Earlier this week, I got an email from a lovely 16-year-old girl that I’ve never met. She sent me the most heart-warming email I’ve ever received. I found myself both smiling and crying at the same time.
Without giving away her name or personal information, this is what she wrote to me:
So, I just stumbled upon your blog from pinterest. Someone had pinned a link to your post "A Letter To My 17-Year-Old Self: All Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies," and I felt the need to thank you.
I'm turning 17 in just a couple of weeks, and honestly, life is hard. Life is so hard that I often feel as if it isn't worth working on anymore.
I just finished reading your article...and I still think life is hard. Haha. I suppose it always will be. But you inspired me.
Everyone tells me I have so much ahead of me, but never tells me what, never tells me why. I guess there's not enough honesty in the world… And I know your post wasn't written for me, but it meant a lot to me.
I don't know what my point was in writing this to you, or if I will even send this, but I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for the tips, because I need them now and I'm going to need them.
I immediately responded to her email…and since then, we’ve become pen pals of sorts. And I love it. I look forward to hearing about her day, sharing life stories, and even offering advice (without trying to come off as a parent).
How can I show her what’s ahead of her in life? Well, I'm not God and certainly not a fortune teller, so predicting the future isn't my strong area.
Back to the drawing board....
How can I describe really matters in life?
What is life all about?
I decided that I spend the next few days trying to figure out what life is honestly all about.
I told myself I wouldn’t let the little things bother me.
I wouldn’t yell at the idiots on the road. I get that from my husband.
I wouldn’t get upset if someone sent me a snarky email or silly request at work.
I wouldn’t dwell on fading friendships or lost relationships. They are in the past for reason.
I wouldn’t stress about traffic or the weather (i.e. things that are completely out of my control).
I hoped that discovering what life is about would be easy. That everything would just magically pop up, as if it was holding a sign, and say “LOOK AT ME! I AM IMPORTANT TO LIFE!”
But everything I discovered, well- it wasn’t easy. It required some self-reflection to understand and appreciate. Which is why I think it’s so hard for so many people to be thankful and appreciate for life.
Or even understand what life is all about.
Life doesn’t just poke us in the stomach and say, “This is important. You care about this. You should listen closely. Don’t take advantage of this opportunity.”
Although, life can really slap us across the face for a wake-up call with troubling or upsetting news when we least expect it.
Over the past few days, little moments have occurred. Sometimes even so tiny that they almost passed me by. And that’s how I discovered what life is all about. And in wake of those “slap you across the face” life moments, I hope you analyze these areas of your life.
To paint a picture that illustrates a bigger focus and puts a perspective for why you are here.
And trust me, it’s not finishing PowerPoint presentation for work or school or sending that final email before you call it a day.
Self-Reflection: It only makes sense to start the blog with this discovery. In order to live a happy and fulfilled life, you must dig within yourself. You must analyze your own happenings, thoughts, and daily activities. What made today great? What upset you today? How can you keep being great or fix what’s upsetting you?
Without self-reflection, you will merely stay as you are today.
And we all have room to grow. Every single one of us.
Friendship: I’ve always considered my friends, my family that I’ve picked for myself. Lately, I’ve received the most encouraging, uplifting, and motivating messages and calls from my friends. Each of the messages came when I needed them the most and I realized that friendship- true friendship matters in life. Friends will come and go…and over the last year I’ve seen a few really close relationships slowly fade or disappear into thin air. Instead of trying to figure out why, how, or when it all started…I’ve decided to focus on what I do have in my life…which is beautiful and amazing friends who send cards for no reason and schedule dinner dates just to catch-up on life.
Don’t waste your energy on people who don’t realize the value you bring to a relationship.
You…me…us…we are better than that!
Face-to-Face Conversation: Text messages, blog posts, tweets, Facebook messages, and emails are ruining one of the most important concepts in life: face-to-face communication. I’m so guilty of not making time for more to have conversations in person. Without distraction. Last night, I had dinner with two of my friends and it was lovely. We barely checked our phones. Instead, we spent the evening laughing, sharing memories from the past, and even making plans for more dinner dates. Last Saturday, I spent the evening with some of my best friends playing Catch Phrase. And tonight, we have dinner plans and games planned with even more friends. So, friendships and face-to-face conversations are taking the lead for what matters in life.
Pick up the phone and make plans.
Let’s catch up.
Paying it Forward: The year was 2009. I logged into my bank account. Total savings = $0.00. Total checking = $0.38. I had just made a payment on my wedding dress, paid rent, bought groceries, and filled up my tank so I could drive to work.
I closed my eyes and prayed, “Lord, I promise if you get me through this…I’ll pay it forward to those in need one day when I have the extra money. I promise that I’ll give any extra amount that I can. But help me get through this tough time…”
I had zero credit card debt (thankfully dad taught me well on avoiding credit card debt) and I managed to pay for my tuition for the semester using a 50% reimbursement I got through my job for getting good grades. I would have loved to use that money to schedule a trip studying abroad or plan a fabulous spring break trip, but money was tight. And I knew what I needed to do.
Flash forward to today; I’ve never broken my promise. I always strive to pay it forward. I’ve been donating monthly to organizations that touch my heart via My Year of Random Acts of Kindness. I stop to give homeless people gift cards for food. I support my friends in their fundraising efforts for organizations that impact their lives. And every single time a cashier asks me if I want to make a donation for ANY cause, I say yes.
A few days ago, my mom posted this status:
My daughter Ashley Marie Sieb has been so amazing & inspiring to this MamaT....that I am proud to say I saw a woman holding a sign today saying "Homeless with Kids...." so i pulled over & gave her all the cash in my pocket. The feeling I felt when she thanked me with tears welling in her eyes was wonderful & made my heart so very happy. Thanks Ashley for teaching your MamaT to be a better person!!!! ;-)
Paying it forward in life matters.
Family Bonds: I’ve always heard that you take everything out on the people you love the most. Not only do I believe that is true, but I also believe that usually means your family suffers from your attitude or mood swings. But family bonds and relationships are so invaluable. They are the people who will stand by your side no matter what. They are the ones that know your secrets or bad habits, and still love you anyway. And whether good or bad, they’ve shaped you into the person you’ve become today.
NO family is normal. EVERY family has problems.
And that’s just part of the package. But don’t understatement the power of family bonds. They get you through the “slap you in the face” moments.
Enduring Love: Just like family bonds and friendship, enduring love is a key ingredient to happiness in life. Justin, while super stubborn and difficult at times, is the love of my life. And he puts up with me when I am also stubborn and difficult and needy and high maintenance at times. Enduring love means you can hate someone and love them at the same time. Enduring love means that no matter what temptations come your way, you will remain faithful.
Enduring love means that you can hold hands and face the same direction as you walk into the ugliest storm.
I’m so blessed and thankful that I have enduring love in my marriage.
Failing: I’ve found that failing is extremely important in life. Without failure, how can you appreciate success? Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like failing and I have a hard time accepting failure (strongly tied to my perfectionist ways). But failing teaches you important life lessons. Failing teaches how you can improve and do better next time.
Failing sets you up for greatness.
And personally, I’ve found that failure can motivate people- as long as you pick yourself back up and keep trying. Failing in life is important.
Health: Lately, I’ve been reminded that good health touches so many aspects of YOUR life and those around you. Do everything in your power to remain healthy. Don’t exercise to lose weight. Exercise to live a longer and healthier life. Don’t just eat healthy food so you can fit into a bridesmaid dress or bikini this summer.
Eat foods packed with powerful nutrients that give you energy to tackle anything that comes your way.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands!! Yes, I sound like your mother, but your health is important to living a happy and satisfying life.
And over the past few days, these thoughts popped into my mind….
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Self-pity gets you nowhere.
Having a positive work environment is critical to your happiness. After all, you spend 40 hours a week at work- you shouldn’t be unhappy and resentful all of those hours…
Say thank you any and every chance you get...
If you someone looks nice or if you notice they've lost a few lbs, let me them know! A compliment can go such a long way.
Few projects or emails can't wait until Monday morning.
If you're afraid of something - absolutely anything- try to overcome that fear soon. A life full of fear is not worth living. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up camping in the wilderness for aliens this summer.
Stop over-analyzing every single word someone says to you.
Don't worry about the unknown or things that haven't yet occuured.
Your mind is your biggest enemy. Learn how to defeat yourself when needed.
Say NO! Seriously. Do it. Saying "No" is perfectly fine and does not make you a bad person.
Yes, you used to be skinner. Stop trying to be your "high school" weight.
Going to bed at 7:45 pm is perfectly normal and acceptable. Rest up, my friend.
So, the biggest lesson I learned while writing this blog post is that I might joke about retail therapy or that my life depends on Starbucks. But when times are tough, really tough- I can’t reach for my pair of boots or run to Starbucks to feel balanced and happy again. I dig deep for some soul searching. I call my friends and family to request some personal time. I lean on Justin. I try to make someone else smile or find happiness. Or I go to the gym to de-stress.
So, I’ll hardly ever say this- but stop reading this blog post and go focus on one of these areas in life that you need to work on.
I’ll be waiting for you to come back.