Today, I celebrate my 41st birthday. To some, I am old. To others, I am young. But to borrow from the Tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, today for me is “just right.” Therefore, today I borrow from that fairytale to celebrate my birthday and to reflect on some lessons I’ve learned.
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks. She went for a walk in the forest and pretty soon, she came upon a house. She knocked, and when no one answered, she walked right in.”
I didn’t always have the confidence to just “walk right in.” What I have always had, however, was a supportive and loving family who taught me the difference between working for what you want and just waiting for it to come to you. I’ve also been blessed with mentors – especially other women – who’ve shown me doors of opportunity and encouraged me to be the strongest woman I can be. Some of the doors in my life have opened easily. Others were secured with old, rusty locks that required a little WD-40 to get moving. Many times, I was grateful for the openings, but I’ve also learned that some doors are better left unopened. And the ability to close a door with grace and tact once it’s been opened is not something I was able to do as easily in my 20s.
“At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. ‘This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said. So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge. ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and she ate it all up.”
My life has been full of choices. I’ve learned that my choices may not always be the ones others would make. Sometimes, I’ve rushed too hungrily into something that left me burned and sorry. Sometimes, I’ve worked too hard at liking something that just didn’t inspire the heat and creativity I need. But I’ve also been blessed to enjoy a number of “just right” moments when the world couldn’t spin any more perfectly. The trick here, I think, is to be able to recognize those moments, those relationships, those opportunities and to be grateful for them. Nothing fosters joy better than gratitude.
“Goldilocks was very tired by this time, so she went upstairs to the bedroom. She lay down in the first bed, but it was too hard. Then she lay in the second bed, but it was too soft. Then she lay down in the third bed and it was just right. Goldilocks fell asleep.”
Navigating the world is exhausting. There’s an old saying: “You’ve made your bed; now, lie in it.” While most use this saying to imply that one must accept the suffering they’ll endure from something bad they’ve done, I think the saying could also take a more proactive approach. It’s not that I can’t be spontaneous and sometimes careless (my friends, I think, would tell you that I am). It’s just that as I’ve aged, I’ve learned to think more long-term about end results. And at night, I sleep like a baby.
“As she was sleeping, the three bears came home…They decided to look around some more and when they got upstairs to the bedroom…Goldilocks woke up and saw the three bears. She screamed, ‘Help!’ And she jumped up and ran out of the room. Goldilocks ran down the stairs, opened the door, and ran away into the forest. And she never returned to the home of the three bears.”
Here’s where my walk in the forest differs from Goldilock’s adventures. Today, on my 41st birthday, I will not jump up and run out. Instead, I choose to embrace this birthday. In doing so, I celebrate the people in my life who have helped me open doors. I say thank you to those who have nurtured me in “just the right” ways. I’m grateful for the times when my choices have left me scarred or uncomfortable (as they’ve made me the person I am today). And I look forward to a new year. I sure hope there will be lots more walks in the forest.