The 20s – 50s: lessons learned through the decades

I just turned 51. It didn’t quite live up to the hype of turning 50, but still…every year is a celebration and in recent years, each one gives me a reason to reflect on the one before it and make plans for the one ahead. I feel good at 51, except for a few aches and pains and moving just a little more slowly than I did in years past. I’m rolling with the changes. 

What will my 50s teach me? I know there are hard lessons and wonderful ones ahead. Looking back on what I learned in my 40s, 30s and 20s, each decade of life has been a milestone to be proud of and to reflect on in the hopes of gaining wisdom to bring forward into the next decade. Here are some valuable gifts each of these decades gave me….

20’s – the years of trial and error, enjoying life and the hard slap of reality 

My 20s taught me that although I had been led to believe otherwise, life would not always be perfect. Mistakes were made during this decade that would take many years to recover from. I learned to trust my gut and to not follow my every whim. I learned that moving around from job to job, home to home, partner to partner is not exhilarating…it’s exhausting and unfulfilling. And I ultimately learned that sometimes hard work does not pay off and it’s better to cut your losses early rather than waste a lot of time in a bad situation.  Another valuable lesson from my 20s was to step outside my comfort zone, move to a distant city, travel to another country, set up challenges for myself…because all these things will bring a fresh perspective. 

30’s – the years of unparalleled joy, the deepest, darkest pain and everything in-between 

My 30s taught me what it’s like for the world not to revolve around me. I learned to put other, more important tiny humans before myself and I learned the terror of fierce love. At the same time, I learned how to own up to big mistakes that have the power to ruin your life, and how to ask for help. I learned that giving up a fast-paced, but ultimately very stressful career and taking a job to work from home to raise the kids was far more rewarding than living a glamorous, expensive life. Along the way, I learned that I would move mountains to keep my children safe and comfortable, and who in my life I could really count on. At the end of my 30s I learned that I was braver than I thought and had the ability to shake up my life to get to a better place. Even though this decade had many struggles, it had made me stronger and tougher, a better mother, daughter, friend; and it had prepared me to be a better version of myself. 

40’s – years of change, finding a new path, benefitting from the lessons

My 40s taught me that the truest lessons come with a significant measure of pain. From these lessons I learned patience, resilience, and forgiveness. I discovered a strength inside that I never knew was there and a reserve I could draw from to give my children what they needed.  I learned that being alone was okay and taking time to heal was a gift you give yourself and not a punishment.  I also learned that I had a new-found compassion and empathy for everyone around me…that hard times had made me better and not bitter. I discovered that kindness goes a long way and that from then on, I would live with no regrets. After a period of what can only be called hibernation, it became obvious to me that you have to open yourself up to life to start living the life you want, and that’s what I did.  A little while later, my wonderful 40s taught me some beautiful, amazing lessons about the perfectly imperfect reality of what real love and commitment feels like. Stepping out in faith allowed me to learn the lesson that I was worthy of love and that I deserved the best of everything…something I hadn’t believed in earlier decades. I also learned that I could become whoever I chose to be. Embark on a new career and completely overhaul my life…all while raising my amazing children, who were thriving, too.  My 40s taught me it was okay to let go of the past, because this was my time to shine. 

The 50’s – what will this decade teach?

So far in my 50s I’ve learned that humility is everything, empathy and gratitude are life-changing, every day is a precious gift and the people you love are what matter the most. I look forward to more great lessons as this decade rolls along.


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