This week, I officially entered my late 30s. That seems weird. I mean, I’m happy I’m here, but wasn’t I just in college? What’s that now? I graduated 15 years ago? And Method Man is 48 years old? We must be in some kind of time warp.
I feel like I’ve lived several different lifetimes. I went through childhood being shy in school but I always had several good friends and an imagination that was mayyyyybe on the overactive side. Middle school and high school Allison had very low self confidence, a strong love of hip hop and lot of crushes on bad boys. College Allison started out excited but unsure of herself and left with a little confidence, a 3.8 GPA, lots of stories of bad boys disguised as good guys, and a high tolerance for Bacardi Limon. The Florida Allison (who existed for two years post-college) learned how to be completely independent–a far cry from High School Allison who wouldn’t go on errands without a friend in tow and was afraid to drive on the highway–and also how to survive hurricanes, palmetto bugs and working for companies outside of the family business. The Back to Newport/New Business Owner years brought excitement, struggle, a diagnosed gluten allergy and, you guessed it, more bad boys (but shouldn’t they just be called “assholes” after age 25?). The phase I’m in now–Established Business Owner and Working Snowbird–doesn’t always have the fun or excitement of some of the earlier years, but I’m okay with that. I don’t have time for the hangovers anyway.
I have a great life and all of my previous lifetimes brought me to this one, so I wouldn’t change any of my big life choices. I’ve learned a lot–even if it took me several versions of the same lesson to get something through my “thick skull,” as my mother would say. I have no doubt that I’ll look back at my current life when I’m in my late 40s (hopefully my Retired Business Owner and True Snowbird phase) and think Wow, there was so much I didn’t know! and probably a little Why the hell was I doing that? Maybe I’ll write a new blog post then, if blogs still exist and we are not all solely communicating via photos and likes…
Until then, I think this birthday week is a good time to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned since the early 1980s. And because I need to write to sort out my thoughts, here we are. Ready for me to drop some wisdom? You know I love to.
Skincare, Skincare, Skincare. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so take care of it! I’ve learned that cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating (if it’s not contraindicated with any prescription products in your arsenal) and using sunscreen makes a big difference. Those are the basics, and I recommend a few other things as well, but I’d be happy if you were just doing those four essentials. If you neglect your skin, it will catch up with you (remember now, I see a lot of faces and hear a lot about skincare routines or lack thereof) and it won’t be something you can solve with a serum or a facial. The biggest lesson I’ve learned with skincare is to start a routine early in life, stay consistent and spread the good word. Need some basic skincare help? Check out my routine.
Do You. As long as humans exist, there will be beauty trends. If a trend interests you, give it a try. But make no mistake–trends are not universally flattering. For example, I learned that the flat ironed-hair trend of the mid-aughts was no good on me. And if I grow out my brows to the currently popular Cara Delevingne level (something most women with Italian blood can do), they will take up way too much of my face. I’m sure you’ve tried beauty trends that did nothing to flatter you, or even just seen one and thought “No way.” So go with what works on you, and do it proudly.
Go Pro. There’s a lot of DYI in the beauty world. You can learn how to do your own everyday makeup, curl your own hair and paint your own nails. Maybe you’d rather not do those things yourself, so I say if it’s within the budget, outsource. But there are some things that you really should see a pro for. Unless you 100% know what you’re doing, any hair removal methods other than shaving and tweezing are better off left to the pros. (And with brow tweezing, I would recommend getting your brows professionally shaped first, then following that shape to upkeep.) I also recommend keeping hair coloring–especially if it involves bleach–the domain of licensed cosmetologists. If you are going to use any skincare devices at home, either really make sure you know what you are doing (read the instructions, check reviews and watch tutorials) or leave that one to your esthetician or dermatologist. I’ve seen paper thin nails, extremely damaged hair, and burns and scars on the face from people who didn’t know what they were doing. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Show ‘Em Love. In my book, family members are there to support each other. To me, that means things like going to graduations and career awards ceremonies, offering rides to the airport, visiting when a baby is born, etc. I know it’s tough and my wedding weekend schedule means I personally miss a lot of stuff, but I go to what I can and try to make up for what I have to skip. If you have a strained relationship with a relative, I understand that this may not be something you’re comfortable with. But with those you are on good terms with, showing up and being there can mean a lot.
Be Grateful. Even if you only have one relative, you still have one more than some people. And family doesn’t have to be people that are related to you. Sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water, and the people you consider to be family may not be in the strictest sense of the word. Whoever your family is, I’ve found that it’s good to take time to really be thankful for them. I think people who have encountered the loss or a near loss of a loved one really understand how lucky we are for each day we have someone in our lives. It’s easy to take it for granted until someone is no longer around, or until they get the kind of news that could mean they might not be for long. Having had some losses and some scary times (my mother had brain cancer and my father had pancreatic cancer), I really do treasure every moment I have with the people I love. When I’m in a bad mood or throwing myself a pity party, I think Snap out of it, Allison. Look how lucky you are to have your family. It usually works, but sometimes I have to really push myself out of the crap mood into gratitude. But once I do, I feel much better. Might be worth giving this tactic a try. You have nothing to lose!
No One Is Perfect. Everyone has their flaws. I’ve seen families split apart over inheritances, differences in child-rearing, even disagreements from 20 years before that no one can even really remember. If someone does something truly wrong or is abusive, that’s one thing. But an offhand comment about someone’s dress color at Christmas in 1992? Seems a little much to sever ties over. The anger, sense of being wronged and grudges that people can hold and build up throughout the years likely does more damage to the hold-er than the hold-ee. I once got upset with one of my cousins for a stupid guy situation in my 20s, and didn’t talk to her for several months. Then I watched a big family drama unfold about something else, and it split part of my family up. I personally thought what they were fighting about and how much energy they put towards it was crazy, and it made me realize that I didn’t want to cut my cousin out of my life. So I called her to talk it out, and we got past it. And I’m so glad I did that, because we have always been close and I would have really been missing out on an important relationship in my life if I stopped talking to her all those years ago.
Stay In Touch. Friendships, like any other relationship, take some effort. I consider myself lucky because I have a lot of great friends, but I do put in the effort to get together if we live in the same part of the country (or meet up with them if they are taking a trip to anywhere near me if not). I try to email/call/text (depending on what they seem to prefer) to wish them a happy birthday, see how their new job is or just say hi. I know we are all busy and it can be tough to find the time, but I’ve found that staying in touch with my friends show them that I care. Having friends makes my life better and more enjoyable, so it’s 1000000% worth the effort.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes. When I’m talking to a friend, I tailor what I say to them in a way that I think will be best received. Some friends like brutal honesty, others need a lot of sugarcoating, and some are in the middle. When I’m having a conversation or texting with one of my homegirls or homeboys, I take into consideration their past and what they may be sensitive to, and then I tread carefully in certain areas. I’ve also learned to identify which friends like advice (more on that next), which ones like to vent, and which ones don’t like to talk about what’s bothering them at all. I also try to think about their lives and what their days tend to be like. For example, between 7:00pm – 8:00pm seems to be bedtime for a lot of my friends’ kids, so I try not to bother my mom friends during that time. Or if I know someone is planning a big event or project for work, or if a certain time of month tends to be crazier for them with their job, I realize I might not hear back from them during that time, or it’s going to be tough for them to get together while that’s going on. I’ve learned that part of being a good friend is being understanding of where someone is coming from and how that might impact your interactions with them.
Lend An Ear. A psychic once told me that I’m a “Wisdom Talker,” which means I give good advice. And I’m not bragging, but several non-psychic people have also told me I give good advice. If that’s true, I think it’s because I try to learn from my experiences and the experiences of everyone I know, and pull from that when someone is in need of guidance. But I try not to force my advice on anyone. Sometimes I can’t help it and it comes out before I’ve had time to tell myself to shut up, but I really try to remember to ask a friend first if they want input. Sometimes people just want to vent, and that’s okay. If a friend doesn’t say some version of “What do you think I should do?” but they seem like they might want my input, I’ll say “Do you want my advice or just want me to listen?” Takes the guessing right out and puts you both on the same conversational page.
Pay Attention. If I notice a change in the way something on my body looks or feels, or a change in how I feel in general, I make a doctor’s appointment. I don’t do that thing where I ignore it and hope it goes away, like I used to do with weird sounds my car was making. Early detection makes a world of a difference with a lot of diseases and disorders, so why wouldn’t I get something checked out? We only get one body, and the owner’s manual (fine, I’ll write it) repeatedly says to be aware of any changes and make sure someone who knows what they are doing does a check up for you. I am super aware of my body and any changes, and if I can’t figure out what is causing them, I go see my doctor. I don’t go for every tiny thing, but if I can’t trace it back (i.e. migraines every day for a week versus headaches at night only after working on my laptop for 14 hours), I make that appointment. I don’t want this to be a lesson I don’t learn until it’s too late.
Be Proactive. If you fuel your body with crap food, it will catch up with you. If you don’t consistently move your body, it will catch up with you. If you worry and stress about friggin’ everything, it will catch up with you. I’ve learned these lessons the hard way, y’all. We only get one body, so I say, treat it right. What you do to your body in your 20s, 30s and 40s will likely affect the person you are in your 50s, 60s and 70s. If you eat lots of sugar, overdo it with the booze, stress yourself out on the daily and exercise only for that one week each year after New Year’s Day, your body will pay for it. And it may pay for it much sooner than you think. We have this awesome opportunity to take care of ourselves and likely prevent some health issues from occurring. I’m not saying never have a doughnut or skip a workout, and I’m certainly not implying that you should not allow yourself to be in a shit mood once in a while. But what you consistently eat now can help cause–or help prevent–future issues. Whether or not you consistently exercise now will make an impact on you. And how much you stress or don’t stress affects things too. Some of what happens to our bodies is out of our control, but a lot of it is in our control. I’ve found that taking responsibility for what I put in my body, how much I move my body and the level of stress I put myself under has made a huge difference in how I look, feel and how I approach life.
Thank Your Lucky Stars. If you’re healthy right now, be grateful! If you’re reading this, you have your eyesight, which some people would kill for. If you can hear car horns beeping/your neighbor’s dog barking/your coworker loudly chewing, you’ve got your hearing, which many people have lost or never had. If you didn’t have to get dialysis this week or go in for another heart procedure, you’re lucky. You feel me? I think that sometimes we (and I’m absolutely including myself in this category) forget how fortunate we are to live a life unencumbered with major health issues. It’s the “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” thing. Having watched people close to me go through various illnesses and disorders has helped me realize how lucky I am to have my health. I think that gratitude, in combination with being aware of changes and taking care of myself gives me at least an A- in the Health category.
Well, this seems long enough for Part 1. I’m not trying to “should” you or give you a list of Do’s and Don’ts because really, who am I to tell you how to live? But I think in my nearly four decades on this planet, I’ve learned some stuff. Maybe it will help you, maybe you can relate, or maybe you think everything I said is wrong, impossible or not your style. And that’s cool, but I would avoid Part 2 if that’s how you feel…
I have a good life and I think learning these lessons along the way is part of what has helped me love my life. I know I have a lot more to learn, and some of the upcoming lessons will be painful, sad or maddening. But as long as I don’t go back to bad boys, I think I’ll be fine.
Have a beautiful day 🙂