Communities that Care | Lessons learned lead to appreciation of life

Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What’s the secret to happiness? Throughout life, these difficult questions pop into mind. I’m not sure if anyone ever figures out all the answers. Life is a complicated journey that continually asks you to explore your emotions, reflect on your past and hopefully grow into a better version of yourself.

Each life change or event causes you to re-examine yourself and ask these questions again. Each trial forces you to decide if you are someone who chooses to be a victim or a survivor. Each betrayal leads you to decide to forgive or seek revenge. Each reached goal compels you to decide if you will settle or push ahead for future success.

Events during the past two years, including my sister’s death, have forced me to reflect on my life, search for who I am and reconsider my life’s direction. While I haven’t found all the answers, I have learned this:

• Bad things happen and there’s no way around it. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. Take time to understand what has happened, then find a way to move forward and become a survivor. By accepting the past and moving on, you will regain your life.

• Everyone has an opinion of who you are and how you should act. The truth is, you are the only person who can determine this. Be true to yourself and don’t let others rule your life. Be proud of who you are and remember an original is worth more than a copy.

• In any healthy friendship or relationship, you should feel comfortable to be yourself. A true friend will encourage you to be your best by inspiring you. They will be honest but will not intentionally hurt you. In the same spirit, work hard at being the best friend you can be. Chances are you’ll find yourself surrounded by the same.

• Life is a reflection of your mind. Want a different life? Then change your thinking, make different choices and find a way to achieve the outcomes you desire. But keep your expectations realistic and know that you cannot control every situation.

• It’s okay if you aren’t a 100 percent sure of what you want in life. The key to happiness isn’t necessarily having a well-thought-out plan for what your life should be. Instead it’s figuring out where you can make a contribution, what makes you feel good about yourself and then finding a way to do it. Take one day at a time and slowly things will fall into place.

In just a few weeks, I’ll be turning 30. I’m not sure I’m much closer to knowing what I want to be when I grow up than I was in high school, and that’s okay with me. I am happy with the person I have become so far and I am excited for the next adventure. Life is about the journey, not always the destination.