As I celebrate another birthday, I reflect on the past few years. I must say that I finally understand why they say that life gets better with age.

I feel like I’ve gotten to know me over the past few years, and replacing judging myself with self-acceptance has been one of the best decisions.

It has taken years to get to this point, but I can honestly say that I feel as beautiful as I’ve ever felt, inside and out. The imperfections that I once referred to as flaws are now either looked past or embraced.

As I turn another year older, I reflect on the things I’ve done in my life. I’ve traveled a few places, written a couple of books and have done a host of other things that have provided me with fulfillment.

In my late 30s, there’s not much I regret, but I sometimes wonder if I’ll always feel this way. I wonder if I’ll wake up in 30 years or so and feel like I’ve accomplished all of the things I’ve wanted to.

For this reason, I pay close attention when my elders share words of wisdom.

My Aunt Lil, who is 69, has provided me with a few life instructions that I think we can all use. When she speaks, everyone is always all ears.

She advised me to love myself and remember that I am special just the way I am. She also instructed me to keep God first in all things, learn the importance of prayer and allow God to lead in all of my decisions.

Finally, she says listen to the advice of your elders, because they have life experiences that you don’t.

My oldest uncle, Junior, had similar advice. He’s different from the macho man he was when I was a kid.

At 72, he preaches about the importance of getting closer to God and how life and illness have a way of humbling people. While he refers to himself as “a little sick” after having multiple strokes, he remains faithful in God. He tells me that he misses being happy, but he’s glad to be alive.

I called my dad to ask if at 67 he had any regrets in life. He told me that he would’ve chosen a different career, one that provided more money and better benefits.

He went on to say that he wishes he’d spent more time with his siblings. He explained how a few of them passed away abruptly, ultimately leaving him and his youngest sister behind. There was sadness in his voice as he explained how six siblings slowly became two.

The stories of how my uncle went to the hospital with pneumonia and never came home and how my aunt went to sleep and didn’t wake up reminded me of not only how precious life is but how short it can be.

When I hung up with my dad, practically wiping tears from my eyes, I called my Aunt Trish. She was out living her best life, just as she always had. She has always pushed me to go for bigger and better and to never settle for less than the best. For years I’ve watched her follow her dreams and go after whatever it was that she desired.

I wanted to know if the woman who seemed to have done it all had any regrets in life. Just as I had assumed, she didn’t. I pressed her for anything that she’d change, and the answer remained the same: “Nothing.”

She said she did everything she ever wanted to do in life by setting a new goal every few years. She set a goal to run her own business and ended up owning a few. At 61, she’s happy with her career and has done so well that she could throw in the towel today and live happy and comfortably.

My mother is also pretty satisfied with her choices in life and has no regrets. She said that she wouldn’t change a single thing.

I jokingly told her that I had spoken with 80-year-olds who had more to offer regarding their regrets in life, and her response was, “Ask me again at 80.” So there’s that.

Christine McCormick Cooper lives in Florence and is employed at PGBA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, teenage triplet sons and daughter. Contact her at citizencolumnist@florencenews.com.

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