-shot. Also, skip that Economics class and go see the Beastie Boys instead. You will always regret missing it.

Dear 25-year-old self, Way to take that leap and move yourself where you wanted to be. Now keep going. Keep leaping even after you meet setbacks. All the clichés about two steps forward, one step back are absolutely true, which means you will get there with patience and persistence. And please, hug your brand-new husband every day. He is a treasure.

Dear 30-year-old self, You know more than you think you know. Every new mother is terrified, exhausted, confused and doubting. And omigod, emotional. Trust me when I say that you will look back at these days and feel nostalgic about your ignorance. Also, I’m sorry, but she will never drink from that damn bottle but she will learn to fall asleep without you—eventually. You will wear your scars with pride. And if you ever forget the incredible details, you can always rely on her comprehensive baby book. Too bad you can’t say that about the next two kids.

Dear 35-year-old self, You are living the life you always wanted. There are plenty of days when you yearn for more balance…more Me time, more career time, less Mommying and fewer tantrums. It will ease up in only a matter of years. The baby in your belly, the one draining your energy level dry will soon run past you, elbowing you out of the way screaming, “Mama, move! I have to pee!! And I do it ALL myself!” Balance is elusive, but you will find it at times. Keep striving for it. You are creating more life than art right now, but that will change in just a few years. The road is long, but it is wide…there is room to change lanes.

Dear 39-year-old self, Breathe. What a year. You survived. It has been a time of both tremendous loss and significant rebirth. Hold on to the gratefulness that you know brings so much strength and perspective. You have friends who literally and figuratively will run with you through any weather—cherish them. You have a family that embraces you and your failings—love them. You have a husband who would fly to the moon and back for you—do the same for him. You have children who inspire you—harness their energy and enthusiasm.

Now, take a moment to soak it all up.

Dear 40-year-old self, Bring. It. On.