For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way.
From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
What you need to know to be a real adult.
When you’re 25-ish, you’re old enough to know what kind of music you love, regardless of what your last boyfriend or roommate always used to play. You know how to walk in heels, how to tie a necktie, how to give a good toast at a wedding and how to make something for dinner. You don’t have to think much about skin care, home ownership or your retirement plan. Your life can look a lot of different ways when you’re 25: single, dating, engaged, married. You are working in dream jobs, pay-the-bills jobs and downright horrible jobs. You are young enough to believe that anything is possible, and you are old enough to make that belief a reality.
I think everyone’s had that one point in their life where they feel like they have been treated poorly by a friend, a coworker, or lover. But a lot of times, maybe we’re at fault for letting this happen. Think about it - a lot of times, you let them treat you the way they do, right? Many people simply settle for less because deep down, they don’t think they deserve better.
My life? I think of it as a simple web of career, friendships, and relationships.
I’ve come to learn that there are many different kinds of friendships you will encounter in life. There are those that will be lifetime friends who you consider family, social friends that you only see on certain occasions, and acquaintances that you clicked for a time or two, but never cross paths again. I learned to appreciate all different kinds because they each bring a different kind of value. I can tell who is willing to reciprocate with me, and that’s when I know how much energy I should be investing in that friendship.
I’ve seen girls tolerate men who don’t appreciate them, who don’t value their love, who disrespect them. And I just can’t figure out why they allow men to treat them like that. Is their self esteem or sense of self worth jeopardized? I see girls make excuses, allowing themselves to think it’s justified to get treated badly, just so they can stick around and continue to be with a man who doesn’t even value them. And what happens in the end? It’s just a vicious cycle that leads to feelings of no self worth.
I’ve never had boyfriends that treated me badly, but I have been through heartbreak. And in those times, I’ve come to realize that the most important relationship is the one with myself. Everyday, I’m learning to love myself the way I should, and it really helps in my career choices, friendships, and love life.
Right here and right now, I believe I am the best as what I am and what I do. Sure, I will constantly be evolving and improving myself, but all these flaws that I’m working on are imperfections that make me who I am.
Be selective. Respect and be respected. Love yourself and allow yourself to be loved. If you don’t respect and love yourself first, how do you expect someone else to respect and love you? Know your own self worth and don’t let anyone treat you any less than what you deserve. (Of course, don’t have unrealistic expectations or a sense of entitlement.) The moment you “settle for less” is the moment you begin to think you don’t deserve any better.
Thanksgiving is a day where we all gather together to be thankful for the blessings we have in our lives. We’re thankful for the food on our table, but we’re also thankful to be blessed with wonderful family, friends, community, and good health. Most of us have these, but we take them for granted on most days.
I may not be swimming in money or living in a mansion, but I do have the best of everything that I do have. I have a loving family that I got closer with now that I moved back home. I have a wonderful boyfriend that brings out the best in me (and loves me when I’m hard to love!). I have amazing friends that I know will always have the best times with. I am living the dream at my amazing job with coworkers that I love. And I’m thankful for all the things I can do because of the opportunities that I can seize as they come along.
So it’s nice that we have a day just to give thanks and to be grateful. But really, we should be thankful for what we have everyday - to be thankful of the past and lessons we learned, to cherish the present, and to look forward to the future that we may enjoy.
Like Oprah Winfrey once said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”