What did you learn for the past 22 years?

My cell phone buzzed at 12:00 AM:

WhatsApp from a friend: Happy 23rd birthday Madalyn!

At the blink of an eye, I already felt one year older. Just a minute before, I was one year closer to the date I was born. I don’t want to become one year older, I thought. But too late.  Time wasted is never recovered. You can never go back in time.

My 23rd birthday began with a 1.5 hour subway ride to visit a sick friend’s brother battling his life at a hospital. “Madalyn, we need some visitors today at the hospital” , she said. Refuah Shleima is all I could respond. But instead I decided that it wasn’t my special day today, it was my friend’s brother’s. Running from work to squeeze myself on the packed rush hour 8 AM subway ride was my obligation.

Walking around Morgan Stanley Columbia Children’s Hospital seemed like a maze. “I’m looking for room 912,” I said to the receptionist. Finally after much assistance, I found the room.

I slowly pulled up a chair and sat in the left back corner of the room. All I could do is just stare at the machines hooked up to Avi that only a nursing student would know what the machines were. Hopefully we will never need them, I thought.

We all strive to be younger. Anti-wrinkling products have flooded the shelves with all sorts of promises that will make us look younger. Perhaps they work or perhaps they are marketing’s best secret. Yet we must remember that age is inevitable. Life moves on whether we are prepared for it or not.  As we fear from age, how many of us have nevertheless looked back in our lives and realize what we have and the lessons we have learned?

I took out a pen and piece of paper from my purse and began writing what I have learned in the 22 last years of my life (in no order.):

  1. Pray, pray, and pray for your health. It breaks my heart to watch a 2-year-old diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemo treatment. No one deserves to take a pharmacy’s worth of pills every day to stay healthy. Health is number 1. Not money, not fancy cars, not a job at the Big Four,and not the 4.0 you got in college.

2. Accept that everything happens from God from a reason whether you wanted it or not. We are not God and we don’t know how He runs our lives. Just sit back and enjoy His ride.

3. Always have a smile on your face. It will make you feel good and you will never know how powerful it is.

4. Make the most of your memories.  At the end of the day, what will last more? Not the money you made.

5. Be thankful for those who really care about you. You will never know when you will really need them by your side.

6. Go out and see the beautiful world we live in.  Show interest. Make an effort. You will learn so much about the world around you.

7. Appreciate all your blessings. Count your blessings not just once, not just twice, but three times. Why three times? Because you will lose track of how many you counted even the second time.

8. Open your mouth and make connections with people around you. Polish those “people skills.” You won’t advance far in life without them.

9. Invest in yourself. You deserve what you deserve.

10. It’s all in the mind. Think happy and you’ll stay happy. Psychology has already told us this.

11. Share your heart. We have a heart for a reason- not to keep it to yourself.

12. Do what you can to follow your dreams. Never let anyone tell you you cannot achieve something. You won’t wait to prove them wrong and the feeling when you do so is the greatest.

13. Stress is not always bad. Sometimes we need the extra pressure to get a task completed. Stress means you care about getting it done. Be proud that you are a hard worker.

14. Keep an open mindWhen you are not sure if you should do something or not, always remember: what’s the worst that can happen? The answer is, probably not much.

15. Learn another language. You’ll feel smarter.

16. Accept that you will be challenged. This may be a hard lesson to swallow but challenges are provided to help us grow rather than to hinder us.

17. Remember that everything in life is hard work. If it’s not hard, it wouldn’t be work.

18. Agree to disagree. We should not all agree with each other. We all are different and it would be impossible for all of us to agree with each other.

19. The inside is different from the outside. You will never know what people are feeling in the inside as much as you think you will.

20. Listen closely. Listen to what is going on around you. Don’t close yourself from the world. Be present.

21. Time wasted will never be recovered. Use your time wisely or else you will never get it back.

22. Keep learning. Learning should never end. Every second of your life is a lesson to be learned.

I look forward to writing #23 at the conclusion of this year.

*Name has been changed

About the Author
Hailing from the Lone Star State, Madalyn is graduate student studying for a Master's in Occupational Therapy at CUNY York College.