by Dana Wineland O’Rourke, contributing writer
When a party of ten or more gathers at a long table, most people opt for an end chair for leg room or the head for elbow room. Not me. I prefer a center seat where I can catch as many of the multiple conversations going on as possible. Juggling chit-chat is one of my specialties.
Recently our high school class reunion committee met at a local restaurant. It wasn’t an official meeting, just a casual gab and grub with friends who are hitting, or have hit, their 65th birthday. This gang has lived a lot of life, experiencing incredible highs and unimaginable lows; some of it shared with one another. Medicare, grandkids, and the perks of retirement were among the evening’s topics. At one point I chimed in with things I’d tell my younger self. Others followed suit with advice they’d give their adolescent identity, and the conversation grew. My long-time friend Janice looked at me with a smile and exclaimed.
“There’s your next article!”
As we look back on our lives with the wisdom and perspective we’ve gathered along the way, what would we say to that preteen, high school senior, newlywed, or first-time parent, whose reflection we saw every morning as we brushed our teeth?
In no particular order, here are twenty pearls of wisdom from me, with a little help from my friends.
- Be yourself. You’ll see that you are enough, exactly as you are.
- Not everyone is going to like you. That’s okay. You won’t like everyone, either.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be plenty of big stuff to worry about.
- Choose your friends wisely. Spend time with those who bring out the best in you and stay away from drama.
- Take good care of yourself. A healthy mind, body, and spirit are very important.
- Laughter is good medicine. Find humor where you can and laugh often.
- Always do your best. You won’t always be the best but take pride in everything you do.
- If you want something, go for it! Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.
- Listen to your heart. Love who you love and be sure to express your feelings.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. You’ll never learn or grow unless you try.
- Follow the “Golden Rule” But understand this rule isn’t necessarily one size fits all.
- Trust your gut instinct. Listen to your powerful inner voice. It’s usually correct.
- Ask for help when you need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Let go. Never hold on to bad feelings, things, thoughts, habits, or people that hurt you.
- It will be there tomorrow. Skip the household chores and do something fun.
- You can’t hold a baby too much. Rock them. Snuggle them. Carry them. Enjoy them.
- Material things are not important. Things are things. Surround yourself with joy.
- Stop waiting for the time to be right. The only thing time does is run out. Do it!
- Keep learning. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. Exercise your brain.
- Make memories. Dance with your sweetie. Get together with family and friends. Travel. Live!
Limiting it to twenty was a challenge. There are hundreds of things I would tell my younger self. I was, and remain, a sponge; soaking in feelings and moments that carve themselves in my head and heart. I’d like to take a seat beside young Dana; fully prepared to stay for a while, because if there’s one thing I know for sure, we’re both talkers.
The first thing I’d do is take her hand, look directly into those big blue eyes, and tell her being sensitive is okay, even in a not so sensitive world. Her perceptiveness and empathy will be vital in everything she does, and with everyone she meets. And that her heart has the capacity to hold a tremendous amount of love and an enormous amount of pain, and she will experience both in those quantities.
I’d also tell her it’s good to dream, even if dreams don’t always come true, and that you must learn to play with the hand you’re dealt. Some people are luckier than others, but we are all blessed. Lastly, I’d plead with her to make good choices and follow her heart.
Perhaps my future self would join us, take a seat, hold my other hand, and tell the present me to enjoy every precious moment of life. There would be hugs, laughter, and a few tears. But mostly, there would be optimism that reflects a positive outcome. The three of us would sit there in hope. And I’d find myself, once again, in the coveted middle seat.
About the author: Freelance writer Dana Wineland O’Rourke retired after wearing the many hats required for her position as a Preschool- Grade 8 school secretary for 30 years. A lifelong resident of Monongahela, Dana has been married to Tim for 44 years. Their two sons and daughters- in -law made the family an even dozen with six grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, biking, gab & grubs with friends, and writing poetry and short stories.