Things I wish I'd known earlier in life...

Some lessons can only be learned through experience. Still, there are things I wish I had known about the way the world works back in my 20's. Here are seven of them:

1. Being "nice" is a lousy aspiration for a girl. I was often told to "be nice." What is that about? I can think of a zillion things to be that are way better than being "nice." Be creative. Be passionate. Be kind. Love. Stand for something. Please, please don't waste your time being "nice." Yuck.

2. Shared experience creates connection. No one knows this better than people who have been in the military, but it applies on so many more levels. Doing things together as a family, friendships with people in similar life phases, summer camp... The reason it is such a significant principal is that you can use shared experience to deepen the relationships you want to deepen. Spending time with people...living in their world...laughing (or crying) together is what creates relationship. Oddly enough, this principle works in reverse. Friendships are difficult to maintain when there are no longer shared experiences. And maybe that's okay because...

3. Life phases. Deeply and beautifully enjoy whatever stage you are in and the people you are with, because it will change. Not only that, but the negative aspects of it will phase too. (ie. the life of an exhausted young mom changes when the youngest child turns three) I wish someone had told me how much things are transient. Like in the movie Groundhog Day, you are the only tangible thing that stays with you. So make yourself a good one. Your character matters.

4. You create the culture of your family. One of the things that most struck me was the strong culture of John's family when I went to the family reunion. Maybe this has to do with everyone living closeby in small towns, but quirks like all of his relatives being fanatical 42 players and obsessive about coffee (in John and Troy's case obsessive about iced tea) create family culture. Playing instruments and singing are part of that family culture. Not drinking out of a straw, checking the weather and being enamored of large diesel pickups are part of that culture. Create culture for your family. (For working moms, mornings, evenings, and holidays are your best opportunities for this.) Re-tell the stories, celebrate the inside jokes, give yourself and your family identity.

5. Money and "stuff" are tools. They aren't worth immersing yourself in or chasing after, but neither are they bad. Use what you've got. And whatever you do, don't hang onto "stuff." It's an anchor. Let your resources flow to others. For example, use cash to entertain friends, bless family, or support causes that matter. Any "stuff" you haven't used in awhile, give away. Books, clothing, and household goods are ineffective sitting in closets, cabinets and drawers. As a young mom who furnished her first home via Goodwill and things by the side of the road, finding cool things filled me with joy. Not only that, but many items get shipped overseas or recycled. Operating on this principle of giving away has the odd effect of bringing in more (which can't be held onto either).

6. Darkness hates light. Exposure is a powerful tool for changing the game. For example, sexual preditors can only operate because the victim keeps the secret. (I understand well the reasons are complex for why this happens, but hang in with me.) Bullies can only operate becasue people react in fear. People can backhandedly insult you with a smile on their face in a crowd because no one will immediately say back to them "that was ugly". (Well, I will, but that's a different topic.) People often use the metaphor of light as truth, and while I suppose that is true, I think the better metaphor for light is about exposure. Conviction is usually about exposed intention. If your intentions are good, exposing them is welcome. If they are not...Hmm...it occurs to me that when Adam was suddenly naked in the garden, that was about exposure.

7. God is love. The Apostle John writes about who God is in 1 John 4:16, as does David in the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all four of the Gospels. Any religious teaching or teacher that isn't absolutely dripping with love is on another agenda. The people you want to seek out are those who are flowing with love. Not the pink hearts drawn on a notebook kind, but the kind the Apostle Paul writes about: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs... That is what love looks like. And that is what God looks like.

I'm sure there are more things that I might add to this, but these are the things on my heart at the moment. I hope someone in their 20's is reading this.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall