Turning the Page: Next Chapter
Written by: Charneise Alston, M.Ed
Today is January 14th, which marks another successful revolution around the sun. Yes, on this day I celebrate my birth and the precious gift of life. Birthdays are exciting to me for various reasons but mainly because it is a gracious reminder of our purpose. After forty weeks of growing, developing, learning, sleeping, playing, eating, listening, and nesting, I was thrusted from my mother’s womb and born into a predestined life filled with countless lessons to help guide me towards my purpose. Each year on Earth grants me another opportunity to create an impact while enjoying all of my many blessings. The upcoming days, weeks, and months, are unread pages scribed with unforeseen, new life experiences. Thank you for joining me as I excitedly turn the page to the next chapter in my life’s story.
Plenty Ink blog is the cliffs notes version to my life’s story. My blogs are summaries and basic analyses of my life-learned lessons. Although experience is an effective teacher, throughout the years I have learned that gaining an education solely from life experiences can be costly and burdensome. Life-learned lessons are expensive, precious jewels because the time invested for you to finally learn the lesson is what validates its value. However, life is short and time is our most cherished commodity. For this reason, I prefer wisdom to help expedite the process instead of having first-hand experiences certify all of my lessons. Personally, I need a healthy balance between the two mediums of education: experience and wisdom.
I have always been told that I am an “old soul” and that I am wise beyond my years. There is a funny saying, “Capricorns are born into the world at age forty with a 401k retirement plan.” While I find this saying to be hilarious, admittedly so, Capricorns tend to have a mature outlook on life. Believe me when I say that there is nothing extraordinary about me in contrast to anyone else. Nope, not at all. I do, however, believe that my ability to surround myself amongst wise counsel saved me a great deal of time when acquiring certain knowledge. Whenever anyone gave me sound wisdom, I stored it in my mental Rolodex as a reference. By doing so, I was able to avoid certain pitfalls in life.
For instance, at a young age, I witnessed some of my extended relatives struggle with substance abuse. My indirect experience of seeing the addictive nature of drugs created a schema in my mind that outlined the cycle of abuse. When recovering addicts told me to stay away from drugs, I obeyed. To me, that is wisdom: the proper application of someone else’s life-lesson. Even in my college years, I was not tempted to ever use drugs because I was keenly aware of its effects.
Here is another example, I was fortunate to not experience credit card debt only because of wise counsel. As a senior in high school, my youth pastor emphatically urged the youth to avoid credit cards in college. I was told that most adolescents overestimate their level of responsible reasoning. As a result, predatory lending companies deliberately seek out college students to lure them into financial commitments that quickly become difficult to exit. By avoiding credit cards during my college years, unbeknown to me, I was refining my self-control and self-discipline. I, along with a few young adults on campus, graduated college without any credit card debt simply because I complied with wise caution.
The point that I am attempting to make is that we have the ability to learn from two different mediums: experience and wisdom. The chapters in our life-story should be filled with lessons but all education does not have to result from our war stories. Save yourself some time by seeking as much wisdom as possible to illuminate the path towards your purpose. If you want to start a business, link with a successful entrepreneur who is already where you desire to be professionally. Over the years, I have learned how essential mentoring is in cultivating professional development. The power of association, being around those who can stretch your faith to dream bigger, will affect the trajectory and velocity of your achievements.
In previous chapters of my life’s story, characters have been re-casted, scripts have been rewritten, and unexpected plot twists have kept me on the edge of my seat. As you review the past chapters in your life, are you seeing victories? Are you seeing the main character, which is you, undergoing character development? I want my life story to be a must-read not because of the drama and suspense. On the contrary, the gems, lessons, evolution, and legacy of my life is what makes my story good.
Have you ever noticed how some, if not many, of your views, attitudes, and beliefs changed or evolved over the years? I am not the exact same woman now that I was five chapters ago. The funny part is that I do not even look the same as I did five chapters ago. Ironically, I am more confident, loving, and accepting of my body as I continue to age. My body has birthed a human being and yet I will proudly wear a bathing suit without hesitation when heading to the beach. That is a common struggle for many moms who no longer recognize themselves post-delivery, and who might possibly feel discouraged to show their authentic self. Why not own it? I have learned to not seek the validation of others to shape or influence my esteem. So, I discarded all unrealistic expectations about aging. Most importantly, I stopped comparing myself to photo-shopped, surgically enhanced images.
Thirty is not the new twenty, and forty is not the new thirty. This destructive thinking is deluding the hopes of aging. Embrace and appreciate what you do have and stop secretly coveting what some else has, let’s end body-shaming. Our unique differences reflect the beauty of God’s creation. After surviving the brutal attacks against our self-esteem in adolescence, let’s be kind to ourselves as we age without viewing ourselves through a critical lens. Since our physical appearance does eventually change over time, it is important for us to have peace with our transformation. As we become older and wiser, we must continue to maintain a quality upkeep of our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
In closing, birthdays inspire me to be reflective of my life and hopeful for the future. I am looking forward to seeing which desires will manifest during this next chapter of my life. However, I accept the rhythm and timing of my life’s cadence. I compassionately give myself space and grace to grow, change, and evolve into my highest self. It is my personal mantra that it gets greater, later. Since aging is a beautiful transformation from the inside-out, my heart is overflowing with gratitude as I welcome the auspicious start of my next chapter.
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”